An Indigenous community are tackling the Karratha housing crisis head on by designing new, cheaper homes that cater to the local culture.
Aboriginal organisation Robe River Kuruma CEO Sarah Slattery said that there is a chronic housing shortage in the region and as a consequence the local community are at an economic disadvantage.
“The social housing issue in the Pilbara is an issue for the government, but our people don’t have the time to wait around,” Ms Slattery said.
RRK has teamed up with architect students at the University of Western Australia to co-design houses that cater to the lifestyle and traditions of Indigenous peoples.
UWA design Professor Richard Simpson said the cultural changes they will need to include differ greatly to the standard housing designs.
“There’s a ‘Mother-in-Law’ rule,” Prof Simpson said.
“This essentially means that the son-in-law is not permitted to speak directly to the mother-in-law, even though they often live in the same house,” Prof Simpson said.
The design needs to include more exits and spaces so that the interaction between the in-laws is minimised, Ms Slattery said.
She also said that “conventional” housing plans need to fit extended family dynamics in their communities.
“Sometimes you have two families, plus grandparents living under one roof,” Ms Slattery said.
The ambitious end goal of the project is to build 10 houses by the end of the year and make the properties available to the both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, Ms Slattery said.
“If it functions well in our community then we’ll build another 10 and look at implementing them into other indigenous communities,” she said.
“A house is a home base. How can you go to school or work if you don’t have a stable place live?”
Although Prof Simpson said there is nothing new about designing pre-fabricated houses, this project will be the first of its kind to use the method in remote suburban areas.
“The design makes sure the houses don’t look like a donga or a transportable. It will look as good as, if not better, than the general housing in the area,” He said.
“This is a way for indigenous people to create self-determination.”