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We need to design housing that can withstand climate change impacts for Indigenous communities.

We need to design housing that can withstand climate change impacts for Indigenous communities.

Newly built white house in APY Lands.

Remote Indigenous communitiesAustralia will suffer the effects of climate change more than the rest.

Take the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in northwest South Australia, where maximum temperatures are increasing. Summer periods of high temperatures are longer and earlier.

It is a challenge to design, deliver and maintain housing in Australia due to the rapid warming of the planet. Few analyses combine climate change and Indigenous housing.

A new report Sustainable Indigenous Housing in Regional and Remote AustraliaThis gap is filled by.




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The development of sustainable housing for First Nations communities

This report examines the role housing plays in regional and remote communities, taking into account the growing pressures of climate change. It shows that both existing and new housing should be maintained for these communities. We found that Indigenous-run management of tenancies is part the solution.

We have partnered in Gunnedah with Gunida Gunyah Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal community housing provider in New South Wales. Gunida Gunyah manages a variety of houses, each with a different quality. All housing organisations must negotiate this as they take on ongoing maintenance.

Unfortunately, the legacy of poor housing construction is not over. What is built today or renovated tomorrow could haunt residents for many decades. Will efforts to revitalize old housing by following existing national construction guidelines be sufficient to ensure future habitability of the area?

We used simulation software in order to study the impact of climate changes, particularly on increasing heat, on Indigenous housing. This software evaluated the effectiveness of strategies to refurbish existing housing to increase thermal performance and energy efficiency. This simulation was modelled for Australia’s tropical, dry, and hot/mild climate zones.

Our simulations showed that modifying or refurbishing existing homes or building new homes to meet the recommended standards were not sufficient measures to address climate change. Even if existing housing were improved or new housing was built according to current national construction codes standards, the benefits will be minimal in the short-term.

Further, whether houses are old or new, crowding is a critical limitation for “thermal comfort” – the technical term for not too hot, not too cold. Crowding would negate any design improvements in housing.

The solution is to combine improved design and construction standards with increased housing and restorative works on existing housing, as well as well-funded repair and maintenance programs that ensure continued function.

Newly built white house in APY Lands.
Newly built house in APY Lands.
Liam Grealy, Author provided (no reuse).



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Housing is not enough to meet basic housing needs

As HealthabitatAs has been demonstrated, basic household needs such as the ability wash oneself, change clothes, and store and prepare food require work both inside and outside the home.

Decades of dataThe impact of restoring functionality to health hardware (washing and safe food storage systems, etc. ), and reveals that the main causes of housing dysfunction are poor construction and poor maintenance.

Some governmentsIf they are presented with evidence of poor maintenance, they will claim that the rent they collect is not sufficient to cover the expenses or that the record-keeping systems used to show what needs to repaired are defective, especially in remote areas.

However, the APY Lands case materials show that planning and proactive maintenance of housing can be a viable option and can result in savings.

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Preventive maintenance programs are economical. It reduces the risk of major hardware failures, bundles work orders (so that more can be fixed in a shorter time), and lowers travel costs.

It spent three-quarters its maintenance budget on APY Lands housing and worked closely with the Indigenous community-controlled Nganampa Health CouncilHousing SA pays travel expenses to repair and maintain housing in APY Lands. under 11%.

This contrasts with national researchTravel costs account for 96% of emergency repairs in Indigenous housing. This leaves only 11% to 37% for planned maintenance.




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For better housing designs, ongoing maintenance and construction work, as well as protection and comfort year-round, more national funding is required.

Australia could be a leader in meeting these needs. However, it must first acknowledge the policy challenge of addressing housing, heat and climate change together.

This is the way to avoid forced migrations and climate mitigation. To ensure that people can stay in or near their country and places of connection, housing, climate, maintenance, and health must all be considered together.

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