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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aboriginal Housing Facility Opens in Alice Springs

Julia Gillard is coming to Alice Springs today to open an $8 million housing facility called Percy Court. It will provide 75 beds to help homeless Aboriginal people make the transition into public housing after growing up in town camps, sleeping rough with no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom facilities.

Both Labor and Liberal parties have pledged bipartisan support to tackle the problem of homeless Aboriginal people in Alice Springs but the reality is things have not improved in the town camps and elderly people are suffering. David Winjinana has a wooden leg and sits in a wheelchair outside his tent in the scrub, surrounded by dirty blankets, water-logged mattresses and empty beer cans.

In another camp on the other side of town, famous artist Albert Namatjira's descendants sit among wrecked cars, rubbish, and mangy dogs. Diabetes has blinded Gladys Drefen and cost Sedwick Namatjira both legs - they grew up in this camp without electricity in corrugated iron shacks over decades. Both are just days away from being moved into public housing.

"Julia Gillard won't come here" says Aboriginal activist and local MP Alison Anderson. "That's what frustrates me so much" she says "Everything is dressed up to make politicians look good, we shouldn't be afraid to tell the truth." She worries that Gladys and Sedwick won't be able to cope in their new home, they need support, otherwise they will be evicted. But Phillip Leslie, the NT director of Mission Australia who will run Percy Court, said that things are improving and the facility will provide this support.

We tried to help once before but were accused of stealing a whole generation, let's hope this new approach works.