How Aboriginal Housing Provider Noongar Mia Mia is Tackling Issues of Affordable Housing and Homelessness

Noongar Mia Mia (NMM) is a community housing provider based in Perth. They have over 20 years of hands-on experience helping Indigenous people and their families find affordable and secure accommodation. As Perth's only Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation, they provide culturally appropriate support and cultivate sustainable tenancies. Their core mission is to create pathways from homelessness to home ownership (Noongar Mia Mia, 2021).

Courtesy of Noongar Mia Mia, 2021.

Last week, we had the wonderful opportunity of talking to Noongar man Kenny Latham, Noongar Mia Mia’s Corporate Services Officer. We learnt more about the crucial services NMM provides and the ongoing issues of affordable housing that exists in Perth.

The Pandemic has worsened the long-running housing crisis within Indigenous communities all over Australia. In Perth, the situation has gotten particularly dire with the rental market experiencing its fastest growth in almost 14 years. The need for social housing has increased, and as a result there are not enough resources to meet the demands (WA Today, 2021). In our interview, Kenny Latham (2021) talked about the kind of demand NMM is experiencing for their services:

“At present there is a big demand, particularly because of homelessness. We also run another service within Noongar Mia Mia called Moorditji Mia, which is an outreach service...for Aboriginal people that are homeless. We try to support and transition them to hostels or into accommodation...At the moment we get hundreds of phone calls every week.”

Moorditj Mia is led by Noongar Mia Mia in partnership with Wungening Aboriginal Corporation. Moorditji Mia aims to end rough sleeping for Indigenous people in Perth. The qualified team of support workers connect rough sleepers with local services, suitable to their cultural and personal needs. They use community, family, kinship and lore systems to facilitate a safer and more inclusive environment for Indigenous peoples in need (Noongar Mia Mia, 2021).

Courtesy of Noongar Mia Mia, 2021.

Noongar Mia Mia’s provision of culturally safe housing is a key part of what makes them unique. Latham (2021) elaborates on what culturally safe housing actually means and looks like:

“The way we do it is we’ve got our own ways of working with our own mob. And we’re a bit more understanding in regards to certain situations...We try to support our tenants in addressing antisocial behaviour, evictions, rental arrears, maintenance issues, you know, all of that sort of stuff...Because it’s better that we can try and address the issue, and by being blackfellas ourselves we have an understanding of our family and friends in the same situation.”

Noongar Mia Mia embed Noongar culture into everything that they do. Noongar peoples are the traditional custodians of the south-western part of Western Australia, with their Country stretching from Geraldton to Perth to Esperance. In Noongar language, ‘Mia Mia’ translates to ‘shelter,’ thus the phrase ‘Noongar Mia Mia’ represents shelter for their people. NMM incorporates Noongar language into many of their services. Currently, Elder Sandra Harben, who holds Noongar language workshops, is in the process of putting together a Noongar dictionary (Noongar Mia Mia, 2021). Another service that NMM provides is a ‘welcome kit’ in Noongar language for their new tenants.

“We organise like a welcome kit when people come into our houses, [it’s] all in our own language and [contains] all of the house rules. Like, this is what I expect from my visitors: no anti-social behaviour, respect at all times’s all put into Noongar language,” says Latham.

So, as we can see, Noongar Mia Mia are committed to providing the best quality of accommodation and support to Perth’s Indigenous community. 

However, given the current housing crisis and homelessness situation, NMM is limited in what they can provide as a non-for-profit organisation. As a result, they are in need of further government support in order to continue their good work. We encourage you to check out Noongar Mia Mia and learn more about their services here. You can check out their Facebook here

At Yarn, we are passionate about supporting Indigenous non-for-profits and shedding light on issues faced by Indigenous communities, nationwide. By spreading awareness of these issues to the wider Australian community, we hope that action is put into place, and we as a nation can move forwards to reconciliation. 

Finally, we’d like to leave you with a beautiful quote from NMM’s Chairperson Gordon Cole: 

“It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.”

And, in Noongar language, “Maar-aka warniny karla mia, Koort warning karla mia.”