A greater diversity of culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous Australians is needed, according to a leading research body.
The Australian Housing and Town Planning Research Institute released a study on Wednesday looking at Indigenous tenancies.
According to 2016 census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 39.4% of Indigenous Australians own their homes, compared to 68% of non-Indigenous households.
Almost 60% of Indigenous Australians live in rental accommodation, compared to around 30% of non-Indigenous Australians.
“Indigenous people typically face direct and indirect discrimination when looking for property in the private rental market,” said lead researcher Dr Megan Moskos.
“This discrimination is accompanied by a lack of affordable and culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous people and long waiting lists for public housing.
“The housing available to Indigenous tenants may not properly match cultural norms and lifestyles, or with respect to household size and composition.”
The research examined three case studies of housing programs in very remote, regional and metropolitan areas.
“We identified that the cultural differences between how Indigenous and Western families use housing were not sufficiently taken into account in the provision of rental housing services and rental agreements,” said Dr Moskos.
She said the traditional responsibilities of Indigenous tenants to house extended family members could conflict with landlord expectations.
The report notes that Aboriginal people are less likely than the rest of the population to live in a non-family household.
The proportion of multi-family households is significantly higher among Indigenous households in very remote Australia, he also noted.
The report found that there is a need for an adequate diversity of properties that meet the cultural and family requirements of Aboriginal households.
One case study respondent stated that an important aspect of “successful tenancy” for an Aboriginal family is the right home.
“It’s culturally appropriate so that, you know…there are actually enough rooms for people,” they said.
“I think it’s also very important, it’s not just inside the house. It’s outside the house. That there’s a decent yard… a decent veranda .Because people naturally…are out there…because they like to congregate and wire.”
An Aboriginal rental seeker said he was not taken seriously by private real estate.
“I have a house, a car, I have everything. I’m still ranked in the lower class,” they said.
The report found that successful rentals have been aided by programs that work with all members of a household and allow for regular engagement.
“For example, in the past, housing policy has explicitly aimed to place Indigenous people in public housing in outlying areas where public transportation, employment and educational opportunities are lacking,” it reads.
“Partnerships between government departments and Indigenous organizations to co-design policies and programs are needed.
“Our research also suggested that better housing allocation policies are needed to ensure that Indigenous tenants have increased choice and are better able to access suitable property in their preferred location.”