Protestors gathered at Town Hall demanding government action to alleviate the housing crisis. The rally was jointly organised by USyd SRC and Action for Public Housing (A4PPH), with key demands including the immediate introduction of a rent freeze, the construction of more public housing, and reversing the privatisation of public housing.
Housing co-operative tenant and prominent queer activist, Rachel Evans, co-chaired the rally with Ishbel Dunsmore, USyd SRC Education Officer. Dunsmore pointed out that today’s protest coincided with Anthony Albanese’s announcement that $2 billion will be invested into the expansion of social housing, saying it was“welcomed but nowhere near enough…in the context of the [government’s] half a trillion-dollar AUKUS agreement and the $30 billion Stage 3 Tax Cuts”.
This rally followed A4PH’s occupation of Glebe public housing that was slated for development, leading NSW Housing Minister Rose Jackson to announce that the property will remain in public hands.
Carolyn Ienna, a Wiradjuri hip-hop artist and activist, was critical of Jackson and her “wishy-washy” commitment to public housing. Ienna said that they had personally shown Jackson around their Glebe residence and “until the [development application] is pulled”, they “will not believe a thing that [Jackson] has said”.
Karyn Brown from Waterloo Public Housing Action Group also spoke to A4PH’s efforts to reverse public housing demolition.
“Demolition makes no sense. Removing hundreds of homes from existing stock makes no sense. We need more housing now, not in fifteen years. Resources and labour should go toward repairing and rehabilitating existing buildings…on already vacant land.”
Lorna Munro, a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman, powerfully delineated the links between this demolition of public housing and the ongoing colonial agenda of dispossession.
“There is a whole cycle of moving people along, which is happening today. Colonisation feeds off moving people on; it was originally powered by Aboriginal blood, guts and bones,” said Munro.
Munro also spoke to public housing movements in Redfern advising that, “as long as there are Aboriginal faces in Redfern, colonisation has not been successful.” Jenny Leong, the Greens member for Newtown, reinforced the importance of recognising First Nations land,
“We are accused of being NIMBY’s…well it’s not [the Labor government’s] fucking backyard, it is the First Nation Peoples’ backyard, and they stand in solidarity with the need to protect the fact that public housing remains in our city.”
USyd SRC Disability Officer, Khanh Tran, framed the housing crisis as one that disproportionately affects international students. Tran said that private student accommodation providers, such as Scape and Iglu, “thrive on making sure that we pay and [they] milk every cent out of us”.
Kristin O’Connell from the Antipoverty Centre spoke on the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), reminding attendees that the RBA building will be “refurbished for half a billion dollars”. O’Connell emphasised that this exposes Albanese’s comparatively feeble $2 billion housing pledge. Echoing this, Cherish Kuelmann, UNSW SRC Education Officer, condemned the “wise advice” from the Reserve Bank governor, Phillip Lowe, who asserted earlier in the week that renters “should find housemates or stay with their parents”.
Tran paid homage to “community voices”, like Action for Public Housing, which “are so important” in the face of meagre commitments from the government.