Describe about the Social Work Honours Project For the Aboriginal Population.
Underlying principle: In Australia and around the world, the aboriginal population is often discriminated against. All over Australia, there is a clear demarcation between the non aboriginal people and the aboriginals with respect to health, education, housing and other basic amenities. As a result, aboriginals have mostly been denied of even their basic human rights – which include right to property, housing or even necessary healthcare. As far as housing is concerned, there have been a number of policies and acts implemented which claimed to provide aboriginals with equal housing opportunities which will be discussed below. Yet, as research shows, a major portion of the aboriginal population were still living out of their cars and in deplorable housing conditions (Davidson and Livsey 2018).
Background:The Australian census shows that indigenous communities are eight times more likely to end up homeless than the other groups of individuals. This is due to the lack of standard housing facilities in Australia. Gray and Tesfaghiorghis (2018) states that the aboriginal people who usually reside in the remote communities of Australia often face difficulties when it comes to finding standard housing facilities. The aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are at least 15 times more likely to live in improvised dwellings, humpies and tents as compared to the non-aboriginal populations. At least one in every 15 aboriginal requests help from the Australian government in order to combat homelessness. According to the census, at least 26,744 aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were homeless on the night of the census itself (Abs.gov.au 2018). Out of these people, it is estimated that at least 23 per cent of them were children aged between 0 and 10.
The question arises as to why the rate of homelessness is this high amongst the aboriginal populations. Across Australia, there is a deficit of nearly 20,000 properties which could provide affordable housing for the aboriginals. Also, it must be remembered that the housing needs of the aboriginal communities are different from that of the non-aboriginalcommunities. In other words, there is a shortage of culturally appropriate houses for the aboriginal families. Out of the total Australian population, at least 3.3 per cent represents the aboriginal population. Moreover, at present, nearly 649,171 people consider themselves to be of Torres Strait Island origin (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018). Failure to provide culturally appropriate houses has led to overcrowding in the available housing facilities. The average number of people living in one house in Pal Island (which is one of the largest aboriginal housing communities in Australia is presently 17. Moreover, the probability of aboriginal families living in overcrowded homes would be 5 times higher than the other populations. At least 27 per cent of the aboriginal people live in overcrowded homes, while the exact number is around 20,000 aboriginal people. The maximum number of people sleeping in the same bedroom is estimated to be around 7.5. This is quite obvious, given that there are only 325 houses for the aboriginals in Palm Island – a community of 3500 people. The 2017 census showed that at least 20,000 aboriginal Australians were in dire need of appropriate and affordable housing. On the contrary, the proportion of housing budget that had been allocated for improvement of aboriginal housing facilities was only 40 per cent (Bedggood et al. 2017).
For instance, there have been a number of policies which have been initiated in the past few years. The AHURI or Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has introduced a policy which identifies the populations in Australia at risk of homelessness and provides them with sustainable options. For example, affordable housing or renting opportunities are provided to them (AHURI 2018). Similarly, an Indigenous Housing Policy was implemented in 2017, which specifically focuses on the aboriginal population. The policy implemented by the Australian Institute of Architects recognizes that the infrastructure and quality of housing available for the aboriginal population is subpar and well below the prescribed standards (Australian Institute of Architects 2018). Consequently, the policy has been implemented to provide better housing opportunities for this category.
Discussion: The question arises as to the reason behind such poor living and housing conditions and overcrowding in aboriginal communities. It is thus important to analyze and review a few important factors and understand which policies might be more suitable. The aboriginal communities are often located in remote locations, where there is a lack of homelessness services and standard housing. Hunt (2013) claims that the most important factor when it comes to aboriginal housing is the fact that the policies are mainly made by privileged members of the Australian government, who may sympathize with the troubled communities, but can never truly empathize with them. At present the aboriginal communities require housing provisions by them, for them. In other words, they require housing facilities which would cater to their cultural and social needs. This is where the self determination theory comes in. This states that the indigenous people have a right to develop their own choices and express their opinions on matters that concern them. As far as housing is concerned, the aboriginals have come up with policies of their own. For the aboriginal populations, the concept of kin is extremely important, and they require living facilities which accommodate their families (Andersen et al. 2017).
However, it is also important to study the living conditions within the housing facilities that have been provided to the aboriginal communities by the Australian government. For instance, the census in 2015 showed that at least 86 per cent of the homes that aboriginals were living in had been rented and had been constructed almost twenty years ago. As a result, these houses are backdated and not at all energy efficient. Consequently, these houses require frequent work and changes to be made which is not affordable for the aboriginal communities with lower income rates. At least 36 per cent of the aboriginal houses lack proper insulation. Since the aboriginal houses are located in rural areas, these people are exposed to harsher living conditions with extremely cold weather (Lowitja.org.au 2018). Without proper insulation, winters become unbearable for such communities. Moreover, the housing facilities provided by the government are usually lacking in the basic amenities. At least 12 per cent aboriginal houses lack cooking appliances and 13 per cent are lacking in heating appliances. Almost one fifth of the aboriginal population living in Australia live in homes that require major repairs. Yet, they lack the facilities and resources required to do so (Andersen et al. 2016).
Factors Leading to Poor Housing Conditions and Overcrowding
Similarly, policies introduced by the AHURI have put forth proposals which strive to create housing opportunities for indigenous communities. The policies dictate that the design and the style of housing should be culturally appropriate. Designing housing for these communities would require an in depth understanding of the cultural practices and norms of the indigenous households. The policies set by AHURI and other government agencies often contain rules and regulations which are in conflict with the cultural norms of the aboriginals (AHURI 2018). This is why the Indigenous Housing Policy of 2017 is considered to be more appropriate and more befitting of the needs of these communities. The Indigenous Housing Policy which was implemented in 2017 has had a positive impact on the condition of aboriginal housing in Australia (Australian Institute of Architects 2018). It has helped the aboriginal population in the following ways:
- It has provided the indigenous communities a strong voice by involving them in the creation of affordable and suitable housing policies. Since these decisions affect the indigenous communities, it is important to include them in the process.
- The policy acknowledges the social determinants of health and also recognizes the important of housing in fostering employment opportunities, attainment of employment and overall well being.
- Maintenance of the housing facilities, so as to ensure availability of basic amenities. The policy also strives to reduce overcrowding by increasing the number of houses available for the aboriginals.
- Using local resources and expertise of the architects when it comes to documentation, housing design, construction and so on.
- Diversity in terms of dwelling and tenancy so as to cater to the social and cultural housing needs of the aboriginal populations.
Recommendations:In order to provide a brief overview of the aboriginal housing conditions, it can be said that at least 20 per cent of the aboriginal population require housing services. This is because almost 22 per cent of the indigenous families live in homes that are substandard. The following recommendations can be made to the Ministry of Housing:
- Meaningful accountability must be provided to the indigenous communities. In other words, the Ministry of Housing should include the indigenous communities in the planning, governance, administration, delivery and also evaluation of housing facilities (Hunt 2013).
- The homelessness and housing programs for the indigenous communities should be culturally sensitive and appropriate and should facilitate the incorporation of culturally sensitive management styles and a degree of flexibility.
- At present, only 40 per cent of the total budge allocated is directed at housing provisions for aboriginal people. The Australian government should take adequate measures to ensure that consistent and long-term financial investments are provided. The funding or budget allocated should provide enough resources to both the rural and urban indigenous communities (Belanger, Ogosowa and Head 2013).
- Effective policy environment must be provided for, which would enforce proper and efficient housing standards. Design guidelines must also be regulated as part of these policies. The policies must also be flexible in order to incorporate changes and tailor-made designs.
- The housing designs must account for various basic amenities like showers, sinks, toilets, taps and safety features. The quality of the surrounding build environments must also be considered (Reading 2018). Apart from the housing facilities, it is important for the government to also focus on the development of the surrounding communities.
- The housing facilities should be designed based on the specific climatic or physical contexts in which these will be situated. It is also important to involve the indigenous communities in the decision-making process since this would provide access to the knowledge of the indigenous communities about housing locations and sites and appropriateness of materials.
Conclusion: In conclusion, it can be said that the aboriginal communities in Australia have largely been deprived of basic housing facilities, which provide the basic amenities and are of prescribed standards. The policies implemented by the Australian government have proved to be grossly insufficient in providing standard housing facilities for Australians, and thus the above recommendations have been proposed.
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AHURI. 2018. Delivering services for people at risk of homelessness. [online] AHURI. Available at: https://www.ahuri.edu.au/policy/policy-analysis/delivering-services-for-people-at-risk-of-homelessness [Accessed 2 Nov. 2018].
AHURI. 2018. Making social housing work for Indigenous households. [online] AHURI. Available at: https://www.ahuri.edu.au/policy/ahuri-briefs/making-social-housing-work-for-indigenous-households [Accessed 2 Nov. 2018].
Andersen, M.J., Williamson, A.B., Fernando, P., Redman, S. and Vincent, F., 2016. “There’sa housing crisis going on in Sydney for Aboriginal people”: focus group accounts of housing and perceived associations with health. BMC public health, 16(1), p.429.
Andersen, M., Williamson, A., Fernando, P., Wright, D. and Redman, S. 2017.Housing conditions of urban households with Aboriginal children in NSW Australia: tenure type matters.Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540447/
Australian Institute of Architects. 2018. [online] Sitefinity.architecture.com.au. Available at: https://sitefinity.architecture.com.au/docs/default-source/national-policy/indigenous-housing-policy-2017.pdf?sfvrsn=2 [Accessed 2 Nov. 2018].
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018). Housing assistance for Indigenous Australians, Table of contents - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. [online] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/housing-assistance-for-indigenous-australians/contents/table-of-contents [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
Bedggood, R., Perenyi, A., Meyer, D., Farquharson, K., Bedggood, P. and Milgate, G. 2017)]. The Living Conditions of Aboriginal People in Victoria. Available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876610217334823
Belanger, Y.D., Awosoga, O. and Head, G.W., 2013. Homelessness, urban Aboriginal people, and the need for a national enumeration. Aboriginal policy studies, 2(2).
Davidson, H. and Livsey, A. 2018. 'We are begging for housing': the crisis in Indigenous communities. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/aug/20/we-are-begging-for-housing-the-crisis-in-indigenous-communities [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
Gray, A. and Tesfaghiorghis, H., 2018. Social indicators of the Aboriginal population of Australia.
Hunt, J., 2013. Engaging with Indigenous Australia-exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Lowitja.org.au. 2018. Housing and Health in Indigenous Communities: Key issues for housing and health improvement in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities | The Lowitja Institute. [online] Lowitja.org.au. Available at: https://www.lowitja.org.au/housing-and-health-indigenous-communities-key-issues-housing-and-health-improvement-remote [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
Reading, C., 2018. Structural determinants of Aboriginal peoples’ health. Determinants of Indigenous Peoples' Health: Beyond the Social, p.1.
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