Housing and Overcrowding in Remote Indigenous Communities: Impacts and Solutions from a Holistic Perspective

Housing and Overcrowding in Remote Indigenous Communities: Impacts and Solutions from a Holistic Perspective


Petra T. Buergelt, Lawurrpa Elaine Maypilama, Julia McPhee, Galathi Dhurkkay, Shirley Nirrpuranydjii, Sylvia Manyturrpuy, Marrayurra Wunungmurra, Timothy Skinner, Andrew Campbell, Anne Lowell and Simon Moss

Organisation of Presenter:

Charles Darwin University, Australia


Over three years, a $12 million Commonwealth funded consortium project implemented energy efficiency initiatives in six remote Indigenous communities. An ecological community-based participatory action research design that utilized qualitative and quantitative research approaches in a multiple methods design was employed to clarify how Yolŋu use power, to identify the barriers and enablers of Yolŋu using power wisely, and to evaluate the project. 16 Indigenous co-researchers conducted 129 in-depth qualitative interviews with community members across the 6 communities in the local languages. The principal non-Indigenous researcher also conducted 24 in-depth qualitative interviews with relevant non-Indigenous community members. All interviews were transcribed and systematically analysed using a combination of content, thematic and narrative analysis strategies. This culturally responsive research design provided the opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members to disclose their perspectives authentically. The analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data revealed that house designs used in remote communities are inappropriate for the tropical climate and for the Australian Indigenous culture and society. However, and more importantly, the housing situation has culminated in overcrowding. The holistic and critical perspective employed identified that inappropriate and insufficient housing and overcrowding are key contributors to power being used inefficiently as well as a myriad of intertwined challenges faced by Indigenous people in remote communities, such as chronic disease, depression, conflict, employment and school attendance. Together, these issues are undermining and challenging the strength and resilience of Indigenous people, harming the very culture that might hold the key to our survival.