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Report criticises Indigenous housing, education

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 2 March 2005

A new report has proposed the granting of individual property rights in Aboriginal communities as one way of helping to address serious social problems facing Indigenous Australians.

The report also proposes a literacy campaign in universities and high schools to get people into Indigenous communities to teach English and basic numeracy.

The Centre for Independent Studies report suggests 99-year leases be granted on community land that would allow Aboriginal people to buy and sell houses.

Report co-author Professor Helen Hughes says communal land ownership does not work.

She says with up to 20 people living in some community houses, a new approach must be taken.

"The houses are in rotten repair, now that's not because they're Aboriginal houses, it's because they're public housing," she said.

"Public housing is terrible everywhere. To get individual houses and to look after them, Aborigines like everybody else in Australia have to have a sense of ownership in the house."

The Centre for Independent Studies has proposed a "literacy corps" campaign in universities and high schools to get people into communities to teach English and basic numeracy.

Professor Hughes says it is being done in a small way in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory.

She says education has to be improved so Indigenous people can break the unemployment cycle.

"If you look at the content of education in the Northern Territory, and I've looked at some of the books that are being used, and the fact that there is no teaching of English at the pre-school level and in early primary years, that's the fault of the [Northern] Territory Department of Education," she said.

Professor Hughes says the reforms are needed to lift Indigenous communities out of third world conditions.

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