The shortage of stable, supported and secure accommodation has long been one of the major obstacles to sustaining Indigenous employment in the Kimberley.
The Department is effectively removing these roadblocks by opening the doors to facilities specifically tailored for Indigenous people who are keen to pursue training and employment.
Employment Related Accommodation (ERA) facilities in Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and Broome are already up and running, and Stage Two of a fourth ERA in Derby is almost complete.
“Stage Two consists primarily of two brand-new buildings that we built behind one of the two original houses that comprise Stage One of the facility,” Peter Smith, Manager Community Construction said.
“A lot of thought went into the project, particularly on the part of architect Paul Gillett from Masika Design and Consulting Services.”
Senior Project Manager, Remote Area Housing, James Vincent said it would have been easy to create a motel-style accommodation — where each student/apprentice was billeted in his or her own room, only venturing out to use a communal kitchen—but this was not the approach taken.
“We needed to be mindful of some fairly complex needs of the people staying in the facility. Specifically finding the right balance in terms of the individual’s desire for social interaction and the need for privacy and the way different groups would choose to interact,” Mr Vincent said.
The innovative solution to these challenges was the creation of four smallish communal areas that encircle a much larger outdoor communal area at the centre of the four buildings and are connected to it by pathways to help create flow and interaction.
The new facility will accommodate 19 residents, all of whom will be undertaking apprenticeships, traineeships or training with strong employment outcomes in the region.
There’s also the potential for doubling up in a room should the apprentice have a disability and require a carer for example. Stage Two is fully accessible for people with a disability.
Residents come from remote communities and Derby. Some are studying at the local TAFE, while others are undertaking trade apprenticeships with local construction companies.
While living in the facility residents are provided with support to provide pathways to training, employment and transition into mainstream housing options.
“The buildings are designed to a higher specification than the Department’s normal residential standard and include a number of unique features like secure storage for an apprentice’s food and tools for example,” Mr Vincent said.
“Overall we provide a clean, secure and supportive environment for students who come from out of town to study.”
Executive Director, Aboriginal Housing Graeme Jones said all the signs point to positive outcomes for the new ERA and its residents.
“We anticipate that the new facility will mirror the success of the Broome ERA which was completed in May 2012 and is now full. Everyone is very happy with it,” Mr Jones said.
“The ERAs effectively contribute to the sustainability of each resident’s apprenticeship/traineeship by providing secure accommodation and support services.
“This support aims to develop independent living skills, assist residents complete their chosen course and transition from the facility into mainstream housing alternatives.”
The ERAs are funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing (NPARIH), a State and Commonwealth partnership.