A True Tale of Two Houses

By Sara Hudson

Once upon a time in a community called Baniyala, the houses were old, there weren't enough houses, and there was no house for the school teacher. However, the community didn't have very much money and they didn't know very much about building houses.

So they spoke to someone who knew about building houses to see if he could help them build one. He could, and with the help of his friends, he managed to raise enough money to buy some materials and talked some people into giving materials cheaply. The people in the community helped build the house because they knew if they didn't, it wouldn't get built. The house only cost around $250,000 to build because most of the labour was voluntary.

Meanwhile in another community, people were waiting for the government to build them houses under the new Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program. They didn't consider building the houses themselves because the government had always done everything for them. The government wouldn't build the houses without the community giving them some land.

After lots of meetings, the community agreed to lease some land. Now the government had to find the people to build the houses. This took a while. Finally, they found three organisations to be part of their Alliance. These partners were keen to start building, but the government couldn't decide who was in charge and how much it would cost to build the houses. They argued for a while and then got someone else to manage the program.

By now, there were six layers of managers and $45.54 million spent but not one house had been built. The community was unhappy. Lots of people had come and talked to them about the sort of houses they would like, but no building had started. The government wrote a paper saying they were three months behind but would catch up and build the houses for $450,000 each.

And then the wet season started.

Moral: People should not wait for the government to do something.

Note: In the Northern Territory, people living on communally owned land cannot borrow money from banks to build their own homes because they do not have individual title over the land. Individual 99-year leases would solve this, but they also could raise the money independently of banks and build their own houses. Except they have been led to believe that the government is responsible for housing and that private homeownership is not for them.

The above is part of a press release dated Sept. 4 from the Centre for Independent Studies. Enquiries to cis@cis.org.au. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: +61 2 9438 4377 or fax: +61 2 9439 7310

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