Conference Papers

Session Ho3.1 Housing


1. Paul Pholeros: Avoiding evidence: housing, overcrowding and health

The simple theme of this paper will be to look at the day to day life of an Indigenous child somewhere in the mid 0-5 years of age range and examine in detail the impact of housing and the surrounding living environment of that child by the time they are 40 years of age. What are the connections between the house, health, and the young and old. Recent health research by NSW Health completed on Indigenous people living in over 2000 houses that were improved using the Housing for Health methodology, showed a 40% reduction in hospital separations for a range of environmentally caused illnesses compared to similar groups whose houses had not been improved. This evidence seems to have been ignored in the detailed implementation of the $5.5bn National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPA). Firstly this paper will outline 25 years of Housing for Health method, local community involvement, housing improvements results and costs, then contrast Housing for Health with the methods, results and costs of the NPA program. Specific examples will include: how myths stop progress; how project results are presented and to whom; how best to reduce the negative impacts of overcrowding; the role that practical research has played in improving house function; the need for a National Indigenous Housing Guide; one size won’t fit all contrasted to the universality of the Housing for Health work

Author bio: Since 1984 Paul Pholeros has been the principal architect of a practice based in Sydney working on urban, rural and remote area architectural projects throughout Australia and overseas. Paul is also one of three directors of Healthabitat. For over 25 years Healthabitat has worked to improve housing and the living environment of Indigenous people in many suburban, rural and remote areas of Australia. In the last 12 years alone, the Housing for Health projects carried out by Healthabitat have improved more than 7,000 houses in 184 project communities around Australia. This work has improved the living conditions of over 40,000 people. The national project team has been made up of over 75% local Indigenous people. The Housing for Health program has received awards from the Australian Institute of Architects, Australian Public Health Association and the International Union of Architects. Over the last 5 years the work has expanded to projects in Nepal and the USA.

2. Ross Bailie: The Housing Improvement and Child Health Study – Informing further development of community housing programs

The Housing Improvement and Child Health Study (HICH) examines the impact on child health of housing programs in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT, and explores the factors which mediate or moderate the impact of these programs. The study was conducted in ten communities which had substantial building programs over the period of 2004/2005 – programs similar in scale to the current major investment in the 70 “growth towns” in the NT. The study thus has relevance to current programs in the NT. Key findings included that the building programs resulted in significant improvements in the quality of housing infrastructure, but only marginal reductions in household crowding. While change in the state of household hygiene was strongly related to change in the state of infrastructure of individual houses, the housing programs had no measurable impact on the state of household hygiene at a community level. This latter finding is important in understanding the key finding that the housing programs did not result in any measurable reduction of common childhood illnesses. There are a range of broader socio-environmental factors which need to be addressed in order for remote community housing programs to fulfil their potential to improve child health.

Author bio: Ross is a Senior Principal Research Fellow and Scientific Director for the Centre for Primary Health Care Systems Research at Menzies. Ross is also a Program Leader for the Healthy Life, Health Start Program of the Lowitja Institute. He spent several years in general and hospital based medical practice in New Zealand and South Africa before completing a four year public training program. He has been involved in research, evaluation and teaching since moving to Australia in 1995. His work is currently funded through an ARC Future Fellowship. His areas of research and evaluation work have been in the broad area of comprehensive primary health care, including quality of clinical services, evaluation of information systems, primary care workforce, water supply and sanitation, health promotion, food supply, community housing and health related infrastructure. He has contributed to increased recognition, understanding and improvement in information systems, and to the availability of information for policy and service planning for Indigenous health across Australia.

3. Peter Nelson: Conversations about Place

Tract Consultants is a national landscape architecture and town planning practice. Since 1998 Tract has held seven biennial forums at various locations around Australia. The purpose of the forums are threefold: a dedicated time away from day to day obligations to contemplate significant issues affecting the practice; a chance to challenge staff personally and professionally; and an opportunity for staff from offices across the country to get to know each other. Tract’s seventh forum, ‘conversations about place’ was held in the Top End capital of Darwin in early September 2010. The forum addressed three important questions: How can we develop a deeper understanding of the past, present and future histories of a city, town or place? How can we encourage young and old generations from diverse backgrounds to share their stories and memories? How can we harness multi-media forms to record and communicate these diverse conversations? Peter Nelson worked closely with forum facilitator Toni Bauman to develop a program which engaged with over forty locals from diverse backgrounds and generations. These locals included Larrakia and ‘Old Darwin’ guides, historians, writers, artists, planners, councillors, wharfies, demographers, environmentalists and developers. Over a three day period the forum adjourned to several locations across the Darwin Peninsula. This ever changing landscape provided a memorable backdrop for a series of diverse and candid conversations about place. The conversation is a metaphor for action research. The methodology utilised an inclusive and active process owned by all participants, to hone their communication, listening and observational skills. The resultant book and multimedia package included a detailed compilation of photos, video, audio and text generated over the course of three days. In 2011 the ‘conversations about place’ forum was awarded the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA QLD Chapter) Research and Communication Award. Peter will discuss how the forum evolved into an open and relaxed program with no formal agenda. The result was an event which successfully connected with generations both young and old. The AIATSIS paper will include the screening of the nine minute multi-media presentation.

Author bio: Peter Nelson has a background in architecture having studied and tutored at the University of Queensland. For the past five and half years Peter has worked for Tract Consultants, a national Landscape Architecture and Planning Practice. During this period Peter lived and worked in Darwin for three years as Tract’s Northern Territory representative. He worked on a range of projects across the Top End including large scale urban revitalisation and master planning projects in Darwin as well as planning work in several remote indigenous communities. In 2010 Peter and Toni Bauman organised a forum for Tract’s ninety-five staff titled ‘conversations about place’. Peter now works as a senior project manager for the National Capital Authority in Canberra.