CAT received an email from Jilkminggan Community Aboriginal Corporation (JCAC) requesting assistance for the maintenance of some of the houses in Jilkminggan. The email was prompted by an invitation to information sessions about the National Indigenous Infrastructure Guide. However, since the houses are owned by the NT Department of Housing all discussions on repairs and maintenance of the houses needed to be directed through the Roper Gulf Shire. Roper Gulf Shire has the commercial contract for the repairs and maintenance of Jilkminggan’s housing.

    We reviewed JCAC’s request against CAT’s technical capacity and community engagement experience and offered to assist the process in the following ways:

 Work with both NT Department of Housing and the Jilkminggan community and corporation to recommend  improvements  to  the housing outcomes for the users of the repaired or new housingEngage, consult, train and involve the community in the repair, maintenance and rebuild process for sustainable outcomes both for the residents in the houses as well as NT Department of HousingDevelop designs and building methods with the community through participatory processes (an asset based approach) for a new house on Lot 5 or potentially other houses that enable and encourage residents to feel ownership of their houses and to look after and maintain their houses into the future.

    As part of this process JCAC procured approval from the affected tenants to speak on their behalf in keeping with CAT’s policy to seek wider consensus from the community and other stakeholders before we become actively involved in any process.

    CAT sought the cooperation of both NT Department of Housing and Roper Gulf Shire to support or collaborate with us in this process of facilitating for sustainable housing outcomes which was duly extended to us. Department of Housing welcomed CAT’s involvement but said that it did not have the resources to pay for it. As a core aspect of CAT’s mandate to work directly with communities, CAT decided to put its own resources to supporting JCAC’s request for assistance.

    We visited Jilkminggan in early October 2012 not only to do a preliminary assessment of the condition of houses, but to facilitate discussions with Roper Gulf Shire. The visit lasted 2 days and CAT staff were hosted and provided boarding by the community. Over the two days, CAT staff met with members of the JCAC Board, visited the houses and tenants most in need of repair and support, met the Shire Services Manager, the Acting Director of commercial operations at Roper Gulf Shire and the chairperson of the Jilkminggan’s stores committee.

    Apart from discussing, observing and reviewing the poor physical state of some houses in the community, it was established that many skills needed for the repairs and maintenance of the houses existed within the community. Roper Gulf Shire expressed interest in working with Jilkminggan community if this arrangement for a Jilkminggan repairs and maintenance crew could be formalised. JCAC also expressed interest in exploring the possibility of homeownership and the community land Trust model could be adapted towards this end. Helena Lardy, Chairperson of JCAC, also explained that JCAC is currently in the process of negotiating their lease with the federal government which is the corporation’s top priority at this stage.

   At least four of the houses inspected are in dire need of repairs and maintenance and their condition poses health risks for the tenants. The discussions with the Shire Services Manager were useful in getting a better understanding of how Roper Gulf Shire is required to carry out repair and maintenance jobs for the houses. Helena suggested that CDEP work in the community not only be coordinated with housing repairs but also discussed with the community for best outcomes.

    The Commercial Director at Roper Gulf Shire also welcomed and invited feedback from the community on the R&M services provided by the Shire. He promised to act on or take up approvals from NT Department of Housing for any outstanding R&M jobs that were pending with the Shire. It was suggested that Fixing Houses for Better Health type survey of every house be carried out to assess any critical R&M issues overlooked by the existing reporting process. CAT emailed a sample survey to Roper Gulf Shire to enable this to begin.

    JCAC have ambitious plans for Jilkminggan whose outlines were discussed with CAT. JCAC wish to develop a strategic plan for the community with assistance from CAT. They are also keen to develop house designs and build new houses for the community with the involvement of NT Department of Housing and in collaboration with CAT. Also integral to the strategic plan is the expressed desire to work closely with CAT to develop a social hub around the store that will serve as a communal space for deliberation and consensual decision making at the community level.

   CAT will continue to work closely with JCAC to identify funding and/or training options that can underpin JCAC’s larger vision for Jilkminggan.