Save Ascot Vale Estate speech – 2 May 2018

I can’t make it to the Public Forum tonight at 6pm (parenting – taxiing duties :).

A few weeks ago, a member of the Public Housing Defence Network asked if ‘The Blog’ could publish a speech from the rally held at the Ascot Vale Housing Estate on 2 May this year.

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I’ve been focusing on Flemington Estate while plans for Ascot Vale seem to have been on hold. But given the plans for Ascot Vale Estate are likely to result in a complete rebuild of existing housing, residents are obviously concerned. 

Clare Hansen is a tenant on the Ascot Vale public housing estate in Victoria, Melbourne, and member of the SAVE group. SAVE is an organisation of tenants and public housing advocates who organise against the state government’s Public Housing Renewal Program that intends to sell off land on at least nine public housing estates to private developers.

This speech was delivered by Clare at SAVE’s first protest on the 2nd of May 2018, in front of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) office on the estate.

“Hello everybody my name is Clare. Some of you know me and some of you don’t. I hope that during this movement we will get to know each other because togetherness is the power we need.

I have been here for over eight years. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere and I hope to be here for many, many more years. and that is the very reason we are here today.

Everyone is three steps from homelessness. Unemployment, family break down, or a poor decision can all lead to homelessness. Nobody believes it can happen to them, but it can and does.

I was very lucky. I was thrown a lifeline. We were all thrown a lifeline. I’ll never forget it, and we must all remember the lifeline we were thrown. That lifeline is our homes here. They are not simply flats. They are our homes.

I’ll admit to being nervous when I first moved here. Like untold thousands of Australians, I too was a victim of misinformation about public housing estates. The press, the government and the big end of town, indeed people who have never been here, would have it that public estates are riddled with crime, daily violence, drug dealers, drug addicts, alcoholics and constant serious trouble. The people who believe this have never been here.

This misconception and misinformation is endemic. It is also completely untrue. I have lived in some pretty fancy suburbs so I feel well qualified to make a comparison and dispel the myths about public estates. Indeed, it is quite the opposite. I feel safer here than anywhere else I’ve lived.

When I lived in private housing, I never met my neighbours. never knew their names. Here I know so many people. We all do. We look after each other. We care for each other. The sense of community here is overwhelming.

The State Government want this land. They want to sell it to private investors. They want to build tall towers and pack as many private tenants in as they can. Right now they are being rather quiet about Ascot Vale because there is an election coming up in November. Don’t be fooled. This electorate is in Labor heartland. But we have a voice. Consider your vote very carefully. We will raise our voices and we will be heard.

The social housing the government keeps talking about is not public housing. I have tried and tried and tried to get certain politicians and political representatives to say the word “public”. So far, I have had no success.

So be assured, if this estate is demolished it will have a high percentage of private housing. We will be moved to who knows where, and we possibly won’t be coming back. Our wonderful community will be torn apart. Despite words to the contrary, we’ve been given no real assurance that we will be coming back. We will probably never see each other again.

I have a list of demands for the Moonee Valley City Council and the State Government:

1. The state government – the Andrews government – should immediately rescind its plans to sell public land for private housing in Victoria.

2. Instead, public housing stock should be significantly expanded to meet demand – the public housing waiting list is 37,000 long and growing.

3. Existing public housing should be properly maintained and redeveloped only where necessary and in a way that is least disruptive to the lives of tenants. Any redevelopment of public housing that does occur should happen in close consultation with public housing tenants and local residents, and should not involve any privatisation. The needs of tenants and local residents should come before the interests of profit.

4. The Moonee Valley Council has so far supported the government’s privatisation plans – justifying the redevelopment by painting the estate as a violent place that locals are ‘scared to walk through’. Rather than demonise public housing tenants, the Moonee Valley Council should pass a motion opposing the privatisation of public land and housing and supporting redevelopment only where it is necessary and only when 100% public housing will be built in its place.

5. The Victorian Public Tenants Association or VPTA – an organisation that is supposed to defend the interests of public tenants – has also supported the government’s plans. The VPTA should release a public statement denouncing government’s plans and demanding the expansion of public housing to service the 37,000 long public housing waiting list.”

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