There are many factors in our environment which affect our health and few more profoundly than the quality of our housing.

We tend to forget this and take it for granted as in Australia most people live in reasonably well built houses and apartments with functional kitchens, bathrooms and decent temperature control. The result is low prevalence of avoidable respiratory disease and bowel and skin infections.

But that’s not true of many Aboriginal communities where the standard of housing leaves a lot to be desired. A study of 9,000 houses in 230 communities affecting 60,000 people, has shown that only 10 per cent were safe electrically, only a third had functioning showers and just six percent had a kitchen where food could be stored and prepared.

People are too quick to assume they know why this situation exists but the real reasons found in this study were more complex.

In only eight per cent of houses was the damage to facilities due to deliberate actions; in around 20 per cent the problems were due to poor construction and design.

In the vast majority (70 per cent) the issue was that things had broken or failed as they do in any home but there was insufficient availability of maintenance resources so there was failure on top of failure.

The implication is that governments should broaden their focus and investment from building new homes in Aboriginal communities to the resourcing of regular maintenance.

Last Reviewed: 19/09/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.

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