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Jo Victoria

M.Phil Research: 'A house is just a house' Indigenous youth housing need in Queensland

The housing need of young Indigenous people in Queensland is largely unknown. Some research has suggested that young Indigenous people cannot sufficiently access housing due to priorities to house Indigenous families and consequently young Indigenous people are having to stay with extended family households contributing to overcrowding.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Program in the Queensland Department of Housing and the Aboriginal Environment Research Centre in the Department of Architecture, University of Queensland combined to develop a research project that would result in a better understanding of the housing need of this group. The end result of this research project is the following Thesis, it commences with a history of Indigenous housing policy and provision which contextualises contemporary Indigenous housing issues; current measures of housing need are also examined (Chapter one).

This thesis then explores the concept of ‘need’ in the Indigenous youth housing context in Queensland. The relevance of applying standard normative housing need measures to Indigenous youth housing experiences is questioned.  Rather, application of more qualitative indicators which are derived from research grounded at the client level and which may result in more emic measures of need, is proposed (Chapter two).

An analysis of the literature on Indigenous youth domiciliary patterns reveals that this group engage in domestic behaviours that are often not conducive to accessing and maintaining independent housing in all rental housing sectors (Chapter three). In particular, kin-based mobility, rapid household formation and breakdown, patterns of caring responsibilities and economic expenditure patterns contribute to the particular domiciliary patterns of this group which are in conflict with the mainstream expectations of ideal tenant behaviour. Indigenous youth marginalisation from Indigenous and mainstream political structures, endemic poverty, family dysfunction and substance abuse also reduce the renting capacities of this group.

The field work component of the study focuses on two contrasting urban environments in Queensland. These are firstly, the major metropolitan region of Brisbane in the south of the State, and secondly, the rural town of Mossman in the far north. The study reveals that research methods should employ holistically focused paradigms whereby a young person’s needs are examined within their total social, cultural, political and economic environment in order to adequately capture the full extent of the wider influences on their circumstances. Field methods must take into account the particular issues associated with the Indigenous youth experience and be aware of the subtleties of the research subject matter (Chapter four).

The field work findings reveal the diversity of the Indigenous youth housing experience and aspirations. However a common thread running through each youth housing experience was the significance of kin-based mobility as a legitimate development experience for young Indigenous people, particularly in the early post school years (Chapter five). Mobility was distinguished according to normal and expected mobility patterns and mobility associated with problematic youth behaviour. In the latter case, young Indigenous people engaged in problematic mobility were identified as being in need of significant support.

This thesis proposes that the concept of need in relation to housing is related more to the provision of support services to help access and maintain existing rental housing options, than to the provision of a new house or flat as a singular act. Building tenant capacity to maintain housing requires ongoing housing and non-housing support (Chapter six). Currently Indigenous housing policy and provision do not adequately cater for this need.

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Last updated: May 12, 2010