“Housing insecurity and housing deprivation make people sick and make people die” Craig Willse, The Value of Homelessness (2015).
In 2016, Prosper Australia estimated there were at least 80,000 empty buildings in Melbourne while about 25,000 people were homeless. The crisis in our housing system was protested by the 2016 Bendigo St squatting occupations which culminated in the reappropriation of 15 empty government owned buildings into homes. The houses were left to rot for up to two years after they were compulsorily acquired to build the now scrapped East-West Link highway.
We first found out about the empty properties after a fellow squatter was evicted from one of the houses by a government official. Amidst a climate of housing deprivation in Melbourne, the violence of the government’s action was palpable and it sparked an angry retaliation by the squatting, homeless and activist community.
On 31 March 2016 we occupied 16 Bendigo St and immediately made national headlines, forcing the Andrews state government into an embarrassing confrontation. Soon after its inception, the protest drew the attention of the Wurundjeri and Kulin Nation community who helped us expose the myth of the contemporary housing crisis. For them, housing deprivation and homelessness began with European invasion in 1788.
In 2020, the government’s enforcement of racial hierarchies is evidenced in the imprisonment of public housing tenants and is a testament to the inherent interests of the colonial state. Through the making of this film, we hope to inspire a radical critique of private property and the commodification of housing, exposing our urban landscape as a battleground between everyday people, the colonial-state, and its market forces, and illuminating the cycles of resistance that are cemented in its history.
Our documentary draws on interviews with activists involved in the 2016 Bendigo St squatting occupations, Indigenous historians, and experts in the political economy of housing. The project is supported by the Institute of Postcolonial Studies through the visiting fellowship program. While this is our debut feature film, funding opportunities are scarce so we are currently working on a crowdfunding page that will be released by the end of this year. The feature documentary will be due for release in early 2023.
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