“They don’t care as long as we pay them rent”: Aboriginal social housing reform in the Murdi Paaki Region

Dr Judith Burns1

1Burns Aldis Community Development and the University of New England, Armidale, Australia


The prevailing discourse in social housing policy produces public or community housing as a transition to independent private sector renting but, for many Aboriginal people in north-western and far western NSW, social tenancies are normative, life-long and heritable.  Evolution of regimes of policy and practice over the last decade has led to decline in Aboriginal community control over collectively held assets, spatially variable investment in housing provision and in condition of existing dwellings, and discriminatory or otherwise culture-blind approaches to tenancy management.  This presentation explores the views and aspirations of tenants and Aboriginal community-controlled housing providers in relation to housing provision in a remote context characterised by market failure.  Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, the peak Aboriginal representative body for the region, has undertaken an extensive and rigorous process of research to inform sector development.  The Assembly is now driving a comprehensive, evidence-based agenda to improve the situation of regional Aboriginal providers and tenants and reform the sector for a sustainable future.  The responses of various NSW Government departments have ranged from keen interest in delivering change to outright resistance, manifesting as denial of the agency of the Assembly.


Judith Burns PhD BE (Hons) GradDipUrbRegPlan is a Principal at Burns Aldis and an Adjunct Lecturer in Geography at UNE.  Judith has worked with Aboriginal representative bodies and community organisations in NSW for thirty years; much of this time with the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly and its predecessor ATSIC Regional Councils.  She also taught Geography at UNE from 2001 to 2008.  She is currently working to support implementation of the Murdi Paaki Regional Housing and Business Consortium transition process and in documenting the history of community-led governance in the Murdi Paaki Region in remote NSW.

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