Five new Aboriginal homes set for Dickson

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Housing Minister Yvette Berry. Photo: Nathan Schmidt.

A NEW housing development for elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will open to its first tenants by the end of the year.

Named Ningulangu, meaning “belonging to: home, place”, the five two-bedroom, single-storey homes in Dickson will provide future tenants with flexibility for a range of changing needs, including ageing in place.

During a smoking ceremony held this morning (May 14) at the site, Housing Minister Yvette Berry said that in designing the project, planners had learned from similar projects. 

This is the third Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older persons’ housing project to be built in Canberra, following Gundji Gindilan in Lyons in 2020 and Mura Gunya in Kambah in 2016, delivering a total of 15 homes across the ACT.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (ATSIEB) has been involved with the ACT government’s Aboriginal housing projects for four years, said Ms Berry, as well as in the design of the new development.

It made revisions to its design after reviewing early proposals, which included changes to ensure that communal spaces were appropriate, says Pete Perez, senior director of asset design and delivery teams at Housing ACT.

“The actual design itself didn’t change,” he said.

“It’s more about gathering and bringing everyone together, and the look and feel of the complex.”

The completed project will feature yarning circles and fire pits, as well as native plants and gardens, with the design philosophy being, Ms Berry said, not just culturally appropriate in terms of “brick and mortar”, but to create spaces that will positively affect the community.

“The ACT government and the [Aboriginal] elected body have learned along the way about cultural significance, and how that would work best in building homes,” said Ms Berry.

“The way it’s designed and how culture is embedded into it, and the ceremonies that we hold leading up to it… all of that has been guided by the Elected Body and Ngunnawal elders, and that’s been a really important part of this journey.”

Ngunnawal elder Caroline Hughes, a member of ATSIEB, said the development will be a “strong and spiritually safe” place.

“Whoever is here can have visitors and not have fear of retaliation, not have to be worried there’s going to be cockroaches running everywhere and holes in the walls,” she said.

Local Ngunnawal artist and advocate, Richie Allan, conducted the smoking ceremony, the ashes from which will be placed under the homes’ foundations.

“Another part of the journey of these places [is] that they’re not just bricks and mortar, they actually have a story from start to finish and that continues when people live here,” said Ms Berry.

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