Once again, a screamer headline across the front page of the weekly Guardian, this time on October 25, 1978, teamed with an incongruous photo of a Surf Rescue speedboat breasting the waves at Bondi, (a piece of advertorial)
No houses for the poor
Steep rise in rent cost
“While people sleep in the streets, government migrant flats have been standing empty for up to three years.
“The Marrickville area has one of the highest percentages of people looking for emergency housing in the State.
“According to a recent survey, 40 family groups, involving nearly 100 people sought emergency housing within a month.”
The Guardian estimated that “one and a half percent of the Marrickville population —a third more than the State average” was homeless. It quoted the NSW homeless organisation Shelter, that
“people are now sleeping in cars and parks —as in the 1930’s depression. Meanwhile government flats at Annandale and Marrickville are standing vacant.”
This story, and several others about poverty, homelessness and evictions— especially ones related to Sydney University’s expansion beyond its 1860s City Road site —led me to put much of this material in Buzz’s voice, in ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy.’
If you haven’t met Buzz yet, she’s a social justice warrior who lives in an anarchist squat and teaches car maintenance at WEA (Workers Education Association). She’s very outspoken about the injustices she sees around her, and frequently quotes items she‘s read in the Newtown Voice.
“Life wasn’t meant to be easy” was a famous quote in 1971 by Australian Federal Liberal Party leader (later Prime Minister) Malcolm Fraser. A wealthy grazier and powerful politician, his quote was resented by ordinary Australians who understood it to mean “stop complaining about your lot.” Buzz wasn’t going to take that lying down!
Jeez, Harry, when Malcolm Fraser told us
life wasn’t meant to be easy—the smug
patronisin bastard—I didn’t think it was
gunna get this bloody tough.
… Seems like things are almost as
bad as in the Depression, specially in
Newie an Marrickville. Welfare groups say
lotsa people are sleepin in parks an cars.
An guess what? Accordin to The Voice
there’s plenty of places empty that are
owned by the government—blocksa flats
for migrants in Marrickville and Annandale,
But never been used. Jeez, Harry, I dunno,
where’s this country goin? What happened
to the lucky country? To a fair go for every
one? I reckon we need a bloody revolution!
An I mean Bloody!
Sadly, many of the issues that affected people in 1978 have come around again.
Buzz has some strong words to say about Sydney Uni’s relentless expansion beyond City Road into surrounding streets, and the added effect of students sharehousing on the shortage of affordable housing in the area. I’ll cover the Uni effect in later posts.
You can read more about Newtown Voices, about me, and where to buy the book at newtownvoices