City Futures Research Centre UNSW Built Environment

Service Integration and Indigenous Housing

This AHURI-funded research investigated how social housing services are being provided to Indigenous clients in urban and regional settings. The Final Report of the project was published in August 2011.

The study sought to understand appropriate models of service provision in social housing for Indigenous Australians and in particular the respective roles and connexions between mainstream and specialised housing agencies in urbanised settings. The study was based on a workshop with Indigenous housing workers from five jurisdictions and case studies involving interviews and focus groups with community leaders across sites in Dubbo (NSW), Townsville (Qld) and Dandenong (Vic). The research suggested that service delivery approaches that are more likely to be successful for Indigenous clients involved face-to-face and personalised communication, flexible interpretation of policy, investment in relationship building and understanding of local cultural norms and lifestyles.

These were at odds with current trends in mainstream service delivery that emphasise depersonalised (e.g. electronic) means of communication, reduced autonomy for front-line staff and standardisation of policies. It found there were particular problems faced by Indigenous people including inappropriate housing allocations, rent setting policies that were complex and confusing, and instances where objectives of policies appeared to be contradictory. The social housing system was not responsive to Indigenous peoples’ cultural needs such as accommodating long stay visitors.

Effective policy responses will require giving Indigenous communities a stronger voice in policy formulation and service planning. However, there was need to explore ‘intercultural’ approaches that involved both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations, use of adaptive policies and localised capacity.

This may involve strengthening Indigenous run services, employing more indigenous staff in leadership roles within the mainstream service system, clarifying outcomes sought for Indigenous clients (e.g. around successful tenancies) and strengthening accountability frameworks for both mainstream and indigenous run service providers.

The project was undertaken collaboratively by the UNSW/UWS AHURI Research Centre and the AHURI Queensland Research Centre, University of Queensland. Chief investigator for the project was Associate Professor Vivienne Milligan. Other City Futures research staff who contributed to the project were Dr Hazel Easthope Dr Edgar Liu.  Expert advice and support for the conduct of the research was provided by Indigenous researchers at both institutions.

Link to project description on AHURI's website

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