10 May 2023

Housing tops agenda at regional TCICA meeting

| Matt Nicholls
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COOKTOWN will this week host council leaders from across Cape York, the Torres Strait and Gulf of Carpentaria as it looks to address some of the major issues in the region.

Housing will be one of the hot talking points at the Torres and Cape Indigenous Councils Alliance meeting, which will be held over two days.

TCICA chair and Kowanyama mayor Robbie Sands said that at least $1 billion was needed over the next decade in the Cape and Torres Strait to address housing shortages.

“Both major parties have been silent on new Indigenous housing in remote communities, ignoring the fact that our people are facing entirely preventable diseases like rheumatic heart disease because of severe overcrowding,” he said.

“We have been to Canberra many times to plead our case and will continue to do so, but they also need to come to us to see for themselves what our people are facing.

“Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese need to commit to us today that following the election, whoever is Prime Minister, Indigenous Affairs Minister and Housing Minister, will come to our communities within the first 100 days of a new government and get serious on this issue.”

First Nations people living in the Torres Strait, Cape York and Gulf region of Queensland face a 20-year gap in life expectancy compared to the total Queensland population.

“We see zero long-term commitment from the Prime Minister, and while Labor talks about its $200 million commitment to housing, it is spread across the whole country over five years, and is only for repairs, maintenance, and improvements. No new housing,” said Lockhart River mayor Wayne Butcher.

“There are complex issues involved, but all we are asking for is a matter of basic human rights. To all those rural communities and regional cities now experiencing severe housing shortages and overcrowding – this is what we have been facing for decades.”

At the invitation of Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott, more than 20 mayors, councillors and local government CEOs will attend the Cooktown meeting, with some staying on to explore the region and visit Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal to share learnings on local-level opportunities.

TCICA has a packed agenda and will discuss a range of important issues such as regional resilience, food security, freight equalisation, Indigenous education, health reform, and new business opportunities.

Representatives will also hear from several guest presenters, including Glencore on its Aurukun bauxite project, and Alex Ung on a $4.4 million project to develop a comprehensive assessment and management system for Cape York community infrastructure at risk of disasters.

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