The report entitled ‘Finding a Place’ was compiled by Western Australia’s Equal Opportunity Commission over two years.
At the launch of the 268-page document, the state’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Yvonne Henderson said problems of massive overcrowding and substandard housing were rife in indigenous communities.
Researchers heard complaints against Homewest, such as the department insisting on sending letters to inform Aboriginal tenants of concerns despite widespread illiteracy, and overcrowding, which could increase the risk of sexual abuse of children.
Greg Joyce, Homewest’s director general, responded to the report’s conclusions saying: “It casts a racial slur over the 400 people who work on our front line.”
“The report’s (165) recommendations demonstrate poor research and lack of consultation,” Mr Joyce added.
Western Australia’s Housing Minister Nick Griffiths spoke up in support of Mr Joyce and Homewest, saying that at least 40 percent of the report’s recommendations are already in place, while others conflict with current policy.
“Some I find constructive, while others fly in the face of current thinking – that of an acceptance of mutual obligation and shared responsibility between governments and relevant stakeholders,” Mr Griffith said in a statement.
“In return for subsidised housing, tenants have an obligation to be cooperative and helpful in their behaviour,” Mr Griffiths said, adding that Homewest targets anti-social behaviour and does not discriminate base on race.
According to Mr Joyce, indigenous clients have accumulated up to seven times more arrears, six times more damage and twice the amount of maintenance expenditure than non-indigenous clients.
‘Finding a Place’ has called for compulsory anti-racism training to be given to housing officers, as well as a reform of equal opportunity laws and a complete review of Homewest policies.