Public Housing and Aboriginals in Australia: Bridging the Gap

Housing in Australia is a major source of contention right now.  There are a lot of new developments taking place both in new construction and policy that keeps housing on the front burner.  However; one population must be looked at with a different lenses.  The native Aboriginal population has been identified to have unique needs and perhaps even disadvantages when it comes to accessing safe, decent and sanitary housing within the country.   This is not meant to be a comprehensive article but an introduction to some of the issues and response taking place in Australia.

Aboriginal Housing Issues:

Recent research shows that aboriginals in Australia suffer from many types of housing related issues including homelessness, overcrowding, substandard living conditions and several others.   The same research shows that a majority of aboriginals actually live in urban areas compared to rural and that those in urban areas are much more likely to be living in non-affordable situations.  In reading the research I must point out that Australia has a pretty solid public housing system.  It suffers from under funding just like all other social or public housing systems around the world but it is functioning well for its limitations.  That is where the problem with aboriginals might be viewed a little more closely.  The research article showed that aboriginals had more issues with accessing social systems including housing and had problems navigating all of the various bureaucracies that make up Australia’s complicated social services sector.


Beyond Research:

Research often does a good job of digging in and finding issues and suggesting possible counter-measures.  However; it is often up to the government to find ways to bridge the divide of issues.  Housing NSW in Australia does a lot of work and tries to do so in a culturally competent way.   There are two options open through Housing NSW to aboriginal people.

  • Traditional Public Housing: Like anyone else who is eligible in Australia, aboriginal people can sign up for a space within public housing.
  • AHO Homes: This is housing specifically operated by and for aboriginal and native straight housing people.  To apply you have to declare and be of the population that this housing is dedicated for.  Interestingly enough, Housing NSW cares for the upkeep of both housing programs.

Weaving A Cohesive Housing Network:

As in any community, one provider cannot do it all.  It takes many different groups and the willingness to learn from and work with organizations that understand the unique cultural differences that are inherent in any group.  Australia is trying to find that balance and a wide range of government players, non-profits and aboriginal housing associations and groups are trying to weave together a net that will help move this population out of a disadvantaged status when it comes to housing.

Housing NSW also offers a program to specifically help aboriginal people move into their homes called Rentstart.  It is designed to help pay security deposits and other costs associated with being a barrier to getting the initial move in taken care of.

Outside of Housing NSW other organizations help with aboriginal housing issues.  Beyond Shelter helps native people stay in their housing units when tough times come up and provide culturally appropriate support, advice and planning services.  This can be legal advice, mediation with landlords, case management, service provision, and financial assistance in tough times.

Aboriginal Housing Victoria is a housing provider designated for native people.  They work to provide housing for native people but with a special eye on those who are really in a tough situation.  They do this all with a special mission to continue and strengthen aboriginal culture and ways.  This organization manages 1,525 properties in Melbourne and regional Victoria providing affordable housing to over 4,000 low income Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.   This organization works with the government and other organizations to maximize its effectiveness in the community.


There are no simple answers when it comes to housing.  The special issues facing the aboriginal population in Australia is somewhat similar to other situations in other countries.  Australia’s willingness to tackle this problem will continue to be the driving force in finding equity for everyone within the country.

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