Cherbourg Aboriginal Council freezes rents for 12 months to combat cost of living pressures

Renters in Queensland’s largest Indigenous shire have had their rates frozen for a year as the council helps locals cope with the rising cost of living.

The Aboriginal Shire of Cherbourg, a three-hour drive from Brisbane, is also facing a mass influx of former residents returning home in search of affordable and culturally-appropriate housing.

It is contributing to the housing crisis, with 200 people on a waiting list for a home in the town of about 1,200, according to the Cherbourg Aboriginal Council.

Elder and past mayor Arnold Murray said there was a growing trend of young people wishing to return to the Cherbourg community from other south-east Queensland regions, including Ipswich, Brisbane and Logan.

“They want to come home. This is their home and it’s too expensive out there,” he said.

“I think they’re finding it difficult outside. It is really expensive and the rent is going up and up outside, the cost of living – you need help from family and friends.”

The Cherbourg Aboriginal Council owns and manages all properties in the town.

To combat rising inflation and other cost-of-living pressures, it has guaranteed rent prices would not go up over the next 12 months.

Mr Murray has welcomed the freeze.

A temporary fix

While things are manageable for his household now, Mr Murray was not sure how much longer he would be able to afford things.

“It will get harder, a lot of us are on Centrelink,” he said.

Council CEO Chatur Zala said the rent freeze would give residents breathing space, but eventually the council would have to act.

“Unfortunately, we can’t do it every year [freeze rent prices],” he said.

“We have to cater for the high cost with our materials and services.”

Kabi Kabi woman Aunty Dorothy Douglas has lived in Cherbourg her entire life.

She said the council was doing its best to address the crisis.

“I think it was good for council to give people a chance to catch up on the rent and get everything what they need in their homes,” she said.

Ms Douglas said she knew people were going without to make ends meet.

“Not many of them work in the community and they find it hard to pay rent fortnightly, so they double up, and they have no money for themselves and their family,” she said.

“[They can be] short of food and lucky in the community; they can go to another family member to borrow, but they’re going to think of [their family members] too.

Mr Zala said the issue of low housing stock was also hitting its peak in the community.

“Demand is very, very high,” he said.

“Housing in the Indigenous community is a big issue that you can feel at the moment.

“I’ve just come back from a meeting in Canberra and the housing shortage is — all over the country — a big issue but especially in Indigenous communities.

“We try to do our best by delivering six to eight houses every year.

“It doesn’t solve all the problems. But you know, will play a role in that area.”

Mr Zala said it was difficult to get additional government assistance when the whole state was struggling.


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