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Issue # 1403      18 March 2009

Bad taste as family denied Dubbo home

A Dubbo Aboriginal family with eight children will have to stay living in overcrowded accommodation – for a while at least – after non-Indigenous residents successfully lobbied the NSW government to cancel the planned purchase of a home in their street.

The Aboriginal Housing Organisation (AHO) had planned to buy a five-bedroom house in north west town’s Beveridge Crescent, South Dubbo, for the family, but was told the house, with a price tag of around $400,000, was “outside of standards” for public housing and not to proceed.

On February 24 local newspaper the Daily Liberal reported Beveridge Crescent residents’ fears that Aboriginal public housing would lower the values of their surrounding properties.

“We have seen what happens to homes purchased and we are saying not in our street,” said one resident, who asked to remain anonymous.

“We would like the value of our homes to remain as they are and rise again when times get better. We are all hard-working, honest people, many of us built our homes here and many more made the decision to purchase and stay in this great street.”

The home in question had five bedrooms, three bathrooms – one with a spa – a rumpus room, air-conditioning and a paved patio.

The residents indicated they felt the purchase of such a home would be an abuse of taxpayers’ funds. Dubbo MP Dawn Fardell undertook to speak to NSW Housing Minister David Borger about the issue.

The day after the newspaper report, Mr Borger told AHO to look elsewhere or to look at building extensions onto existing properties.

The affair has left a bad taste in the mouth for many Aboriginal locals, and some non-Indigenous people, who say racism is alive and well in the Western Plains city.

“Where, if not your street?” New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Central Region representative Stephen Ryan asked of Beveridge Crescent residents.

“AHO doesn’t control the price of housing but does abide by certain guidelines relating to age of dwellings and market price etc.

“As far as I’m aware the NSW government hasn’t confined Aboriginal housing to any specific sections of any towns, nor have local councils.”

Cr Ryan said he had a sickening feeling that “some of those tenants, a minor portion of them I hope, just don’t want Aboriginal people living in their area”.

 

 AHO Regional Manager-Western Tony Flick

AHO Regional Manager–Western Tony Flick echoed Cr Ryan’s observation that Aboriginal people, too, were taxpayers.

“What people don’t realise is that we are investing taxpayers dollars and when we do, something that will still be a good investment in 20 years,” he said,

“But they won’t come out and say ‘we are racist, we don’t want these people here’. They are saying it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money and we’re not spending our money properly.”

Mr Flick said the street’s residents were saying “we have seen what happens to houses purchased for blackfellas”, but the stereotyping could not fairly be applied to the family for whom AHO had planned to buy the home.

“I know the family we were going to house there and they’re a great family. They keep a nice, tidy house and they would have fitted well into this street,” he said. “I think people are tarring all blackfellas with the same brush and that’s just not fair.”

Mr Flick said five-bedroom houses were as rare as hen’s teeth, with just two amongst Dubbo’s current public housing stock of 500 properties.

Blogs recorded on the Daily Liberal’s website were blunt, with about half of the comments in favour of the planned purchase and half against.

“Why should someone be entitled to a $400,000 home when they have never had to save or work hard to afford it,” one blogger posted. “Arguing that the people who move in could actually be hard-working and employed is a joke – otherwise why would they need public housing?”

Another said she’d had the “unfortunate luck to live next door to an Aboriginal housing commission home”.

“The lawns are dead, the house is trashed, and their children wander the streets without supervision,” she said. “They don’t take care of the property anyway, they don’t work and rap music blares from their house nearly 24/7.”

Another asked: “Why would they need a spa, a rumpus room?”

From a different perspective, one blogger said the residents had effectively turned the hands of time back 70 years.

“I feel sorry for their children and them to be so narrow-minded in this day and age,” they wrote.

And another: “Clearly racism is alive and well in Dubbo. Just because someone has a different skin colour doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to live in South Dubbo.”

Some Aboriginal people, who also asked for their names to be withheld, told The Koori Mail it was obvious that the street’s residents believed “blackfellas shouldn’t get nice houses”.

“They’re only happy if we’re living in cockroach-infested hovels,” said one local father.

The Koori Mail contacted Housing Minister Borger’s office on and was told there’d been a breakthrough in finding accommodation for the family of nine.

“I am pleased to report that we have found this family another property,” Mr Borger said.

“There’s no doubt that we have an obligation to house people who are in need, especially in these tough economic times, and it’s also important to note that communities need a healthy mix of all types of people,” he said.

However, no details were given on the size, the specifications or the address of the new property, or when the sale might go through.

The Koori Mail



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