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12 to a house!

May 16th, 2013
Homelessness and overcrowding in Australia is on the rise and once again Aboriginal peoples have to deal with the grossly disproportionate brunt.

The number of people living in abjectly acute crowded housing has skyrocketed by 31 per cent according to the most recent analyses of the Census data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last year. The ABS data reveals that 21,000 of the 41,370 people living in severely crowded homes are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – and the majority, 71 per cent, live in the remote regions of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. 57 per cent of them live in the Northern Territory, 18 per cent in Queensland and 14 per cent in Western Australia.

The average number of Aboriginal peoples to dwellings is twelve.

More than half of those deemed to be living in severely crowded housing are Aboriginal peoples – while they only make up less than 2.6 per cent of the total Australian population. This statistic makes a mockery of the Australian Governments claims, particularly of Minister Jenny Macklin, that housing issues in these regions are being addressed at speed. The Northern Territory only has a total Aboriginal population of 80,000 and similarly so does Western Australia.

Allegedly $5 billion has been spent by the Federal Government on Aboriginal housing. But the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in overcrowded conditions has barely changed in the ten years to 2011.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the Government had made inroads into reducing overcrowding but since the 2011 Census. Now we have to wait for 2017 for the 2016 to ascertain fact.

“The number of new houses completed has almost doubled to around 1600, and the number of refurbishments now completed is over 5,200.”

So where has the $5 billion gone?

It is not good enough for Minister Jenny Macklin to be claiming there have been numerous housing upgrades and refurbishments when indeed these are patchwork repairs. Adequate dwellings have not been built as suggested, and adequate living conditions have not been ensured.

Recently, the Commonwealth Government allocated $4 million to the Northern Territory community of Utopia. Homes in Utopia are deplorably dilapidated and various capital infrastructure still lacking. A few years ago Amnesty International Secretary-General Shalil Shetty slammed Utopia as third-world living. United Nations High Commissioner Navi Pillay described the Australian Government’s neglect of communities such as Utopia as racism. Utopia is a community of 1,200 people. The $4 million spend is far too little an investment.

18,000 of the 41,370 people in the severely crowded accommodation are people born overseas, most of them immigrants or visa holders.

Homelessness in Australia has risen from 89,728 according to the 2006 ABS Census to 105,237 people according to the most recent Census. The national homeless rate has increased to 49 per 100,000 from 45 per 100,000. Most of the increase in homelessness from the 2006 Census to the latest Census, which has been the period that Labor has been in Government, has been reflected in people living in severely crowded dwellings – from 31,531 in 2006 to 41,370 in 2011. More than half of them are Aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were homeless went up by 3 per cent in that period to 26,744.

Many of our Asylum Seekers are finishing up in these overcrowded conditions. Most of the overseas born people who make up the 18,000 plus arrived to Australia during the last five years. Indians and New Zealanders account for nearly 20 per cent of the 18,000. Afghans, Vietnamese and Chinese make up most of the rest. Whereas Aboriginal peoples in overcrowded circumstances average 12 to a dwelling, those born overseas average eight to a dwelling.

The Commonwealth Government’s Asylum Seeker policies have contributed to this predicament. Without adequate Government support and a proper entitlement to various benefits that Australians enjoy, families released are being released from various prison-like detention centres into overcrowded community accommodation. Others are being released on bridging visas but with more than 4,000 without the right to work. This has led to various hardship and homelessness. It will not be known till 2017, when the ABS will complete its next Census how many Asylum Seekers have finished up homeless. It is certain to be a dramatic rise on the numbers from the 2012 Census.

According to the ABS, 25 in every 10,000 persons born overseas live in severely crowded conditions. This is a doubling of the numbers from the previous Census.

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