A new report has examined the circumstances that lead to successful rental experiences for Indigenous Australians in an attempt to help tenancy support programs serve communities across the country.
Conducted by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI), the report looks to flip the script on previous research conducted into Indigenous tenancies, which have largely focused on what contributes to poor tenancy outcomes rather than the circumstances that promote positive ones.
Roughly 60 per cent of Indigenous Australians live in rental accommodation, compared to around 30 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians, AHURI noted, making issues surrounding rental housing a significant one for communities.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr Megan Moskos from the University of Adelaide, explained that Indigenous Australians frequently face barriers both before and after obtaining a lease.
“Indigenous people commonly experience both direct and indirect discrimination when searching for a property within the private rental market,” Dr Moskos said.
“This discrimination sits alongside a lack of affordable and culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous people as well as long waiting lists for public housing. The housing that is available to Indigenous tenants may not provide a good fit between cultural norms and ways of living, nor with regard to household size and composition,” she continued.
Dr Moskos and her team identified a number of cultural differences between the way Indigenous and Western families use housing, noting that these variations were not adequately accounted for in either tenancy agreements or the supply and accepted use of rental accommodation.
By way of example, Dr Moskos explained that “the traditional responsibilities of Indigenous tenants to house extended family members when needed can conflict with the expectations of landlords around visitors and overcrowding, and thus threaten tenancy arrangements”.
Three case studies observed from across the country helped the team identify what works to foster long-term tenancies for Indigenous communities, finding that success comes down to three key factors.
The first is the way that services are delivered to tenants, and the importance of having correct policy settings that support housing providers’ ability to respond to individual circumstances, on a case-by-case basis.
Having the right staff was also a significant component, with better outcomes when housing programs are facilitated by workers with prior experience in community housing, as well as those who are able to spend time with tenants to understand their needs.
Finally, the ability of housing programs to work in tandem with other providers, such as health and community services, enabled “a joined-up approach to service delivery”, the report explained.
Dr Moskos added that the most successful tenancies were those where programs worked with all members of a household, engaged with tenants regularly, and had an “ethos that seeks to encourage and support Indigenous Australians to achieve their housing aspirations”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.