THE housing needs of Aboriginal people have been included, for the first time, in Closing the Gap agreement.
Many Rivers Regional Housing, a Port Macquarie-based, Aboriginal community housing provider, welcomes this inclusion and the recognition it gives to their work.
On 30 July 2020, the Prime Minister announced the new national Closing the Gap targets.
The targets now include a focus on the environments where people live and spend their time. These conditions are known to have a significant impact on a person's health.
Daniel Morrison, a Murriwarri descendant and chair of the Many Rivers board, is excited about the announcement.
"Housing is essential for well-being. It provides the foundation for our people to raise their families, gain employment and study. To have all levels of government recognise the link between housing and health in this way is a significant development," Mr Morrison said.
The Closing the Gap targets set back in 2008 have been revised.
One of the new additions is the goal to reduce the proportion of Aboriginal people living in over-crowded homes.
This will be achieved by providing appropriate, affordable housing that is aligned with the priorities and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Many Rivers tenant and proud Dunghutti woman, Norma Kelly, knows first-hand the importance of housing.
"If you have good, stable housing, you have a better overall quality of life. To me, housing is the most important factor in helping Close the Gap for Indigenous people," she said.
The reforms to the Closing the Gap agreement also promise to hand more control to Aboriginal-led organisations, like Many Rivers.
Many Rivers has already reached out to other Aboriginal community-controlled housing organisations to start planning how to work together to achieve the important target.
"Aboriginal Community Housing Providers hold key knowledge that's needed to achieve the Closing the Gap targets. The sector is ready to partner with Government," Charlie Trindall, chair of the Aboriginal Community Housing Industry Association, said.
Many Rivers has long known the importance of housing. The organisation's vision is to Close the Gap in Aboriginal well-being through housing, partnerships and community development.
They recently commenced a housing rehabilitation investment program. This program is designed to increase available housing by restoring properties that are currently uninhabitable. This will provide more housing for local Aboriginal people and reduce overcrowding.
Tristram Morris, manager of Service Development at Many Rivers, said it is important to understand the housing needs of each individual community.
"This is where Aboriginal community-controlled organisations, like Many Rivers, come into play," Mr Morris said.
"We are on the ground, providing housing services to our communities and individuals. We know what the housing needs are because every day we are working with communities to address them."
Importantly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are central to every stage of the new Closing the Gap agreement. The revision has been developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Implementation and measuring progress against the targets will also be inclusive.
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