• Many homeland communities in the Northern Territory are overcrowded with people living in caravans and tents. (AAP Image)Source: AAP Image
Residents in remote homeland communities are living in tents and desperately overcrowded houses as funding dries up.
Sarah Collard

5 Oct 2021 - 2:17 PM  UPDATED 5 Oct 2021 - 2:17 PM

First Nations people are living in 'bleak conditions' in hundreds of tiny communities dotted around the Northern Territory, according to the territory's remote housing minister. 

Minister Chansey Paech wrote to federal Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt in a letter calling for urgent funding saying the situation for many communities is 'dire'. 

The Eastern Arrernte and Gurindji man detailed the conditions in the letter written on a recent visit to Emu Point homelands - a community 200 kilometres south-west of Darwin. 

It's estimated 10,000 First Nations people live in 2,400 dwellings in homelands communities across the Territory.

The communities began to appear after the successful land rights gains of the 1960s.

Residents choose tents over 'bleak' conditions

People in Emu Point are living in 'derelict' homes, with some families resorting to living in tents. 

Overcrowding is rife, with one house visited by Mr Paech home to 23 people, despite having just three bedrooms. 

He stressed the need for action but said there is a 'misconception' that responsibility for new housing lies with the Nothern Territory government. 

"This is not the case," Mr Paech said in parliament earlier this year. 

"The responsibility for new housing on the homelands sits with the (Commonwealth) government," he told the NT parliament just before he reached out to Mr Wyatt. 

"I sincerely feel for those families that live in these conditions. Some residents are even my own family." 

Under a deal struck with the federal government in 2015, the territory has responsibility for providing municipal and essential services to its homelands in exchange for a one-off commonwealth payment of $155 million.

But according to the letter, one of the issues is that new homes and repairs to existing homes are not covered under this agreement. 

National agreement needed to cover NT homelands 

Mr Paech is calling for the federal government to enter a fresh agreement that supersedes one struck in 2019, that includes new houses being built on homelands or to develop a new national agreement to fund homes on homeland communities. 

The federal government slated $185 million in its recent budget for new houses, housing upgrades and improved infrastructure in Northern Territory remote communities, but that does not extend to homeland communities. 

The national agreement for remote housing is due to expire in June 2023. 

A spokesperson for Mr Paech's office said Ken Wyatt has not yet responded to the letter or calls for a meeting to discuss the issue. 

The minister for Indigenous Australians has been contacted for comment. 

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