Housing & Planning
Gundjeihmi is directly addressing housing needs for Mirarr in Jabiru and the outstations, both as an independent initiative and in collaboration with government agencies.
At a national level the Council of Australian Governments through the Framework on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage identifies the Home Environment as an area for action. It addresses the following:
- overcrowding in housing
- high rates of disease associated with poor environmental health
- access to clean water and functional sewerage and electricity services
Accordingly, Gundjeihmi has adopted a threefold approach to its housing and buildings program:
- maintaining the existing housing stock
- conducting a building program for new homes and maintenance work on existing housing
- implementing an asset-based community development program to plan for housing within a financed community development strategy
Aside from the location, design and suitable construction of an individual residence a number of other factors are relevant to the indigenous housing:
- amenity and general community facilities
- communication, power, water, sewerage and storm water management
- transport services and road surfaces
- rubbish removal and general maintenance
- gardens and food plants
- access to shops, schools and employment
- access to community services
- provision for children’s needs
- provision for special needs
- tenancy agreements
- equity, community and a sense of belonging.
Additional planning factors for Bininj are:
- seasonal variation in the tropics
- specific family structures and responsibilities
- particular demographic and preferences shifts over time
- particular ceremonial obligations and events.
During 2008 and 2009 the Gundjeihmi housing program concentrated simply on domestic building projects at Madjinbardi and Djirrbiyuk as well as the construction of single men’s quarters at outstations. These projects were in direct response to needs identified by community members through the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation Board of Directors. These were, in part, informed on a policy level by the 2008 report A Cultural and Conservation Economy for Northern Australia. That report identified critical housing shortages in these two communities.
Gundjeihmi engaged Simon Scally (a Darwin-based architect) and Brustolin Builders for the Djirrbiyuk project. The resulting new houses are a success with sensitive and sensible design for cultural factors, shading, water management, equipment storage and fences, with an in-ground swimming pool and well designed landscaping. Further facilities were allowed for in the plan and now include a large workshop suitable for vehicle repairs, metal work and vocational training as well as a small medical clinic. Gundjeihmi crews and Djirrbiyuk residents undertake maintenance work.
Madjinbardi is 10km from Jabiru and 8km downstream from the Ranger uranium mine. It was the site of the homestead for the old Mudjinberri Pastoral Station and meatworks, made famous in an industrial dispute of the 1980s. Madginbardi is now under development as a Mirarr community of about 60 residents, but subject to significant seasonal fluctuation in the number of people.
The Gundjeihmi housing program has refurbished existing houses and ancillary buildings with a view to the longer term planning. In 2009 Gundjeihmi commissioned Peter Kenyon of the Bank of Ideas to conduct and comprehensive community planning exercise from the perspective of Asset based Community Development. The plan identified within the community the key priorities for action and the people most able to implement the objectives of the plan.
Accordingly, Gundjeihmi then commenced an infrastructure project with the development of a community garden and the redevelopment of a Community Centre, particularly to address matters of health and wellbeing. The Gundjeihmi community plan will help to slow the cycles and dampen the frequency of petrol sniffing that periodically ravages the community.
The overall strategy of the Gundjeihmi development plan is to avoid the recurring past experiences of expensive mistakes and fractured, haphazard and inappropriate development, which previously left Bininj marginalised from decision-making.
The overall objective of the plan is to achieve better outcomes through Mirarr themselves planning for their own evolving needs and those of their Bininj neighbours, mindful of Balanda neighbours and visitors.
The projects resulting from the community plan have been paid for entirely from Gundjeihmi funds.