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Commonwealth recognises indigenous peoples' housing needs

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New ATSIC researchdemonstrated there were no simplistic solutions to the housing and infrastructure needs of indigenous Australians, Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe said today.

Mr Howe, Minister for Housing and Regional Development, was speaking at the launch of Stages 1 and 2 of the National Housing and Community Infrastructure Needs Survey.

Mr Howe said the report would assist the Commonwealth's response to the needs of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

He said the Commonwealth was acting to ensure better provision of necessary housing and related infrastructure, such as water, sewerage and power.

Mr Howe emphasised the need to ensure economic opportunities for Aborigines - and flagged possible changes to tendering procedures in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing projects to provide incentives encouraging extra training and employment positions.

"First, we're negotiating a new, performance-based Commonwealth- State Housing Agreement ensuring the needs of indigenous Australians are better met," he said.

"The Agreement will make State housing authorities more answerable for how they use Federal funds - including Aboriginal Rental Housing Program Funds."

"Second, we're implementing the National Indigenous Housing strategy, agreed to between ATSIC and myself last June."

"The report shows us all too clearly that there is an urgent need for additional money to be spent on housing construction, repairs and basic infrastructure to meet the backlog which exists in Aboriginal communities," said Mr Howe.

Mr Howe said two critical areas in the Commonwealth's response to the housing and associated infrastructure needs of Aborigines were in ensuring indigenous peoples' well-being and employment opportunities.

<BREAK> </BREAK> In many Aboriginal communities, breakdowns in basic water and waste systems occur all too frequently, he said. And too often maintenance systems are inadequate. "This is a problem I am addressing with my State colleagues in the context of the forthcoming housing reforms," he said.

"In addition to housing and well-being, we must also ensure that we are strengthening the economic base of Aboriginal communities," said Mr Howe.

''Aboriginal housing funds shouldn't just be used to build houses," he said. "They should be used to provide employment and training opportunities in housing design, construction and maintenance for Aboriginal people."

He said private sector job opportunities for indigenous Australians ~ere negligible.

"To address this, as a first we should require that all Commonwealth programs for indigenous people have an employment and training component."

"I will be exploring with the States the possibility of giving preference to tenderers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander housing projects who undertake to train and employ indigenous people in housing, construction and maintenance."

Contact:

Hugo Kelly, Brian Howe's Office, Phone (06) 2777-099 or 018 487 581