The Guardian • Issue #2022

Canberra housing coalition kicks off

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2022

Canberra Bungalows. Photo: Stilgherrian (CC BY 2.0)

More than forty activists from across Canberra met at the Canberra Food Co-op to launch the Canberra Housing Coalition.

As reported in the Guardian previously (Issue #2009), the ACT continues to experience soaring rents and homelessness under the watch of Australia’s “most progressive government”; a situation exacerbated by dwindling levels of public and affordable housing. The Canberra Housing Coalition, in organising collectively towards simple and shared aims, intends to reverse these trends. The launch event was coordinated by the Canberra branch of the CPA, existing housing advocacy organisations such as ACT Shelter, and activists from across the community. Joined by speakers Travis Gilbert (CEO, ACT Shelter), Adam Poulter (former Deputy CEO, ACT Council of Social Services), Lucaya Rich (Canberra Student Housing Cooperative) and Joshua Burgess (CPA), the audience for the launch were provided with a background to the housing crisis, an overview of work currently being done to combat its most vicious effects and, possible models for future work. The importance of organising in a structured and effective way was central to the discussion.

The founding aims of the Canberra Housing Coalition include:

  • Re-funding and reconstituting the ACT Tenants’ Union;
  • Amending the Residential Tenancies Act to protect tenants from predatory landlords and to outlaw pernicious and opaque practices such as rental bidding;
  • Providing a strong community voice for Canberra’s most housing-vulnerable citizens, especially public housing tenants; and
  • Protecting and expanding remaining public housing stock.

The Canberra Housing Coalition seeks to organise all elements of Canberra’s working class, as well as existing advocacy organisations, to exert influence over ACT housing policy in a coordinated and effective way. For young branch members, the campaign will act, alongside other Party work, as an opportunity to build their capacity to organise and agitate on key social issues, increase branch community influence and recognition, as well as foster connections and skills crucial in undertaking effective union work.

As noted by Party member Joshua Burgess during his speech on launch night, “The monopoly and corporate landholders, the major banks – they’re already highly organised. They can already lobby and influence the government […] we have no chance of countering that without organising ourselves.” The Coalition aims “[…] to be the starting point for creativity and real ambition … organising on the basis of expanding and consolidating independent structures of power.”

The work of the branch has been informed by the tenets of recent AMR treatises (notably “Building the party of the new type in the Australian context” and “Turn our Branches into Centres of Political Activity”) and is an attempt to put the principles of mass work oriented towards the local level into practice.” By organising around an issue that is front of mind for the majority of Canberrans the Coalition aims to mobilise the community through effective action and simple victories to display the importance of unity and organisation in struggle; demonstrating to all, the crucial role a militant Party of the working class can play in improving the lives of the most vulnerable.

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