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Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort: the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework – 3 years on, how are we progressing?


by Tim Cronin – Manager, Blueprint – Aboriginal Specific Homelessness System Project, Aboriginal Housing Victoria.

This article was originally published in the February 2024 edition of Parity magazine. Learn more about Parity including how to access full editions.

The contemporary issues of housing and homelessness in the Aboriginal community cannot be decoupled from the ongoing impacts of colonisation. (1) Systematically dispossessed of their land, dislocation from family and community, deliberate economic exclusion and the undermining of traditional authority, lore, and customs, for over 200 years, Aboriginal people have been homeless on their own land.

Today, Victoria remains the site of a crisis in Aboriginal homelessness and housing insecurity. Across the 12 months of 2022-23, over 18 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians accessed the specialist homelessness system. If these same rates were reflected in the non-Aboriginal population, more than 1.25 million Victorians would be seeking assistance for homelessness each year. Aboriginal Victorians are also less likely to own their own home than non-Aboriginal Victorians and are disproportionately impacted by the rental crisis. Subsequently, Aboriginal Victorians have a higher reliance on social housing with approximately 40 per cent of the population either living in social housing or on the Victorian Housing Register awaiting allocation of social housing.

Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort

In 2020, in response to the overwhelming and persistent challenges of homelessness and housing insecurity faced by many Aboriginal Victorians, Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort: the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework (‘Framework’) was developed. Through a self-determined and community-led approach, Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort, meaning ‘Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home’ in Gunditjmara dialects, was developed to reflect the objectives, needs, and priorities of the Victorian Aboriginal community.

The development and ongoing implementation of the Framework is led by the Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum (AHHF). The AHHF comprises 38 members consisting of Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), Traditional Owner groups, and Aboriginal Trusts that are either delivering, or interested in delivering, housing and homelessness services. The Victorian Government, as partners of the AHHF, has participated in the process of developing the framework and provided guidance and direction, but at all times has recognised that the power of Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort comes from the fact it is a community led response.

The Framework provides a 20-year agenda towards an overarching objective of ensuring that every Aboriginal person has a home, achieved through five strategic goals:

  1. improving life outcomes through securing housing
  2. building supply to meet the needs of a growing Aboriginal population
  3. opening doors to home ownership and private rental
  4. building an Aboriginal focused homelessness system
  5. developing a capable system that delivers Aboriginal housing needs.

Since the release of Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort, the AHHF has been working in partnership with the Victorian Government to advance each of these objectives. More information on how this work is progressing can be found on the Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework website. (2)

The Blueprint for an Aboriginal-specific Homelessness System in Victoria

The Blueprint for an Aboriginal-specific Homelessness System in Victoria (‘Blueprint’) was developed to advance goal four of the Framework to ‘rebuild an Aboriginal homelessness service system from the ground up’. The Blueprint provides a roadmap for the development of a culturally safe homelessness service system that is responsive to the unique and specific needs of Aboriginal Victorians experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness. Through a 10-year staged approach, the Blueprint outlines the key priorities and enablers of a functional, Aboriginal-specific system, and articulates a practical plan on how to get there.

Stage one involves the design and implementation of the system in two priority regions in Victoria, starting with two Aboriginal-specific homelessness entry points. At the Victorian Homelessness Conference 2023 it was announced that Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal Corporation and Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative were selected to pilot the system in the Bayside Peninsula area and Barwon area respectively. The entry points will deliver culturally safe and responsive initial assessment and planning, assertive outreach, and multi-disciplinary case management to support their communities.

Based on the data, trends and learnings emerging from stage one, stage two will involve the planning, development, and implementation of other key system elements in the priority regions. This will ensure that the Aboriginal homelessness system in the priority areas can develop and grow to meet the needs of the community.

Perhaps the most important element to this reform is the development of a devolved model of Stewardship of the Aboriginal Homelessness Service System, in which government and community work together to support the management and development of the system over time. With the Stewardship of the system sitting with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector, this model will support a place-based approach to the funding, monitoring and ongoing management of the Aboriginal Homelessness Service System. This will ensure that the system is informed by local voices, guided by the needs and aspiration of the community, and will maintain Aboriginal control and self-determination.

The devolved model of Stewardship of the Aboriginal Homelessness Service System, and an enhanced service model for support of Aboriginal community members experiencing homelessness, is currently being co-designed with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector and other key stakeholders.

Where To From Here?

In the three years since Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort was released, the number of Aboriginal Victorians accessing specialist homelessness services has increased by over 14 per cent. (3) At the same time persistent homelessness (seven months or more of homelessness across a 24-month period) among Aboriginal service users has increased by nearly 19 per cent, and the number of Aboriginal Victorians returning to homelessness after being housed has increased by seven per cent. (4) It is against this backdrop of surging homelessness that the full implementation and expansion of the Blueprint remains as critical as ever.

There is a huge demand among ACCOs wanting to deliver Aboriginal entry points in their own communities. At the Victorian Homelessness Conference, Darren Smith, Palawa man, AHHF Chair and Aboriginal Housing Victoria CEO, noted that despite Aboriginal Victorians representing over 12 per cent of all clients of specialist homelessness services, ACCOs only receive approximately three per cent of all homelessness funding. Of course, this does not mean that ACCOs are only servicing three per cent of service users. AHHF members routinely share experiences of trying to provide housing and support resources to everyone in their community that is in need. This means regularly seeing seven or eight times as many clients as they are funded to under their service agreements, requiring them to draw on funding from other parts of the organisation. In relation to the homelessness funding ACCOs do receive, Darren Smith stated that ‘when you spread that around those Aboriginal organisations, it’s pretty thin. We need to resource them properly; we need to build their capability to deliver.’ Not only do ACCOs want to deliver homelessness service in their communities, but they are also highly capable of doing so.

Whilst Ngwala and Wathaurong were the successful applicants for the first round of Aboriginal entry points, the reflection from the assessment panel was that all applicants had the capacity to deliver the entry points. As part of the submission to the 2024-25 State Budget, the AHHF is calling for the recurrent funding of the Wathaurong and Ngwala entry points and the expansion of entry points into two more priority regions in Victoria. Further to this, in an attempt to reduce increasing rates of homelessness among Aboriginal Victorians, the AHHF is also calling for significant investment in Housing First programs, increased investment in early intervention programs such as Aboriginal Tenancies at Risk, and investment in short-term and transitional accommodation options particularly in regional Victoria. Further information on the AHHF’s budget submission can be found on the Framework website. (5)

Responsibility to address the crisis of homelessness in the Aboriginal community cannot sit with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector alone. Many Aboriginal Victorians will continue to access the mainstream specialist homelessness system and therefore, even with adequate resourcing, the Aboriginal Homelessness Service System needs the support of the mainstream homelessness system. In reference to the mainstream, Darren Smith stated: ‘You have got a part to play. Aboriginal self-determination doesn’t mean you sit in the corner and watch the Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal people struggle to do it. It means you’ve got to take a different approach in thinking about how you help’, whilst also noting ‘you don’t come with solutions, you work with Aboriginal community to get to the solutions.’

Whilst it is encouraging to see the number of Victorians accessing specialist homelessness services decreasing over the last three years, the numbers continue to escalate for Aboriginal Victorians.

Mana-na woorn-tyeen maar-takoort and the Blueprint for an Aboriginal specific Homelessness System in Victoria were developed by community, for the community and this is where their strength lies. With continued input and collaboration from government and mainstream services, as well as adequate funding and resourcing, these frameworks can provide a roadmap towards enhancing housing outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians within a generation.


1. Throughout this document the term ‘Aboriginal’ is used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

2. Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum (VAHHF), Mana-na
maar-takoort: Every Aboriginal Person Has a Home, The Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework, https://vahhf.org.au/

3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare2023, Specialist Homelessness Services Annual Report 2022–23, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 January 2024.

4. ibid.

5. Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum op cit, https://vahhf.org.au/.

This article was originally published in Parity magazine. Learn more about Parity including how to access full editions.

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