On Wednesday afternoon, members of the USyd Welfare Collective joined community members armed with drums, whistles, and pots and pans, outside 92 Cowper St Glebe, in protest of the auction of the Victorian corner-terrace. The protest was part of community group Hands Off Glebe’s campaign against the Liberal state government’s selling of public housing in the suburb.
The demonstration was chaired by Hands Off Glebe spokesperson, Denis Doherty. “We need to take better care of people, we need to invest in a public housing system we can be proud of,” Doherty proclaimed to a cacophony of cheers, whistles, and drumming.
Former Sydney University lecturer and Franklin Street resident Rose Wiss spoke on the recent interest that foreign investors and developers have shown in the suburb. “This is going to be one house at a time, [the government] stop renovating, they stop maintaining, and then they come after your house … They already want to put fourteen stories in around the corner. They want to put shops all the way to the new fish markets. They have plans for this suburb. They are coming,” Wiss warned.
Glebe resident Edwina Keelan told the protestors about the eviction notice she was served before Christmas last year: “This is the second eviction I’ve had. I used to live down in Wentworth street. They booted us out, but now I’ve got a big mouth because I know what it’s all about … I encourage you to be strong, and to not give up the fight”.
SRC Welfare Officer Lia Perkins condemned the role that the University has played in the attacks on public housing and its significance to the Indigenous community in the area.
“The University of Sydney has been implicit in stealing public housing over in Redfern. The Block has been stolen and turned into student accommodation … Students and workers shouldn’t be opposed, they should be standing together,” said Perkins.
“[Social housing] is a really important thing to defend and extend … We lost Miller’s Point, and we waged a good fight. Redfern Tent Embassy waged a good fight, but they are coming for the inner city, and we have to make a stand,” noted Socialist Alliance representative Rachel Evans.
“That is the whole problem, that they only look at the dollar. They do not look at the human beings, the society, the people who are living here,” remarked former Leichhardt mayor Máire Sheehan.
The demonstration was a resounding victory for the Glebe community in the wider war against privatisation and attacks on public housing. The inspection and auction of the house was ultimately postponed. However, despite vocal community opposition and a social housing waiting list of over 50,000 people, 92 Cowper Street was sold today for $2 million.
Groups like Hands Off Glebe have taken up the torch from organisations and unions such as the NSW Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) who have historically undertaken the fight against development in inner Sydney.