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Friday, May 04, 2007

A long way from nowhere...

House at Gapuwiyak, NT

Meanwhile, still in the Northern Territory, reports are in The Australian to-day of the whitefella knows best policies of Mal Brough. Isn't this great news for Aboriginal people? Isn't it just what ignorant whitefellas in urban Australia want to hear as they sip their caffe lattes in Degraves Street, Park Road and Darlinghurst Road?

As he surveyed the house he helped to build, the house he will one day own, Barney Narjic was only too aware that he was the first to walk this path. "But when I pass away," the 51-year-old said, "my kids will take this over."
The Federal Govt estimates its value at $270,000. In the better suburbs of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, where the real estate in the better 'burbs is running full steam ahead, they wouldn't have a clue about relativities in Wadeye and environs.

Just to give you some point of comparison. Tennant Creek, in the middle of the NT, at the cross-roads of the nation has a population of 4,000 - 50% of whom are Aboriginal. Tennant Creek has an economy. It is in the centre of pastoral and mining activity and is a community service centre for the 250,000 square kilometres that is the Barkly Tableland. It is serviced by air, buses, and The Ghan on a very well-maintained Stuart Highway just south of a very well-maintained Barkly Highway. Miss Eagle knows of no one who would spend/invest $270,000 on a home in Tennant Creek. In fact, the biggest driver to home purchasing in TC has always been the scarcity and cost of housing in the rental market - but not to the tune of $270,000. Miss Eagle will admit though that the cost of housing in the NT is expensive because of the cost of bringing in the materials. Its just that outside the high prices of Darwin and Alice you have to have a big hard think about it - and most people do not build but purchase existing housing.

Now let's switch back to Barney and his new home. The idea is supposed to be - as it has been publicised to the Australian polity - that Aboriginal people would be able to own their own homes on freehold land just like other Australians. The idea would be that they would become property owners like most Australians.

Well, it's not happening at either Wudapuli or Wadeye. Barney gets to rent his $270,000 home and we are not told precisely what the rental is. Now, there is a rule of thumb in Sydney and Melbourne which means that, on average, you drop the three noughts off the end and that's your weekly rental. So, as a generality, a $270,000 property would rent for $270. Barney is reported to earn $300 a week on the work for the dole scheme.

Now does Miss Eagle have your attention, dear Reader, for this little lesson in home economics?

Barney is not permanently employed. Don't think the banks would want to lend, do you? Servicing a $270,000 mortgage? How do you manage that in one lifetime, particularly the lifetime of a 51 year old, and particularly the shorter lifespan of an Aboriginal man who, statistically is already on borrowed time? Will Barney still be around in 22 years when he will be 73 - after two years of rental and twenty years of mortgage repayments.

And this mortgage - unlike yours and mine, dear Reader - has strings attached. Barney will only be eligible to purchase his home if .....
.....after two years if his rental record is unblemished and the children are sent regularly to school.

When did your bank manager last check on the attendance record of the kids, Miss Eagle asks?

The federal Government says the four families will take up to 20 years to pay off their homes, with an average weekly rent of $150 for one four-bedroom house to be paid through indigenous home-ownership schemes.
Mr Brough said mortgage payments would be the same cost as rent. "I have no doubt that these families have gone through a very vigorous process of financial assessment to ensure that they have the will, they have the financial capacity (to make the payments)," he said.
"No one is being left out here high and dry."

More home economics:
If Barney earns $300 per week on the work-for-the-dole-scheme and he pays $150 in rent, how does he manage basic food and clothing for six people (himself, his wife and his five children). Now, there may be additional family benefits, but remember that, just as housing is expensive because of the costs of materials, so is food very expensive. The food that is available is basic - not organic niceties, nor health food shop niceties as in urban Australia. Why? Because there is no economy. Not even an economy which might discriminate against Aboriginal people. This means virtually no choice; little, if any, competition; virtually no employment; no diversity.

The Oz reports:

The handover came as The Australian revealed the Howard Government was set to unveil a $1billion-plus plan to encourage private home ownership and lift education and health standards among indigenous people. Tuesday is expected to provide significant backing for private home ownership and economic development in Aboriginal communities.

So, dear Reader, you will have your ear glued to the budgetary details, won't you? And if the comments above have any truth or any semblance of hope in them, Miss Eagle can provide a measure to gauge them by. If the Howard Government is deadly serious, he will fund - for soon completion - a first-class, all-weather road to Wadeye.

You see, without this there will never be an economy at Wadeye. The $270,000 home of Barney's dreams will never be worth two-bob - because there will not be an economy. No local economy means that there will be no housing market in which to create value.

And all Mal Brough and John Howard will have done - out of their utter and complete ignorance - will be to re-arrange funding for Aboriginal communities once more - this time with invective as a lead up.