The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Leader of the Opposition) (14:18): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Human Services about housing.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I have today spoken to leaders in South Australian remote Aboriginal communities whose housing has fallen under the NPARIH agreement and who have great concerns about housing funding, particularly now that this state Liberal government will have sole responsibility for its funding and implementation.
They have reported to me that they have seen no new building in the last 12 months, and have also reported a drastic decline in housing maintenance. Many community leaders held great hope that a renewed NPARIH agreement would put things back on track. My questions to the minister are:
1. Will the minister advise who she has consulted with about the ongoing delivery of remote Aboriginal housing in South Australia? In particular, which Aboriginal communities and organisations?
2. What consultations have occurred with the government's most important advisory body, the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council, and also internally with the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:19): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of the ongoing funding arrangements, this was a subject on which the Treasurer outlined some responses in terms of the ongoing funding that South Australia was seeking with the commonwealth. Both the Treasurer and myself, and both our agencies, have been involved in a range of discussions with our respective organisations and stakeholder groups.
The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, I am answering the question. In terms of not having that agreement, we didn't have any funding for property and tenancy management services beyond 30 June.
The Hon. K.J. Maher: This year or last year?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In 2019. In terms of delivering essential maintenance and tenancy management services to remote Aboriginal communities, along with operating an Adelaide-based accommodation service, we required additional funding. As I said, we didn't have provision for capital works into 2019-20, so clearly this was a matter of great concern. In the handing down of the 2018 Closing the Gap report in February 2019, it was noted that there is much progress still to be made. There is a proposed housing target to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in appropriately-sized housing as part of the Closing the Gap refresh.
It was with great pleasure that I was given the task by the Premier of attending the Closing the Gap ministerial council last week in Brisbane. I was accompanied by representatives from DPC Aboriginal division. That Closing the Gap conference was to establish really the final arrangements in terms of what would be going forward. I would have to commend the community-led organisations who have, since December last year, worked very quickly to establish that there will be jurisdiction between all of the Australian jurisdictions, with equal representation from Aboriginal-led community organisations.
As a minister, and also as a shadow minister, it has been of some concern to me, as a white Australian-born person navigating Aboriginal communities—and I have worked for several years in making contact with people from various Aboriginal communities to seek their views on a range of issues, particularly in the women's policy space, now that we will be looking after the intensive family service as of 1 July. That is also something that is very much front of mind.
Can I commend in particular two people who have been part of the working group nationally, that is, Cheryl Axleby and Melissa Clarke, who have really led a lot of negotiations. I am very appreciative that they are also taking leadership in South Australia in this space, and I think going forward it will be very helpful to various ministers to have community organisations that we are able to directly engage with to ensure that we are listening to the views of Aboriginal people.
As I have mentioned in this parliament before, we are developing an Aboriginal housing strategy. Several years ago, when the Hon. Jay Weatherill was the minister for housing, he dismantled the unit within housing which was the Aboriginal-specific services. What I have been told is that a lot of Aboriginal people felt that they lost their voice with the last government in terms of housing.
The Hon. I.K. Hunter: Which ones have you spoken to?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I was specifically very keen to ensure that we had Aboriginal representation on the new Housing Trust Board, which we have done. We are working on an Aboriginal housing strategy as we speak to ensure that the Aboriginal community is properly consulted which, unfortunately, was failed to be done under the previous government.