In 2006 the Royal Australian Institute of Architects established an Indigenous Housing Taskforce. This is the first time the RAIA had formed such a working committee since 1972-75 when the Aboriginal Housing Panel operated under its auspices. The Indigenous Housing Taskforce was established under the leadership of the 2006 RAIA President Carey Lyon who was also a member of the taskforce, with Col James, Alex Ackfun, James Bray, Julian Wigley, Dillon Kombumerrie, Andrew Lane, Carroll Go-Sam, Geoff Barker, Paul Pholeros, Gillian Barlow and David Donald, and Paul Memmott as taskforce chairperson.
The taskforce supports the urgent need to improve the poor standard of public housing for indigenous people across Australia in urban, rural and remote areas. There is clear, quantified evidence that the combined processes of all Australian governments agencies and professional groups have failed to deliver reasonable housing design, construction or maintenance and that this has had direct and immediate consequences for the health and well-being of Indigenous people.
Despite the majority of indigenous public housing being overcrowded and old, clear consistent evidence also shows that the prime causes of housing failure to deliver benefit are largely not the fault of the residents through misuse or vandalism, but rather the result of poor initial construction or lack of the regular, routine maintenance that would be required in any Australian home.
The taskforce’s terms of reference are to develop a policy for the RAIA, consolidate current information on best practice with respect to design, practice and research and to create a framework for delivering positive change in housing outcomes through appropriate partnerships with government. An interim policy was produced in early 2007.
Through the establishment of individual working groups, the taskforce’s objectives are to develop a range of outcomes specifically: a position statement on indigenous housing; good professional practice; housing delivery and management; and, an indigenous housing conference.
In working towards these objectives, the taskforce will meet six times in the forthcoming year (four tele-conferences, two face-to-face meetings). In addition, each of the taskforce’s four working groups – Good Practice, Conference, Position Statement and Housing Delivery – will meet via tele-conference a minimum three times.
Activities already include a two-day workshop of the Good Practice Working group in Alice Springs to discuss design of hot water systems services for remote Indigenous communities. The workshop was sponsored by Fixing Houses Better Health. Participants included representatives from Solahart, Quantum Retailer, Darwin NT, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Centre for Sustainable Arid Towns, Paul Pholeros, Healthhabitat, Geoff Barker - PM+D Architects P/L, Vince Daly - PM+D Architects P/L.