Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute 2009/2010
In the delivery of Indigenous housing in remote communities, the procurement process is arguably just as important as the final housing product itself. Procurement driven by the scenario of maximum numbers of houses on the ground as fast as possible ignores the potential to value add multiple Aboriginal social and economic capitals.
Historyshows Aboriginal housing to be a politically contested realm as two quite different peoples attempt to negotiate different social, economic and cultural values in constructing a shared future Australian built environment. Historically, housing procurement in remote Aboriginal communities has at times been sporadically linked to other forms of government service delivery outcomes and objectives such as construction, maintenance, training, employment, education, governance, management, health and sustainability. Yet still further program values have emerged in recent years that can best be described as ‘symbolic capitals’ inclusive of leadership, mutual respect, positive cultural identity and other life-skills outcomes. These secondary outcomes of the housing process are what we loosely term the ‘socio-economic capitals’ of housing procurement – outcomes that are in addition to the physical asset of the house. Specifically, this study explored the relationships between remote Indigenous housing procurement and the broadersocio-economic capitals of Indigenous communities in contributing to an understanding of the potential longer-term economic, social, health and cultural outcomes of current and future housing policies and housing delivery programs.
Our key findings have shown that mainstream housing procurement contracts and methods which are driven by the economic imperatives of minimising financial risk and maximising financial gains, all with expected delivery in set timeframes, do not readily lend themselves to integration with the largely unskilled, highly mobile labour markets of remote Indigenous settlements. Case study evidence suggests that a somewhat different procurement system needs to be implemented; one that borrows fromlocal Aboriginal social capitals, and that is fostered at community or regional levels. Consequently, particular aspects of Aboriginal social, cultural and economic capitals seemed to have been inconflict, mismatched or not recognisable under the rigid parameters of conventional mainstream housing procurement delivery. If Indigenous people are to derive improved livelihood outcomes from housing and infrastructure programs, there needs to be recognition at both state and federal government levels that rushed program agendas often strip long-term benefits, and may contribute to the burden of livelihood vulnerabilities due to increased house maintenance costs and reduced social benefits.