Up to 240 residents of the Arnhem Land community of Maningrida have been left homeless while their houses are being renovated and replaced, the local Aboriginal corporation says.
The Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation said 24 houses in the community are being upgraded, more are being replaced and each house had about 10 people living in it.
But it said there was no alternative accommodation provided by the company contracted by the Northern Territory Government completing the work.
“That’s likely to have impacted on … people as they move out of their house and move in with family and friends,” said Karl Dyason, the CEO of Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.
“So it could be as many as 500 people affected.
“This has exacerbated overcrowding and is culturally inappropriate.”
Local resident Wesley Campion’s son was one of the affected people and said as a result, numerous people moved into his house which was already accommodating 20 people.
“Their house was getting too old and they decided to refurbish it and they moved into where we live,” he said.
“At that time there were around 20 people living here … seven people from my son’s house moved into mine.”
Mr Campion said his house was further overcrowded and it created a health concern.
“My house is a three-bedroom with two showers and two toilets … it was overcrowded, too noisy, and too much rubbish,” he said.
“The Government should have provided transition houses … all the residents are complaining about houses.”
Residents told to move in with family
Mr Dyason said the residents were asked to move into a family member’s house while the work was underway and if they disagreed they were told the refurbishment would be delayed indefinitely.
“We raised our concerns with the NT Government and the Department of Housing and they said transitional accommodation should be available,” he said.
“But residents were informed by the contractor that there’d be no alternative accommodation and if they weren’t going to relocate with family they’d be put to the bottom of the line,” he said.
A spokeswoman for NT Housing Minister Gerry McCarthy said the problem had now been resolved, but did not release any further detail.
But Mr Dyason said the situation was not acceptable.
“This is inappropriate and it certainly wouldn’t be okay in a mainstream community,” he said.
“Imagine if someone in Darwin was asked to vacate because their house needed refurbishing and they’d have to live with family, I don’t believe this would happen in Darwin.”
This is not the first time this has occurred in the Territory, with residents in the Central Australian community of Atitjere forced to live in tin sheds while their homes were being renovated.