RICHARD Simpson, son of Summit Homes founder John, knows better than most the crucial role suitable housing plays in everyday life.
He holds a Masters in Architecture from UWA, where his honours thesis was titled Affordable Housing in the Pilbara, and spent three years as a director with the Foundation for Indigenous Sustainable Housing (FISH).
During that time he travelled extensively through the State’s North-West, including to some of the most remote destinations in Australia, and was exposed to a wide variety of housing solutions.
This week he will join more than 100 other speakers presenting at the Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations Conference, concentrating on an innovative new strategy that reimagines sea containers as an integral component of affordable housing.
“I’ve seen all the way from the experimental to traditional ‘white fella’ housing and everything else in between,” he said.
“(The problem with traditional housing is) the day it is built it looks okay but six months later there are five holes in the wall all going towards the television set because everyone wants to watch TV.
“Or the light bulb has gone out so the residents have started a fire in the house itself; stories like that are not uncommon.
Repeating the words of fellow FISH director Victor Hunter, Mr Simpson emphasised it was important not to confuse ignorance with stupidity and that what worked in one location often was not suitable in another.
“People assume Aboriginal people are stupid and they’re far from it; they just haven’t been educated to know the way things we take for granted, like electricity, work,” he said.
“If the average white Australian were tossed out into their environment and had to try and learn, they’d be dead before they learnt it; indigenous people tend to adapt a lot quicker than we do, as a matter of fact.”
Mr Simpson’s vision is to create a “service core” contained within a sea container than can be constructed in Perth and easily transported to most locations throughout WA.
“Basically it would have two bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry; all the service components of a home that are really the difficult stuff,” he said.
“They’d be made in a factory by skilled labour and than taken to various sites where we could use whatever was available – rammed earth, timber, panels – to assemble the bedrooms and living rooms around the outside.”
“Really, if you wanted to you could just pitch a tent up over the sea container and live on earth.”
The two-day national IBEC Conference opens on Thursday at the UWA Business School in Perth.
To learn more about the conference, its speakers or to register, visit www.ibecc.org.au.