‘We are begging for housing’: the crisis in Indigenous communities

“With non-Indigenous people everyone got their own house,” says Doris Lewis. “Indigenous people we’re all squashed up in one little house. We told government many times about this problem.”

Lewis, a Warlpiri woman who has lived her whole life in Lajamanu, has three generations living in her house, including her husband, two sons, one daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter.

It’s above the average for Lajamanu, a central desert community of about 600 people which, according to the 2016 census, has an average of 4.5 occupants per household – one of the Northern Territory’s highest rates. Lajamanu dwellings have an average 2.9 rooms. Nationally, there are 2.6 people sharing 3.1 rooms in each household.

“Everyone was living in overcrowded houses, and we’re not happy. I supposed that’s everywhere, in other communities as well. That’s the biggest issue in every Aboriginal community,” says Lewis.

“The government or whoever is not listening to us. It looks like we’re begging them for new houses. This is our own land, we are the first people of Australia, and they don’t look at it, they just treat us as dirt.”

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