• Vonda Malone, the chairwoman of TCICA and mayor of the Torres Shire Council, says a timeline for the remote housing funding has been set. (SBS)
$105 million to address housing issues in remote Queensland and the Torres Strait will finally begin to flow to affected communities.
By
Shahni Wellington

Source:
NITV News
28 Nov 2019 - 1:26 AM  UPDATED 28 Nov 2019 - 1:32 AM

After multiple flights from Far Northern Queensland and their island homes, members of the Torres Cape Indigenous Alliance (TCICA) have met with the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Ken Wyatt.

The trip comes after the Morrison Government made an election promise to deliver $105 million to address housing issues in remote Queensland and the Torres Strait - none of which has made it to the communities.

Delays have been related to confusion over state and federal government responsibility and the pledge requiring co-investment, leaving vulnerable people to deal with overcrowding in the meantime.

Vonda Malone, the chairwoman of TCICA and mayor of the Torres Shire Council, said the Minister has indicated the coalition will now honour their pledge.

"There's been some commitment that around late January 2020, we should see some of those dollars come through - initially $5 million, and then discuss the continuation of how that will be administered, particularly in partnership with councils,” Ms Malone said. 

"There's been some positive steps forward today and we’re really grateful for that opportunity to talk to him (Minister Wyatt) directly about that."

Representatives from surrounding remote Queensland districts joined Ms Malone in the call for funding.

Mayor of Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council, Eddie Newman, Mayor of Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire Council, June Pearson, and Mayor of Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, Michael Yam, travelled to the nations capital to ensure their communities were heard. 

The Torres Cape Indigenous Council Alliance (TCICA) includes elected leaders from 14 local governing authorities across the Torres Strait and Cape including the gulf communities of Kowanyama and Mornington Island. 

The same opportunities

Ms Malone spoke about the necessity for critical infrastructure in remote Indigenous communities. 

"We really need to continue to roll that out so we can have adequate homes for our communities and they can fully participate in the Australian society," she said.

"The reality is that you’re subjected to overcrowding - up to 13 to 20 people in the household - And that's just not conducive to good living.

"It impacts on people's health and well-being, and have the opportunities that every Australian wants for their children," Ms Malone said. 

In May, before the election, the member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, and former Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, promised the funding to be provided directly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils.

It was a move seemingly to make amends for the federal government walking away from the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing - a partnership between state and federal governments developed through the Close the Gap strategy, that saw more than $1 billion invested into housing in regional Queensland between 2008 and 2018.

A spokesperson for Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, confirmed the election promise would be honoured.

"There was agreement that Councils will be at the centre of the program, commencing with a planning workshop in early 2020 with all relevant Councils included," a statement read.

"The Queensland Government has to be at the table, and further discussions relating to delivery, property and tenancy management will be undertaken so that the investment is delivered in a coordinated and effective way."

MP Warren Entsch has been contacted for comment.

The group is the second Indigenous delegate in as many days to travel from remote regions and lobby the government. 

Northern Territory group lobbies government to block the cashless welfare expansion
Indigenous representatives from the Northern Territory say there has been no community consultation on the cashless welfare card expansion.