In 2016, in partnership with the Homeless Persons Union, we advocated on behalf of residents involved in a seven-month occupation of vacant houses in Bendigo Street, Collingwood in multiple proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria. We sought injunctions preventing eviction on varied grounds, including that the human rights of those effected had not been considered. The occupation brought attention to the rates of homelessness experienced by Aboriginal people (25% of the homeless population), the length of the public housing waiting list (35,000+), and the numbers of vacant properties in Victoria supported by negative gearing taxation policies (80,000).
The residents of Bendigo Street included women and children escaping family violence, families experiencing homelessness, and a strong organising presence from Aboriginal community members, raising awareness of the specific injustice of being homeless in their own lands. During the course of proceedings 500 million dollars of public housing stock was signed over to Aboriginal Housing Victoria. Under the purview of the Court, resettlement options were identified through collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services. By consensus, priority was given to women, and mothers with children, most of whom were able to access long term public housing prior to eviction.
Safe housing for four families, three women, and one Aboriginal elder were ultimately achieved. More than half of the residents ultimately housed are Aboriginal and all residents to our knowledge remain in safe secure housing to this day. The Bendigo Street occupation projected the gravity of the homelessness and housing crisis, whilst we worked with residents on resourcing policy, providing legal education, as well as conducting litigation.