The Northern Territory Royal Commission must consider an Aboriginal “housing crisis” is a key driver of children entering the child protection and youth detention systems, human rights groups say.
A joint submission to the inquiry by Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, the Human Rights Law Centre and Danila Dilba Health Service highlights that the NT has the worst rates of homelessness and overcrowding in the country.
Aboriginal families make up 98 per cent of those living in severely overcrowded houses.
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency chief executive Priscilla Collins says governments can’t turn a blind eye to the abysmal state of housing in the Territory.
“Homelessness and overcrowding places additional pressure on relationships and makes it harder for parents to protect and provide for their children,” she said.
“We need better housing policies and more investment in housing infrastructure that responds to the needs of Aboriginal families.”
Two reports in the last 10 years, Growing Them Strong, Together and Little Children are Sacred, have called for improved living conditions as part of the response to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal children going into care.
Muriel Bamblett, one of the authors of Growing Them Strong, Together, identified housing as a top priority in her evidence to the royal commission.
John Paterson from Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory said the health, development and wellbeing of the current and next generations of Aboriginal kids depend on addressing the issue.
A decade ago, the United Nation’s expert on housing reported that Indigenous people faced a ‘severe housing crisis’ in Australia.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre noted that ten years on, the crisis in the NT remains the worst in Australia.
“Adequate housing is a basic human right. This is an issue that governments have neglected for too long,” she said.