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Dream home to disaster -

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It was supposed to be the Indigenous version of the great Australian dream: a program that for the
first time would allow people to build their own homes on Aboriginal land. But now many are still
waiting to get their homes finished after private contractors haven't finished the job.


HEATHER EWART, PRESENTER: It was supposed to be the Indigenous version of the great Australian
dream: a program that for the first time would allow people to build their own homes on Aboriginal

But for some of the very first people to try it, the dream has turned sour.

They signed up to contracts with a private builder, but are battling to get their homes finished
and made safe.

This has happened partly because of poor government oversight and a lack of basic legal safeguards.

Katrina Bolton reports from the top end.

KATRINA BOLTON, REPORTER: On the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin, water is flowing into Crystal
Johnson's house. More than a year ago she signed up under a Federal Government program, called Home
Ownership on Indigenous Land, it provides start-up grants and low interest loans to help Indigenous
people build or renovate their own home, with the builder of their choice.

CRYSTAL JOHNSON: When I got this home loan I thought it was a good thing and I felt really good, I
felt over the moon. I gave all my furnitures and everything to people who don't have things like
what I had.

KATRINA BOLTON: The Tiwi Islands are prone to cyclones, but a structural engineer's report on
Crystal Johnson's renovations says key-support walls have been removed. It questions whether the
roof will stay on in heavy winds.

Crystal Johnson likes her builders, but she says, at one stage water even came through one of the
light fittings.

CRYSTAL JOHNSON: Sometimes I had to turn the whole power off and to actually sleep with no power
until the rain finishes. So when the sun comes up, then when it's dry I turn the power on.

KATRINA BOLTON: Jan Johnson signed a contract with the same building company, which is one of
several run by New South Wales-based Shaun Mowbray.

But Jan Johnson's house never got started. Eventually he got out of the contract but lost his
$16,000 deposit.

JAN JOHNSON: We've been let down. Like betrayed.

NAZARETH ALFRED: There's water marks at the top as you can see.

KATRINA BOLTON: Nazareth Alfred and Greg Orsto wanted a kit home. But almost two years after they
signed their contract they're paying a mortgage on an unfinished house that still doesn't have a
proper electricity supply.

GREG ORSTO: It's a kit home and it's supposed to go up in weeks or months you know, not two years.

(The Orstos in their home)

NAZARETH ALFRED: Do you want to grab the sugar?

KATRINA BOLTON: They say they chose Shaun Mowbray because he told them he could build their home
cheaply and quickly and would even throw in extras, like a flatscreen TV.

GREG ORSTO: He had promised to put in, you know come with the package, a competition-sized pool
table and he... You know, I'm still waiting for that pool table, yeah.

NAZARETH ALFRED: Lots of blotches everywhere as you can see.

KATRINA BOLTON: The actual construction work's been overseen by Shaun Mowbray's business associate,
Malcolm Blair, who's from Young in New South Wales.

The house is fraught with problems. There's a dispute over whether electricals were included in the
contract; electricity's been coming from the builder's camp via an extension-cord lying outside on
the ground, even in wet season rain. The house has no gutters, water flows straight onto the only
stairs which have limited support rails and are already rusting.

The Tiwi Islands are home to thousands of people, but if someone's building them a house they're
exempt from the minimum standards required elsewhere in Australia. That's because remote
communities are excluded from the Northern Territory Building Act and the Building Code of
Australia, unless the contract says otherwise.

The Federal Government says that's unacceptable.

JENNY MACKLIN, INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS MINISTER: I intend to make sure that right across remote
Australia we have these regulations put in place so that people are protected.

KATRINA BOLTON: The issues on the Tiwi Islands went deeper than bricks and mortar. Some people who
worked on the house struggled to get paid.

Guiseppe Tipiloura says that he did about nine months of labouring and while got most of what he
was owed, he had to fight for it.

GUISEPPE TIPILOURA, BUILDER: One morning where I had to walk to the compound where Shaun Mowbray
and all the workers were based, just to bring my kids in there one morning and say 'look I don't
even have anything for breakfast to feed my kids to go to school'.

KATRINA BOLTON: The builders declined to be interviewed. But in a written statement Shaun Mowbray
says two other home owners are happy with him and he's been undermined by Government delays and
jealous competitors.

He says, work that looks problematic is incomplete and he will finish it.

MARION SCRYMGOUR, NT LABOR MP: You know there has to be some immediate investigation, both with the
builder, but also to look at how those families can be supported through those processes.

KATRINA BOLTON: Local politician, Marion Scrymgour, has little faith that things will be resolved
soon. She believes the Federal Government was negligent for encouraging people to take on long-term
loans without basic safeguards.

MARION SCRYMGOUR: You can't have taxpayers subsidising a housing program and not have any
accountability by the governments put on the builders and people involved in this whole process.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there's no question that what's happened is not acceptable. I want to make that
very clear, it is not acceptable.

What we now have to do is make sure that the individuals concerned are looked after, that the
houses are fixed and that we get the rules right for the future.

KATRINA BOLTON: National Audit Office figures show the Federal Government is paid more to
administer this scheme than the houses cost to build. The Government says start-up costs were

JENNY MACKLIN: We can't have those sort of overheads. But equally, I think, everyone needs to
understand just how serious, how many issues there are that have to be addressed.

KATRINA BOLTON: The Federal Opposition takes a harsher view.

million administering 15 loans worth $2.7 million. It is just complete waste and complete

(Orstos surveying their house)

NAZARETH ALFRED: But we've got a project manager looking at it.

KATRINA BOLTON: Back on the islands Greg Orsto is facing taking out a second loan to get another
builder to finish his house.

He wishes he never tried to buy a home.

GREG ORSTO: I did be put a tent in the middle of the street and lived and say to people 'I haven't
got a house.'

I need a house.