Planning across distance: remote housing and government intervention in Australia’s Northern Territory

Planning across distance: remote housing and government intervention in Australia’s Northern Territory Thesis

Urban Studies and Planning

  • Author(s): Steyer, Matthew August
  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Volume: Master's

Abstract: At the time of its inception in 2008, the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) was the largest indigenous housing program in Australia's history. SIHIP represented a $672million investment by the Australian and Northern Territory governments to improve housing in 73 remote and widely scattered indigenous communities in the Territory. Emerging at a time when indigenous issues shot to the forefront of national politics, SIHIP was billed as a response to the widespread overcrowding, poor housing quality, and lack of job opportunities that has come to define many remote communities in the Territory. Faltering out of the gate, SIHIP quickly came under criticism and became a symbol of government excess and ineptitude. A review of the program refocused SIHIP, which has since met its housing and employment targets. However, this thesis will demonstrate that these targets do not reflect the overall impact of SIHIP on target communities. This thesis will look at SIHIP in a new light and illustrate that, beneath a seemingly straightforward construction project, are tremendous underlying forces of distance and control. SIHIP's legacy will not be reduced overcrowding and improved housing outcomes, rather, it will be the reshaping and condensing of indigenous settlement patterns and an unprecedented increase in government control over indigenous housing. Not only is it a break with indigenous housing policy over the last 40 years, SIHIP also follows the larger historic pattern of providing housing and services as a means to control indigenous settlement. This thesis will tell the story of SIHIP through the two lenses of distance and control and analyze the role of these forces in shaping SIHIP, its impact on the ground, and its legacy. Through reframing the debate around SIHIP, this thesis will draw broader planning lessons about the challenges of planning across distance and the complex dynamics that influence large, government-driven initiatives. Furthermore, it will illuminate key opportunities that have emerged through SIHIP, many of which have received little public attention. Through this analysis the core assumption of SIHIP is challenged, leaving the question: is housing provision the best way to improve living conditions for Australia's indigenous population?

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Suggested Citation
Steyer, Matthew August, 2012, Planning across distance: remote housing and government intervention in Australia’s Northern Territory, Volume:Master's, Thesis, viewed 19 May 2024, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=13131.

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