Last week was NAIDOC Week, and we at Shelter NSW reflected on the many housing-related issues that Indigenous communities still face in this country. But we also know that many of the answers lie in simply listening to these communities, whose voices have been ignored and silenced for so long.
First – the environment. Floods and fires have smashed NSW, with many First Nations communities hit hardest. Colonial dispossession and poor treatment of land is a huge part the ecological crisis, and Indigenous land management principles are the best way to reverse this crisis. This means full land rights and autonomy.
This article by Barkandji woman, Zoe Cumpston, is a brilliant primer on the importance of Indigenous justice in addressing the climate crisis.
Second – housing itself. Australia was founded on the dislocation of Indigenous communities, including the destruction and erasure of existing housing and agricultural infrastructure. This continues today, with communities split from traditional lands and pushed to the fringes of communities.
The solution is not just native title, but the massive expansion of public and Aboriginal-owned and operated community housing across NSW. It is listening to First Nations leaders and advocates who know their communities best, and funding local services.
We are proud to work with many Indigenous activists in Redfern, Waterloo and Glebe, as well as Land Councils and community representatives from regional centres across the state. If the State Government listened more to these residents and representatives, we would have a truly fair system already.
Third – incarceration – this is literally being not in your own home, and a most perverse type of homelessness. We know that Aboriginal people, youth in particular, are drastically over-represented in our prison system. Aboriginal community organisations like Deadly Connections and Tribal Warrior have done some amazing work in this space.
We recommend watching the ‘Incarceration Nation’ documentary, which can be found at SBS On Demand.
This report, prepared in consultation with Tribal Warrior by a student on placement with us last year, also offers some insight. Ultimately, the solutions to these urgent issues are right in front of us. We must confront the truth of colonisation and walk with First Nations communities towards justice to truly make progress.