Albo Backs $4B Housing Plan to Close Gap: Now, Make it Timber

Indigenous-led solutions to housing crisis could unlock a $600m green economy across the Top End

Wed 13 Mar 24


Australia will build 2,700 new homes for Indigenous Australians over the next decade as part of a $4 billion plan to address “overcrowding” in the Northern Territory.

Speaking yesterday as part of a visit to the Top End, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, flanked by Northern Territory Chief Minister Eva Lawler, announced the “landmark agreement” that will build 270 new houses a year to “close the gap” on housing inequality.

“The Northern Territory has the highest level of overcrowding in the country,” he said, “adding that “we are committed to practical actions to improve the lives of First Nations people.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will announce $4 billion towards housing in remote communities across the Northern Territory – footage courtesy of @abcnewsaustralia.

A partnership agreement between the Federal and Northern Territory Governments will be established, with Aboriginal Housing NT and the Aboriginal Land Councils also invited to join.

However, a decision on material procurement has not been announced. This afternoon, Wood Central spoke to Hanna Lillicrap, the Manager of Forestry Industry NT, the peak body for forest products in the Northern Territory, who welcomed the announcement.

“The Forestry Industry Association NT (FIANT) commends the Albanese government’s commitment to building 2,700 houses for Indigenous Australians in remote areas of the Northern Territory. This initiative addresses crucial housing needs and presents an opportunity to sustainably use both Australian-grown plantations and native timbers, showcasing the versatility and resilience of our local forestry resources.”

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A new report, has identified areas that are potentially available and suitable for commercial wood production in northern Australia. (Source: ABARES (2019, data provided for the CRCNA as part of a report prepared in 2020)

It comes after Wood Central reported on Monday that a new report commissioned by the Forest Wood Products Association, with support from the Queensland and Northern Territory governments, confirmed that Northern Australia’s forest products industry could triple to $600m with greater support for indigenous-led forestry.

“By incorporating Australian-grown plantation and native timbers into these housing projects, we can positively impact the environment by reducing the use of carbon-intensive building materials and international freight while generating employment opportunities and livelihoods for communities across the NT,” Ms Lillicrap said, adding that “we fully support this initiative and looks forward to collaborating with the government and indigenous communities to ensure its success.”

Whilst most of the funding is for new houses, the Federal Government is also committing $120 million over three years to match the Northern Territory’s annual investment in housing and infrastructure upgrades.

According to Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, “this is a historic investment,” with Ms Lawler confident that the program “would achieve unprecedented housing outcomes across the territory.”

Meanwhile, Indigenous groups have welcomed the announcement, with Wilya Janta’s CEO, Dr Simon Quilty, confirming that the investment is “urgently needed to fix the longstanding remote housing crisis.”

Adding that “the current model of community engagement in housing design is failing,” with overcrowded houses in remote communities “fuelling the social, health and cultural inequalities faced by Aboriginal communities.”

Spearheading sustainable growth through tropical forestry, a new report identifies pathways for Traditional Owners in East Arnhem to triple forest product activity. Last year, Timber Queensland - one of the authors of the report - visited the Gumatj hardwood sawmill in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory (Photo Credit: Supplied by Timber Queensland)
The Gumatj hardwood sawmill in Nhulunbuy, Northern Territory, one of the sawmills managed by indigenous Australians which could be used to produce low carbon housing (Photo Credit: Supplied by Timber Queensland)

Wilya Janta is an Aboriginal-led organisation that brings culturally safe and climate-appropriate houses to Aboriginal communities and works with traditional owners, medical professionals, architects and trades.

“Whilst commendable,” Dr Quilty warned, “this funding will only make a difference if governments are genuinely committed to engaging with the community and working on innovative solutions to housing design and valuation.”

And that could, or should, involve timber-rich design, with the Australian Government signing onto a timber coalition at COP28 in Dubai last year.

“We are excited to see how Australia’s COP28 commitment to increase timber in the built environment will be integrated into this initiative,” Ms Lillicrap said, adding that “Long-term storage of carbon in buildings aligns with the Government’s climate targets and presents a great opportunity for indigenous people to participate in economic development and culturally relevant employment within forest-based industries.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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