Allan Takes Aim Blog

Manufacturing Indigenous homes

Posted on: 17 September 2009

Posted Thursday, 17 September 2009

After reading various reports about the Strategic Indigenous Housing Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) in the Northern Territory , the project designed to build 750 houses for Aboriginal people and refurbish older housing stock. I concluded the program was retreating rather than advancing.

So much in retreat was it, that Ms Alison Anderson, Labor MP and Minster for Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory resigned from the Ministry and the Labor Party when she found that of the $672 mlliion allocated by the Federal Government for the program, not one house had been but $45 million had been spent on administration.

The Federal Minster for Aboriginal Affairs Jenny Macklin accepted that the program was in disarray and Jim Davidson, the SIHIP’s Project Manager, was sacked. Mr Davidson defended the $45 million spent on administration saying it cost a lot to bring bricks and mortar to isolated areas, whil the now Inependent Ms Anderson said spending $45 milion on administration without a house being built was ludicrous.

A debacle best describes the SIHIP program. Indeed the whole monstrous army of incompetents managing it -the politicians, bureaucrats, architects, and consultants alike – deserve the same treatment as Mr Davidson. Alternatively, they should be given tents and sent to live for at least three months in an isolatedAboriginal community that needed houses and given the task of providing a solution as to how best to provide them .

White they could call for help they would not be a allowed to call on architects, builders, bureaucrats, consultants or politicians. I feel certain that if they had any common sense, they would realise that those best equipped to help them would be the Aborigines in the communities No doubt they would hope the community had a Noel Pearson.

Without in any way wishing to diminish the seriousness of the Aboriginal housing situation in the Northern Territory, the same problem exists in every other State and Territory, not only for Aborigines but also for other homeless Australian citizens.

Not holding out any great hope that the incompetents will ever find the answer to the housing problem let me put them out of their misery and tell them the solution has been around for a long time.

I live in a twenty-year-old, comfortable but not luxurious, 12.5-square manufactured home. It was designed and produced in six weeks, transported 100km to the home site and assembled in two days. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, study, lounge, kitchen, laundry . The cost of this home was half that of an equivalent size brick veneer home.

 There are another 87 manufactured homes owned and occupied by doctors, schoolteachers and other professional people, as well as tradespeople, labourers and retired people from the lowest socio economic class in my area. A former Senator lived there, as did an eminent Australian mititary historian who died there.

 As for myself, I once ran three businesses, held a number of official posts and started a political party (the party secretary an ANU Academic who taught economics) that stood five candidates at the 1992 ACT election. One of these candidates, now a well known lawyer, has been awarded an Australian honour for her work with refugees.

Despite my background, I had to pay cash for the house because on trying to obtain a mortgage, banks and other financial organisations refused me on the basis that people who live in what they snobbishly call “mobile homes” are not reliable financial risks.

In the 20 years since buying my home, manufactured homes are now being made of new materials developed to withstand fire, which makes them the ideal housing unit in some areas of Australia. That said what seems silly to me is that anyone one would want to build brick veneer houses in these areas when manufactured, or prefabricated homes, which would be safe and sit lightly on the environment, are available.

Indeed in a tropical or semi tropical climate nothing could be more incongruous than brick veneer houses more suited to cold or temperate climates. Therefore I would suggest to the SIHIP’s program managers that the answer to the housing problem could be manufactured and/or prefabricated homes.

Additionally, as the Territory’s industrial base develops, manufacturing such homes could become an industry providing long-term employment opportunities and houses for Aborigines and also be expanded to provide housing for families on mining sites and as remote accommodation for environmental tourism projects. More than that, a manufactured homes industry could quickly supply new housing to areas where houses have been lost to fire, earthquake and flood not only in Australia but also in neighbouring countries.

Manufactured/prefabricated homes could become the affordable housing that would help a great many Australian families realise the great Australian dream.

Unfortunately they won’t, because developers and construction industry aided and abetted by governments, banks and finance companies only want to build standard brick veneer homes which they sell in house and land packages at prices unaffordable to many Australians.

This brings me to the Federal Government’s various revolutions in Education and the work place. Welcome as these may be a more urgent revolution is needed to end the discrimination by banks and other lending institutions against people who want to buy and live in manufactured/prefabricated homes.

UnfortunateJy, the promises of politicians and developers on affordable housing have, so far, been pie in the sky.

Don Allan, Retd ATRIA Fellow, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

 http:/ /www 8



2 Responses to "Manufacturing Indigenous homes"

Similar prefabs called Apatula’s (relates to the community where they were made earlier) were constructed for a while. Stopped as most were soon damaged or destroyed by assorted people relating to their tenants.

Main reason so little housing and business on most of these communities is the Land Trusts refuse to issue leases.

Even Traditional Owners are denied leases for their homes from the Land Trusts which purport to serve them.

Not having leases they have no security of tenure in these homes, able to be ousted by whichever mob runs the local council at the time… at a moments notice, some such stories are in Alice Springs News.

Not having leases they have no right to have family, friends or tradespeople come to visit or assist them.

Such visitors – IF obtain written permits to visit them, can find their permits whimsically canceled at a moments notice without reason and be required to leave – also without any opportunity to challenge such cancellation of their visitors permission to come visit them….

Not having leases – required by the courts as proof of right to exclude others, even such Traditional Owners living in these houses are denied their otherwise basic right to obtain an Apprehended Violence Order to prevent someone from entering their home and it being trashed whilst they are away..

Businesses which operate without such leases also have no legal ability to obtain court protection for illegal entry to their premises.

Main source of problems has been ongoing government and judicial failure to require normal legal principals to operate in the communities…

The claims of abuse related to the NT Intervention convenient forseeable results of such neglect and contempt for basic human rights…. visible all around the world where such neglect and contempt for basic human rights are ignored and allowed to thrive..

Fully support your article Don. I have been designing and building manufactured or prefabricated housing since 1968 and have never had to build a “traditional” structure in this time to survive.
My work in this field can be overviwed at There are over 350 proven and applied projects within Australia and overseas, most designed for fast build and long lasting remote area housing.
I have proven that “traditional” housing for remote locations is a waste of time and money.
Last month The Unibuild Technology was awarded a “Professional Excellence Award” from The Australian Institute of Building.
Peter Smith.

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