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Hand Up, Not Hand Out : "Sweat" Equity to Home Ownership

with Foundation of Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH) and Dr Renée Ralph, Co-Founder, The Brilliant Foundation

PERTH, Western Australia (WA) - This morning international and local students from Curtin University studying the core unit, Culture, Communications and Indigenous Perspectives in Business (CCIB)* had a yarn at the Foundation of Indigenous Sustainable Health (FISH), with volunteers Charlotte from Scotland, Sinead, a First Nations team member, including Hazel, an 86 year old volunteer and Anna Hay, Executive Support to Mark Anderson**.

FISH is a registered charity aim to help First Nations to lead a sustainable and fruitful life. Anna shares that giving and helping means ensuring that First Nations individuals are adequately supported and are provided homes to live in.

Through the help of organisations, government and donations, 11 hectares of land have been bought in Bindjareb Region of South West WA.

Anna says: "It gives them dignity and pride. We are helping by lifting their beings, not just handouts. We subscribe to the core values of what we do and pay close attention to collaboration consensus. In this sense, the support is systemic, not just offering finance."
FISH has developed achievable initiatives to encourage First Nation Peoples to be part of this project. The concept of "sweat equity" where the potential new home owners, have a part in their home construction and design. They labour with the trade specialists and that instils a sense of belonging and identity.

Anna Hay with Dr Renée Ralph

It is an amazing process where FISH is helping the First Nation Peoples to own their

home and it is co-designed by Indigenous Peoples and signed by Indigenous Elders. It is believed that this process will help "shift mountains" for the individual internally and


With this community being built, Mark Anderson has commenced bringing interested groups to provide with an educational tour including the six seasons, flora and fauna. There's also our dark Australian story to share about the massacre that occurred nearby.

FISH - Housing Project Initiative

There is an urgent need for safe, secure, appropriate and affordable housing for First Nations people as a fundamental building block for families moving out of poverty.

The rate of home ownership of First Nations Australians is almost half that of non-Indigenous Australians, reflecting a legacy of intergenerational disadvantage. FISH works with First Nations people to break intergenerational cycles of poverty that cause homelessness and housing insecurity. (See FISH’s publication on Indigenous housing, in Sustainability Journal, here, and our TEDx UWA talk, here).

FISH has developed a model to build safe, secure, appropriate, and affordable houses, designed using sustainable principles, with First Nations people. Each family will be involved in the co-design process and complete 200 hours of ‘sweat equity’ working on appropriate elements of their home construction, under expert supervision. They will then purchase their homes at 75% of the market value. Core features of the program include:

  • First Nations people co-design and co-build their homes.

  • Open and transparent selection process.

  • Sustainable and renewable design principles.

  • Training and employment of First Nations people and their businesses.

  • Mentoring in financial literacy and management.

  • Removing barriers to access home loans (through working with IBA, major banks and Government).

  • Securing blocks of land at no cost or below commercial value.

FISH first piloted this concept in the remote East Kimberley with Bawoorrooga community; through the successful co-design and co-build of their beautiful, culturally and climatically-designed earth house, here.

FISH is now working with young Bindjareb woman, Jedda Salmon, and her family to build her home in the Bindjareb Region of South West WA. Jedda’s ancestors walked this land for thousands of years.

“I can’t believe I will finally see my home that I designed rise up out of the ground. My Dad and I can’t wait to help as we do our 200 hours of sweat equity to be actually part of building my home.” Jedda Salmon
Jedda has co-designed her home with FISH’s architect and partners, and will be completing 200 hours of work in the construction as ‘sweat equity’. This is the first generation of Jedda’s family that will not live in social housing.

FISH also provides financial literacy support prior to, and following, the purchase of the house and land, which covers:

  • Weekly, monthly and yearly budgeting.

  • Building up a deposit.

  • Mortgages and costs of home ownership.

  • Repayment schedules and interests.

  • Understanding compound interest.

  • This is the second of 50 homes planned for the next five to eight years as part of FISH’s Aboriginal Home Ownership Initiative.

FISH is honoured to be delivering these projects in partnership with the following Aboriginal-owned companies in the construction industry:

  • Tjuart Architects;

  • Kardan Construction;

  • Wilco Electrical;

  • SML Painting Solutions.

Feedback from students - Daniel, Alex, Jeremy, Shuo, Alanah, Eden, Charlie, Josh

"It is really good to see that FISH collaborate with Indigenous Peoples to work towards home ownership. Usually, it is only the white blokes that are involved and the Aboriginal individuals have no say in the process. This is good to see."

"I didn't realise that such an organisation as FISH exist. It is so good to be able to relate what we learnt from the CCIB unit and see this Aboriginal economy in practice."

"It is such a good initiative. I have put my name down to volunteer for FISH where I can."

The students bought some merchandise such as key chains, socks and books created and produced by Aboriginals. It was a lovely morning having a cuppa, discovering culture, understanding humanity and yarning.

**About Mark Anderson

**Mark Anderson, CEO, FISH is a Wadjela (white fella) and has worked across Western Australia for 10 years in the Kimberley and Pilbara Regions and 20 years in the south of the state. Mark has and continues to sit on regional, state and national boards contributing to the economic, structural, environmental and social sectors.

Mark has worked in the corporate and community sectors for over 35 years with the last 25 years in senior management. He has run professional, team and organisational development with the health, justice, corporate (local, state, national and international), government (both state and national), education and community sectors.

This has involved working directly with Aboriginal Trainees in the Kimberley through to senior executives of national corporations, including guest lecturing at Universities. Mark has and continues to sit on a range of government and non-government advisory and funding boards including in the past the Judging Panel for the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership Award. Mark has a Bachelor of Social Science, is in the final year of his Masters at UWA and is an Internationally Accredited Partnership Broker.

*About Mike Baldwin

*Mike Baldwin, Lecturer and Unit Coordinator leads the core unit Communications, Culture and Indigenous Perspectives in Business (CCIB), Curtin University with his team. He has travelled extensively and worked in the States, New Zealand and China before finding his dream job as an academic. In his previous life, Mike worked in abattoirs and was a tradesman. Mike said: “I am always pursuing the good life." In his mid-life, he decided to get an education and graduated with the Doctorate of Philosophy, UWA focussing on Happiness. His thesis was about the Happiness and the Good Life, exploring the Concept of Happiness. A person of remarkable and positive action, his values of treating individuals decently, respect and kindness are something that he lives by daily. He shares: “Professional ethics is important to me and the way we live every day with good intentions will bring forth a positive experience that will bring happiness. It isn’t an elusive concept.”

- The End -

Copyright@ The Brilliant Foundation

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