Mainstream homelessness services are failing our Mob

Here’s what we can do about it.

One-size-fits-all solutions to homelessness don’t work. This isn’t breaking news; you’ll find it acknowledged at all levels of government, including WA’s Homelessness Strategy:

“Non-Aboriginal people[’s] ways are not culturally effective and do not offer long term solutions for addressing homelessness in Aboriginal communities. Self-determination and self-management are still relevant today as when it was first proposed in the 1970s to empower and take control to overcome homelessness.”

Fast-forward half a century, and you’d think by now our communities wouldn’t be facing the same bleak situation our parents were: inadequate & inappropriate housing, rental stress, racist landlords and employers, and being punished for poverty by losing our kids.

You’d also think that significant steps must have been taken by now towards self-determination in housing solutions. But in many ways, our housing outcomes are worse than ever: the number of Aboriginal homes in rental stress has doubled since 2000. This follows a general trend of housing policy failure and growing housing unaffordability, marginalised peoples feel the impact more; but as Australia’s most marginalised group and one of the most poverty-stricken Indigenous peoples worldwide, the housing market continues to leave us out in the cold.

How about social housing? Well, at current rates of investment, WA will clear its social housing waitlist in 1300 years. It’s believed that over half of evictions from social housing are Aboriginal tenants, and a recent report by UWA found Aboriginal people faced twice as long a wait on the priority list for state housing and were also more likely to be evicted than non-Aboriginal tenants.

Here at Noongar Mia Mia (NMM), we’re an Aboriginal-led NFP Community Housing Provider providing housing exclusively to Aboriginal tenants and their families in Noongar boodja (*country), and the only organisation of our kind servicing Perth Metro; we’re also recognised by the Telethon Kids Institute’s Big Elders as the peak housing body for our people on Noongar boodja.

We’re proudly putting self-determination into action as we build on the strengths of our community and the immense value of our culture and heritage as a people who have lived here since time immemorial.

Here in Perth, there’s mainstream housing providers which provide housing and property management; some provide support services to tenants as well. However, this isn’t self-determination, and they’re operating with a one-size-fits-all model that isn’t culturally effective. Aboriginal people dealing with mainstream housing and support services often find they’re not understood or respected.

NMM’s cultural approach to tenancy through an integrated model of housing, property and support offers dignity, respect and choice to Indigenous WA, ensuring our voices are heard. We understand our mob, and we have solutions that are grounded in culture and actually work; but what we’re missing is the houses to make it happen. Because without a home, everything else falls apart.