As you may know, homelessness rates continue to skyrocket in Australia and abroad. Indeed, many every day Australians are suffering from mortgage stress and high rents, making housing affordability and lack of ‘stock’ for public housing a big issue.
Government departments have until now opted to ‘fix’ the issue of the homeless of Perth with heartless and inhumane solutions, such as the sprinkler system installed at the King Street Arts Centre (Perth) to drench and deter homeless people from sleeping on the brick paving in the middle of Winter. Violence and sexual predation are genuine dangers for the homeless, as they are forced to move from squat to park to alleyway.
Matargarup at Heirisson Island in Perth has provided a safe space and sheltering scores for the homeless of Perth, yet the City of Perth and their police escort have now raided Matargarup a total of eleven times. Each raid has stranded families, toddlers, babies, the elderly without any shelter or essentials, and without the safe space that they have come to know. Matargarup is a registered sacred site (#3589) with the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System. The type of site is listed as: Mythological, Camp, Hunting Place, Meeting Place, Plant Resource. The raids are unlawful.
The City of Perth is adding to the issue of homelessness, not seeking to solve the problem. It is clear our fellow humans are in dire need of assistance, and a solution is well overdue. We have written an open letter below which we have sent to all Councillors of the City of Perth. We encourage you to either send your own version of this letter to anyone and everyone with open hearts; and/or sign the petition below (only your first name and first letter of your last name will be shown in the signature list below the petition as a sign of your support).
Dear City of Perth,
I find it utterly disgusting that rangers and police officers use their time and resources to terrorise the homeless at Matargarup.
The Australian public wants to know why the City of Perth continues to attack the weak and vulnerable and act in blatant contradiction to the will of the general public – across the nation – which has been so supportive of the homeless camp and community-building it fosters, repeatedly donating mattresses, food, and more, only to have it stolen unlawfully by the State.
Matargarup at Heirisson Island in Perth is providing a safe space and sheltering scores of homeless, yet the camp has been raided eleven times by the City of Perth shire and their police escort. Each raid has stranded families, toddlers, babies, the elderly without any shelter or essentials, and without the safe space that they have come to know. A solution is well overdue.
A concerned community member went down to sit with the homeless at Matargarup following the City of Perth’s most recent callous raid. It was the first raid that this gentleman had been subjected to, he was almost in tears and exasperated….
“We aren’t causing any trouble, we aren’t in the city in carparks and parks and shopfronts, we had food and shelter and the safety of each other down here, we stick together and made each other safe, it is one of the places in Perth that we could just be, without fear of violence or being robbed. The City of Perth thinks we don’t deserve that, we aren’t just homeless, we are people, we are someone not something!”
So far, the only true support from those in positions of influence on this issue (apart from the efforts of stalwarts Gerry Georgatos and Jennifer Kaeshaegen) has been from Senator Sue Lines, who lent her support to the people of Matargarup after learning about a raid last week which saw homeless family fined $500; a fine which could see them facing jail time if they don’t pay. “The policy of having people who cannot pay fines serve gaol time is not only costly to the taxpayer, it also ruins lives, families and communities,” Sue states. The injustice of fines being issued to the homeless simply beggars belief.
Sue organised a GoFundMe campaign to support the family (see here) – which has garnered generous support from the community. Sue has also written to Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to ask her to rescind the fine. Interestingly, the media were all issued with parking tickets for parking illegally at Matargarup whilst covering this “story”; yet these fines were all rescinded. How is this acceptable practice? Why the double standard? Where has common decency gone?
I am unsure if you have yet taken time to put yourself in the position of the homeless at Matargarup to learn their individual stories? You can read about the history of Matargarup as a sacred and sovereign site here. I implore you to do so. Matargarup is a registered sacred site (#3589) with the Aboriginal Heritage Inquiry System. The type of site is listed as: Mythological, Camp, Hunting Place, Meeting Place, Plant Resource. The homeless at Matargarup have had their lives broken yet again, in direct result of the unlawful raids carried out by the City of Perth.
Scenario…. you are homeless and have no money, camped somewhere safe with what little belongings you have, the area you are camped at gets raided and the police and council take all of your stuff and tell you that you can pick it up from X address the next day. You go the next day to pick up your belongings which have been taken and the council says you have to pay a fee of $60 before they will release it to you, that the fee will increase each day it is in storage and that you will be chased for reimbursement if you don’t pay. That is what happened to many homeless people this week. Haven’t these people been through enough? Shouldn’t we be restoring their dignity rather than stripping them naked and brutalising them time and time again?
We have spoken in depth to the people at Matargarup (see this link) and encourage you to do the same. We have provided plans for a solution, the creation of homeless-friendly precincts, which you can learn about here. We have spoken at length with Gerry Georgatos and Jennifer Kaeshagen about this issue. Gerry and Jennifer work tirelessly to provide support for the homeless. Jennifer is also founder of The First Nations Homelessness Project, which seeks to support First Nations people experiencing homelessness, or on the brink of homelessness, in any way possible and appropriate.
We have emailed numerous councils across WA in order to encourage conversation about this issue. It is a problem that is getting worse by the day (see here and here). As of September 2015 there were 20,127 people—including more than 3,000 seniors and nearly 8,000 families—on the waiting list for housing. Add to that the fact that more than 75 per cent of WA’s public housing tenants will have their rent increased under new changes to how their income is calculated. Homelessness is the symptom of a much larger problem. There are no public houses available. There are no beds in homeless shelters. There are not enough jobs to go around.
“the City of Perth has instructed WA police to continue to raid the Island until the people no longer return”
What do you expect these people to do? Why is their safe haven being destroyed?
It is well past the time where we take an “us and them” attitude, or a “get a job and everything will be fine” mindset, or the “you’re a welfare burden” judgement. It is time to humanise these people – not continue the dehumanisation so we can conveniently ignore the degrading and hopeless situation we have created for them. Yes, that’s right, it is we who allow this to happen. That’s you and I.
We are all human family. We need to stand by one another when in need. The people at Matargarup are in dire straits. They don’t have homes to go to. They don’t have beds to sleep in. The City of Perth stole them. And all their other meagre belongings. All their food and shelter. And they are now holding them at ransom. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to be treated like that?
I would like to know, what are you doing to work towards a solution? How are you genuinely helping these people? And if you aren’t, why not? You are in a position of influence – you can help to change this. We implore you to reignite your conscience, and—if only for a moment—place yourselves in the shoes of those who desperately need your understanding, your conscience, your compassion, and meaningful support.
Global Freedom Movement
If you agree with our sentiments, please sign the petition below. In doing so, GFM will email the above letter to following people on your behalf with just one click! (You will need to confirm your email address before the emails are sent out – so please check your inbox [and junk/spam folder] after signing).
- Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi (City of Perth)
- Deputy Lord Mayor James Limnios
- Janet Davidson, OAM JP (Councillor)
- Jim Adamos (Councillor)
- Lily Chen (Councillor)
- Jemma Green (Councillor)
- Judy McEvoy (Councillor)
- Ben Wyatt (MP)