Land reform and home ownership is critical to Indigenous landholders, and essential to the economic and social wellbeing of families.

Home ownership in Cape York Indigenous towns remains at zero.

Indigenous Cape York families remain trapped in welfare housing

Welfare housing is a significant contributor to the welfare pedestal, passivity and the collapse of social norms

Cape York Welfare Reform has had some success in generating responsibility and pride in the family home through budgeting, tenancy reforms and Pride of Place

We have begun the task of building capability for home ownership, but land reform is desperately needed.

Land Reform and Home Ownership under Cape York Welfare Reform

The Cape York Reform Agenda outlined in Cape York Institute’s landmark From Hand Out to Hand Up (2007) highlighted why reforms were needed as a matter of priority to shift Cape York communities away from the social housing welfare model that promotes dependency and passivity.

The Cape York Institute proposed to move people to a system based more closely on mainstream property markets and individual home ownership, with social housing catering for exceptional circumstances. Our O-Hub operates the Pride of Place (PoP) programme designed to improve living standards, build home pride and aspiration for home ownership.

As part of its broader agenda, the Cape York Welfare Reform initiative is working to support Cape York communities to reduce their complete dependence on the Indigenous social housing welfare model, which inadvertently promotes and supports passivity, and into real economic engagement and home ownership.

Currently, no individual or family owns their home on Indigenous land on Cape York or elsewhere in Queensland in a form and with the rights and responsibilities that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Queenslanders living on non-Indigenous land have long taken for granted.

The Cape York Institute seeks to support Indigenous people to have choice for their housing and the opportunity to use their land as an asset.

It does so by advocating for land reform and for investment in land administration systems and also by building the capacity of Indigenous trustees and beneficiaries to develop their own planning tools and engage with property markets and individual home ownership.

It is the Institute’s aspiration that, in the long term, social housing will only be needed to support a minority of families, as people choose to move out of welfare housing into home ownership.

There is good progress through the Welfare Reform initiative and through our partnership with the Queensland Government, but there is still a very long journey and investment required in land reform to catch up to the mainstream home ownership benchmarks of the 70 per cent home ownership rate enjoyed by non-Indigenous Australians, or even the 29 per cent home ownership rate enjoyed by Indigenous Australians on non-Indigenous land.

Scope of communities we work with

We are working predominantly on land reform and home ownership with the communities of Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.

The Institute works closely with Traditional Owners, trustees and government at all levels to settle and pursue collective objectives for enabling local aspirations for home ownership and other economic development opportunities.

Outcomes and impacts of the Institute’s work

The Institute has been leading Queensland- and Australia-wide thinking on land reform and Indigenous home ownership for many years through the Welfare Reform initiative and more recently through Empowered Communities.

Our ongoing relationships and engagement with community members, trustees, Traditional Owners and governments at all levels have strengthened during this time. Many elements of reform on Cape York and for State-wide policy in the past nine years have been led by the Cape York Institute and Cape York Indigenous leaders.