Mansions for bush communities, courtesy governments?



Over the next 10 years 2700 mansions, at a cost to the taxpayer of $1.5m each, will be spread across Aboriginal communities in the NT outback.

At least that’s if you figure it out from the numbers touted by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Chief Minister Eva Lawler this week: $4 billion over a decade with “up to 270 homes built each year, with the goal of halving overcrowding [and] to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” as Ms Lawler puts it in a media statement. 

It simple: $4,000,000,000 divided by 2700 houses equals $1,481,481 per house.

As it is commonly assumed that housing money meant of Indigenous people largely finishes up in white pockets and administration, we have asked Mr Albanese and Ms Lawler for a break-up of what the $4 billion will be spent on.

We also asked: Are there requirements for prospective tenants to provide support during construction such as free labour? Will rent be charged and if so, how much?

No answers yet. (See UPDATE below.)

The NT Government has a problem being up front about money it is spending on bush housing.

Our investigation last October of a $30m contract yielded incomplete responses.

Independent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley is now asking questions in Parliament about this. Such Parliamentary questions must be answered within a month.

Using information from, a national firm linking up tradies and businesses, a government style three-bedroom home can be built for $195,000. If the job is out bush let’s add another 10% for transport. That makes it $214,500 per house.

That is one seventh of the amount in this week’s announcement.

The land for Aboriginal housing, of course, doesn’t need to be bought: It belongs to them, mostly acquired under land rights.

Perth based Murray River North is a manufacturer of houses on Alice Springs airport land for some 40 years. The houses are built there and road freighted in sections to their destinations.

The one pictured at Top is a three bed duplex in Docker River.

We asked the company about prices for their homes and the cost of transport but – surprise, surprise – hard facts are hard to come by.

We received this statement: “The challenge is twofold.  Firstly, the company is bound by commercial confidentiality to not disclose the value of contracts signed with the government to the level of detail you are chasing.”

That level of detail was asking for the costs of a three bedroom home and the per-kilometre cost for transport.

“And,” the statement continued, “practically, even if they were free to disclose, it would be highly misleading because all the homes are delivered on a tender package basis – not house by house.

“This means the figures could vary wildly and any figure we provided you would be grossly inaccurate.

“In terms of transport costs, again, this is also a tender-by-tender matter and depends on such a wide range of factors there isn’t a cost per kilometre I can provide that is accurate.”

UPDATE 2pm March 14:

A Federal Government spokesperson provided this comment: “As Territorians understand, you can’t just grab an online quote from a national website and expect costs to be anything like the same in a remote area.

“The average cost of delivering a 3 bed house in remote NT communities is $817,000.

“This includes not just the build, but infrastructure such as connections to services.

“We will be building and maintaining homes as efficiently as possible and making local jobs a priority.”

UPDATE March 15

The Tennant Creek based consultancy Wilya Janta Housing Collaboration is seeking a slice of the $4b action.

CEO Simon Quilty said: “While commendable, this funding will only make a difference if governments are genuinely committed to engaging with community and working on innovative solutions to housing design and evaluation.

“Building houses is one thing, building trust and community is another.”

Chair of Wilya Janta Jimmy Frank Jupurrurla says it is crucial that these new houses are well-equipped to withstand extremely hot weather caused by climate change.

“Governments focus too much on cost efficiency and doing things quickly, but in the long run, these houses are making our people sick, our well-being is forgotten. The new houses being built today are not designed for our culture or our climate.

“Us Wumpurrarni people really want to work with government.”




  1. Let’s make this NT housing project an open book. All media including electronic, print and social media follow the project with positivity.
    Each week, the government and construction companies update their building progress with photos and technical information.
    What a wonderfull way of engaging ALL Australians in something that will ensure accountability, without bias and a credit to all.

  2. Before the Intervention Hermannsburg community had, I believe, a crew of workers fully trained in steel frame home construction.
    Of course that was cancelled along with many other valuable projects.
    Why can’t such teams and training be resurrected and used to offset the high cost demanded by tradies and builders in remote locations?
    Most unemployed people enjoy working on projects which directly benefit their communities as well as themselves.
    An example is the success of ranger programmes which provide education and employment for men and women.

  3. I would like to see some serious consultation with communities and sensible designs that are appropriate for large families who frequently have visiting relatives to stay with them.
    Plus some seriously good design for outdoor shaded shelters for daytime activities, as well as being able to sleep outside on hot nights.
    Above all some appropriate kitchen designs that are easy to keep clean and benches to cope with more people, and hopefully two bathroom areas.

  4. The various Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) corporate land trusts appear to still refuse to issue long term conventional leases to “Traditional Owners” and others who reside upon their land trust lands, except when government or mining are involved.
    The ALR(NT) has NOT clarified whether it still denies “Traditional Owners” their rights as “Traditional Owners” to obtain any long term lease, or ownership, for their own homes.
    It is not yet clear that change or removal of the permits that “Traditional Owners” can have the family, relations, friends and others visit them without need to obtain permission through land trusts and land councils.
    Racism is alive and thriving in Commonwealth Government still.

  5. As a man who worked in housing in remote communities I found that the most successful houses were solid brick.
    Maintenance of houses to minimise vermin was difficult because cockroaches lived above the gyprock ceilings and took over the houses at night.
    The ideal house would be solid brick with a solid concrete slab roof, and no skirting or cornices or other place for vermin to hide.
    These can’t be supplied by Murray River North.

  6. I have/had a photograph of a house in Kintore being fitted with a gas cylinder type chip heater outside a government house with solar hot water system. The whole thing is fuelled by philosophy rather than reality.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here