Recent media coverage has highlighted the pressing need to expand the supply of safe, accessible accommodation, including short stay, culturally appropriate camping, as well as longer term community and affordable housing, in and around Darwin and other urban centres in the Northern Territory.
St Vincent de Paul Society in the Northern Territory recognises the importance of public safety for local residents but understands the need to safely accommodate visitors from remote communities to the town and cities.
‘It is vital to understand these challenges not only as law-and-order issues but also in the social context, and work towards addressing the causes of problems, not just the symptoms,’ said St Vincent de Paul Society Northern Territory President, Jocelyn Cull.
‘Challenging behaviours are best addressed through a lens of compassion as well as undertaking practical steps aimed at benefitting those people in need and the broader community.’
Ms Cull said it is essential to provide culturally appropriate accommodation and related wrap-around services to people visiting the city from remote communities, as well as those people living here on an itinerant basis.
‘St Vincent de Paul Society has been providing homelessness services in the Darwin area for more than 50 years. During this time, we have assisted thousands of people, with an estimated almost 28,000 people supported in 2021-22. We currently distribute 200 to 300 meals per day at our day service facility at Ozanam House in Stuart Park, helping some of the most disadvantaged people in our community.
‘We are currently engaged in a process with the Northern Territory Government to expand and consolidate our presence in Darwin by identifying a suitable new site for our much-needed day services. While this process progresses, the Australian Government has provided Commonwealth Emergency Relief funding to enable our Ozanam House facility to continue running until services can be transitioned to the new site.
‘Our vision is to redevelop the Ozanam House site in Westralia Street to provide much needed affordable housing for essential workers such as teachers, nurses and others on low-income wages. The current redevelopment concept design includes an 8-level mixed use development on the existing site, with an affordable childcare facility, and commercial tenancies, including a revamped Vinnies store.
‘Our plan to address the homelessness and itinerancy issue in Darwin is through an interim accommodation facility, which will provide culturally appropriate camping accommodation to augment the existing day services and provide wrap-around services for the people in the interim accommodation facility through strategic partnerships with the non-government service providers.
‘We are pleased to have full support for the interim accommodation facility proposal from Larrakia Nation, which represents the traditional custodians of the land in Darwin. Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation advises it is “fully dedicated to championing the Interim Accommodation Facility, working in partnership with SVdP NT to build Darwin’s first culturally appropriate accommodation facility, on Larrakia Land”.
‘To accelerate the relocation of the day services from Stuart Park, an SVdP NT and NT Government project team is working to identify an appropriate site for the temporary delivery of day services, and subject to due diligence, site planning and Government approvals, the redevelopment of Westralia Street in Stuart Park for affordable housing.
‘The project team is also working towards securing an appropriate site for the interim accommodation facility to provide shorter stay accommodation for visitors from remote communities and other homeless people.’
National President Mark Gaetani said the Society appreciates the support of both the Northern Territory and Australian Governments for the Society’s plans to upgrade its Darwin facilities, based on the need to provide appropriate support services to First Nations people in the Top End.
‘We remain hopeful of developing a workable solution as soon as possible and we welcome the assistance of both governments in achieving this vision,’ Mr Gaetani said.
‘The assistance we provide will continue to make important contributions to the lives of people doing it tough as well to the broader harmony of the Darwin community.’