Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service Inc. & Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights Ltd

Joint Media Release

Wednesday 23th March 2016

Alice town camp is next in legal challenge over poor housing

A town camp in Alice Springs is following the lead of two other central Australian communities in pursuing legal avenues to repair their houses.

Yesterday half of the residents of Larapinta Valley (Yarrenyty-Arltere), Town Camp notified the NT Department of Housing of around 160 repairs required in their households.

Lawyer for the tenants, Ms Katie Gordon from CAALAS said that the town camp residents were hoping for a quick resolution.

“Landlords have an obligation under the Residential Tenancy Act (NT) (Act) to repair damage and maintain conditions in their tenant’s homes to a habitable standard. The responsibility lies with the Landlord, in this case the Department of Housing, not the contractors, to order the work be completed.”

Larapinta Valley town camp resident, Ms Sheridan McMasters said she waited up to a year to get a crack in her ceiling repaired.

“A crack in my kitchen ceiling was reported over a year ago, they finally patched it up but it now looks like it is coming back and water is leaking again,” she said.

“It seems to me that when I report housing problems nothing ever happens, they often come out and inspect but nothing happens”, she said.

Lawyers from CAALAS and volunteers from Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights (ALRAR) surveyed the town camp last week identifying the repairs.

Ms Gordon said the action highlights inherent failures in the system.

“It is particularly concerning when we see urgent repairs like electrical faults, plumbing and security issues, all of which are prevalent in Larapinta Valley town camp, not being addressed as emergency repairs.

The legislation says emergency repairs must be fixed within 5 days of the landlord receiving notice, or if that can’t be done, then the landlord must notify the tenant and ensure the repairs are completed within 14 days,” she said.

If the emergency repairs are not completed town camp residents will have the right to apply to the Northern Territory Civil Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

A similar process undertaken by the communities of Santa Teresa and Papunya, resulted in claims which are currently before NTCAT.

Last week, almost a third of residents in Papunya lodged claims for compensation in NTCAT, complaining of serious delays in carrying out repairs and maintenance on their houses.

While in February, 70 residents of Santa Teresa applied to NTCAT seeking orders that the DOH attend to over 600 outstanding repair issues in that community.

ALRAR director, Daniel Kelly, is acting on behalf of the Santa Teresa tenants. He says the increasing number of communities turning to legal action is building a case for reform.

“These are not isolated cases. This is every remote community and every town camp in the Territory. These problems come from systemic issues, and there needs to be systemic solution. What this action by the town camp residents shows, is that pressure is starting to build on the Territory government.”

Papunya residents will have their claims heard by NTCAT for the first time on 29 March while Santa Teresa residents will have a further hearing in early April.

Contact

Mervyn Rubuntja: 0487 341 924
Community spokesperson and member Aboriginal Housing NT

Katie Gordon: 08 8950 9300
Lawyer, CAALAS

Daniel Kelly 0423 951 453
ALRAR (Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights)