SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Save Public Housing Rally Northcote

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Today I joined the community rally at Walker Housing Estate, on the corner of High and Walker Streets Northcote. This action was organized by the Public Housing Defense Network in association with the Victorian Socialists.

Estate residents were joined by protestors from all over Melbourne concerned about their plight.

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We need more public housing not less, was the point made powerfully by the first speaker William Gwynne, a long term resident of the estate. William admires the workmanship and durability of the estate buildings. In his view they were made to last, as is the community that has developed over time within them.

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 Clare Foley, who has lived for 8 years on the Ascot Vale Estate, another of the 9 Victorian estates slated for renewal, attended the protest out of solidarity with the Northcote residents. Clare read her speech because she said she was inexperienced. But she proved an impressive speaker, and I kept thinking about her ideas all the way home. I will paraphrase some of them for you. Here goes:

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Clare made the point that as far as secure housing goes there is no 'us' and 'them'. Especially given the uncertain times in which we live, 'everyone is only three steps away from homelessness.' Although for some people, public housing can be seen as 'the bottom rung of the ladder' for Clare it has quite simply been a 'lifeline'. 

She admitted that she was a nervous when she first moved into her estate, as she had heard so much previously about how estates were riddled with drugs and violence and residents constantly caused trouble. But she has come to understand these claims as misconceptions: 'Many people help each other a lot. And we have no more or no less trouble that anywhere else.'  

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Common land needs to stay in the hands of citizens, not greedy individuals/corporations. So said Stephen Jolly, Yarra City Councillor and Victorian Socialists member. He also made the point that there is already a precedent for people winning battles in Yarra - 3 years ago people power defeated an unholy alliance of State Government/Big Business and plans to build the dud East-West Link were dropped. That victory required tactics such as 5am picket lines and in Stephen's view it is time for the Save Public Housing campaign to do likewise - to shift from a 'G-rated to an X-rated campaign'.

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The stakes are certainly high enough. Sue Bolton, Moreland City Councillor and Victorian Socialists member argues that the government's renewal plans hit the poorest and people of colour hardest. And even if they are offered new homes back in their old estates after renewal, many residents will be unable to afford them.

 Fiona Ross (seen below with fellow advocate) is from Friends of Public Housing.

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Fiona stressed how important it is for public housing to be under public control. Once this land passes into private hands it will be lost forever. Read more from Fiona via her blog:

The scandal of increasing numbers of Victorians being forced to sleep rough and former low-cost temporary options like boarding houses, hostels and backpackers' accommodation being squeezed beyond capacity are further evidence of the the public housing crisis that currently faces us. There are already 40,000 applicants waiting for public housing and that number is growing steadily.

As William Gwynne concluded, in some ways he is less concerned about current residents. At least they will be found some alternative place to live. His worry is more for those on waiting lists. Particularly as public housing dries up even further, what will happen to them?

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Blogger Lindab said...

Totally behind public housing campaign. Can't believe stupid decisions of state government and lack commitment generally. Well done Sue for bringing this rally to attention, hope it gets wider coverage. Ok.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thank you for your comment Linda. I was shocked to learn, all over again, that a Labor government can be so cavalier about social justice, public lands and housing, and caring for people.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Important post. What kind of society do we want to live in? Homelessness will affect everyone in some way if it increases or even if it is allowed to persist. What does 'renewal' mean, both for current public housing residents and those on the waiting list? What is the government/business agenda? We need to know more and we need to make the voice of 'the people' heard loud and clear.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

I couldn't agree more.
Sue Bolton made the interesting point yesterday that if it is truly 'renewing' that the government has in mind there would be no need to move all residents out of the site simultaneously. They would simply be moved out area by area as work is done - as has happened in the past - and then moved back in before the next area would be worked on. Clearing the site is to give developers open slather, to not provide renewal but rather sale of public sites to the private sector.

5:01 PM  

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