Wrap up of the 2019 National Housing Conference

Darwin conference delegates explore how to house our future communities

13 September 2019

The National Housing Conference 2019 held in Darwin (27 to 30 August) to a sold-out audience of more than 1,100 delegates presented a jam packed, informative program; incredible insights into Indigenous culture in the NT and beyond, and a series of memorable networking events in some of Darwin’s most iconic locations.

The Tiwi Strong Women’s Group
The Tiwi Strong Women’s Group

The Conference began with a Welcome to Country from the Larrakia Nation – the traditional owners of the lands of Darwin and Palmerston, before the NT Minister for Housing, Gerald McCarthy outlined some of the housing challenges and opportunities faced by Territory Government. “We carry significant responsibility in partnership with families and communities to deliver housing to some of the most vulnerable households across the NT” said the Minister in his address.

Minister McCarthy was followed by the newly appointed Federal Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services, Luke Howarth who commended the sector’s innovation in tackling housing and homelessness challenges. Closing out the opening session, ABC journalist Patricia Karvelas delivered a stirring address on the role of governments and the media in responding to and reporting on housing issues for vulnerable Australians, particularly Indigenous communities. “The notion that Australians don’t care about Indigenous Australian’s has been disproved. If Australians care, our governments must seek to reflect that care”.

... the building blocks for healthy communities start with adequate housing, an enormous need still exists in the Northern Territory when it comes to housing ...⁠

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Senator for Northern Territory.

Across the range of plenary, major and minor concurrent sessions the day one program tackled issues including Australia’s fast growing, yet fragmenting private rental market; housing choices for the growing cohort of older women facing homelessness; regulation of the community housing sector, and alternative models and pathways to home ownership.

Day Two of #NHCDarwin was opened by Senator for the Northern Territory, Malarndirri McCarthy who shared her perspective of Indigenous housing issues as a Yanyuwa woman from Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Senator outlined that there must be an Indigenous voice in housing policy and that “the building blocks for healthy communities start with adequate housing, an enormous need still exists in the Northern Territory when it comes to housing.”

conference delegates

International guest speaker Margaret Pfoh, CEO of the Canadian Aboriginal Housing Management Association, detailed Indigenous housing perspectives and sector-wide strategies to improve First Nations housing outcomes in Canada, including for running effective and culturally appropriate indigenous housing programs. Ms Pfoh also reflected on the challenges Indigenous people have faced globally. “Colonisation has impacted Indigenous people in every part of this world. There is more that unites than divides us… Solutions for Indigenous people need to be led by Indigenous people”.

Highlights within the concurrent sessions on day 2 included a fascinating exploration of the intersection between housing in Indigenous communities and poor health and education outcomes; an update from the CEO of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Nathan Dal Bon; the latest research on housing options for families in the wake of domestic and family violence, and a series of case studies of innovations happening in state housing departments across the nation.

The final conference plenary on Friday 30 August looked at the case for a national housing strategy, with fascinating insights from three countries - Ireland, New Zealand and Canada that are each implementing a strategies or initiatives at a federal level aimed at tackling housing and homelessness. In reflecting on the three case study presentations, AHURI Executive Director Dr Michael Fotheringham spoke of the need for funding to be supported by strategic thinking. “A myriad of disparate funding agreements is not a strategy. Funding is necessary, but what is also needed is long term vision”.

Beyond the official conference program, delegates enjoyed a jam-packed networking agenda, made all the more memorable thanks to Darwin’s tropical dry season. A series of sold out networking events over the four days hosted a range of all-important conversations and delegates were entertained by a diverse array of local Darwin performers.

Presentations, video and audio recordings of many of the 2019 NHC sessions are now available as well as photo gallery capturing the many highlights of #NHCDarwin.

At AHURI we thank everyone who attended for their enthusiasm and commitment, our official host partner, the NT Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development and our many valued sponsors and exhibitors.