The Federal Labor Government is shortchanging Western Australia by $76million on indigenous housing funding, according to Housing Minister Bill Marmion.
Mr Marmion said the Commonwealth is withholding funding owed to the Department of Housing for successfully completing targets set under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH).
“WA is the only State or Territory to exceed its targets in each of the past four years and has clearly demonstrated that it can successfully construct housing in indigenous communities in some of the most remote and challenging parts of the country,” Mr Marmion said.
The Department of Housing has completed 373 new houses and 1,032 refurbishments in remote communities in the past five years under NPARIH.
“The $76million promised by the Commonwealth Government is needed to provide further housing to help us close the gap on indigenous disadvantage,” the Minister said.
The bilateral Implementation Plan for NPARIH between WA and the Commonwealth expired on June 30 and both parties have not reached agreement on a new plan.
Mr Marmion said the Commonwealth has overlooked key issues such as improving infrastructure to support the additional housing in remote communities.
“Without infrastructure for power, water and sewerage services the houses we construct will not be habitable. This will become a ridiculous situation where we can build houses but members of the community won’t be able to live in them because we can’t connect the houses to reliable essential services,” he said.
The Minister said the State Government would find it more difficult to keep the program going without an urgent release of funds by the Commonwealth.
“In the 2013-14 financial year, 80 new houses and 207 refurbishments are at risk across 23 remote communities in WA,” he said.
Mr Marmion said that the impact on remote communities would cut deeper than not being able to construct and refurbish houses.
“This withholding of funding by the Commonwealth means that Aboriginal people in need will not be provided with safe housing, local community businesses will miss out on work contracts and indigenous apprentices and trainees will not be provided with employment opportunities which will impact on their family’s livelihood,” he said.
“We urge the Commonwealth Government to reconsider their position and provide the funding that is needed to be able to complete this important work which will benefit Aboriginal people in the most remote communities in the country.”