• Sheridan McMasters talks to The Point about the overdue repairs. (The Point)Source: The Point
Alice Springs town camp residents join two other Northern Territory communities in legal challenge over basic housing repairs.
Laura Murphy-Oates

The Point
30 Mar 2016 - 8:42 AM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2016 - 8:44 AM

Sheridan McMasters is a mother of four and a long-time Larapinta Valley resident, living on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

She says she has been waiting over a year for her leaky roof to be fixed by NT Department of Housing.

“You see the ceiling here you can see ... it’s gonna crack and it’s gonna cave,” she says, “what happens if it hits one of these children?”

“I don’t want to have to wake up to find my kid in the hospital bed.”

Sheridan is just one of the many in her community waiting on repairs.

Last week half of the residents of Larapinta Valley (Yarrenyty-Arltere), Town Camp notified the NT Department of Housing of around 160 repairs required in their households.

Lawyers from the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) say the legislation sets out that those emergency repairs must be fixed within five days of the landlord receiving notice.

If that can’t be done, then the landlord must notify the tenant and ensure the repairs are completed within 14 days.

If the emergency repairs are not completed town camp residents will have the right to apply to the Northern Territory Civil Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

The residents join two other Northern Territory communities turning to legal remedies in order to get basic repairs underway.

In February, 70 residents of Santa Teresa (80kms south west of Alice Springs) applied to NTCAT seeking orders that the Department of Housing attend to over 600 outstanding repair issues.

Just a few weeks ago almost a third of residents in Papunya, 240kms north west of Alice Springs, lodged claims for compensation in NTCAT, complaining of serious delays in carrying out repairs and maintenance on their houses.

CAALAS says the situation In Alice Springs is also dire.

Lawyers and volunteers from the Central Australian Legal Aid Service recently conducted a survey of the town camps to assess the level of maintenance that is outstanding.

“There were things like, the toilet wasn’t working, plumbing issues outside and water pooling up,” says CAALAS lawyer Kate Gordon.

“There’s also issues like electrical faults, people would turn an electrical light on and another area of the house would come on ... issues like that that you think would be addressed when you built the house but also repaired pretty quickly.”

She says the department of housing system is complex and  there are multiple flaws.

“A case manager of the housing group goes out and writes a report to housing, housing then has to approve which repairs get fixed and then they send it out to a contractor to go and fix those repairs,” she says.

“Often they don’t get approved if they’re going to cost too much.”

NTCAT hearings for the Papunya residents began yesterday, while Santa Teresa residents will have a further hearing in early April.