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(en) Australia, Sydney, anarchist zine Mutiny #30 - Student Housing Action Co-operative

Date Fri, 26 Sep 2008 08:50:47 +0300

On the evening of Tuesday 19th August twenty students from the University of
Melbourne calling themselves Student Housing Action Collective (SHAC) occupied
the four terraces marked with the numbers 272-278 in Faraday Street, Carlton.
Their proposal was to transform the premises, left idle for the previous three
years, into a student-run housing co-operative. A conflict was set up between an
autocratic University administration and students with legitimate claims for
autonomy. ---- A careful planning process was carried out in the six weeks
leading to the action. The student collective was divided into groups each one
with specific responsibilities: media, research and strategy, building works
including gardening, safe spaces policy, university liaison, police liaison,
Two precedents were particularly relevant from the start. One was the experience
of the Student Housing Cooperative (STUCCO) at Sydney University which provided
an example of an action that had managed to sustain itself in the long term.
Closer to home, there was the experience of the Melbourne University Affordable
Student Housing Collective. In 2005 a group of students, some of them currently
linked to our project, squatted a government owned property on Keppel St.
Carlton. In that occasion the State Government ordered police to evict the
occupants within a week.
Central to the initial stages of
the Faraday Street occupation
was a well-coordinated media
strategy. It was built around
the vice-chancellor's statement
last July that there were at least
400 Melbourne University
students in a state of
homelessness. That statement
made headlines in mainstream
press and gave us a significant
if precarious degree of protection. It would be a PR
disaster for the university to be perceived as rushing
to evict students from hitherto unused property; a
disaster that would only compound the bad publicity
surrounding the controversial implementation of the
"Melbourne Model" reforms. We decided that in
contrast to the Keppel St action we had to be open
with the media from the word go. As students were
walking into Faraday St, press releases were going
out to major media outlets followed by calls to radio-
stations the following morning. Regardless of whether
or not journalists or editors were sympathetic to our
action, we needed to be in print so people would know
about us. That objective was accomplished and as
a consequence the University was put in check and
remains in check until now.
In terms of our internal organisation an issue has
come to the fore that has the potential to derail
our project. The hectic character and relentless
multiplication of tasks that we confronted in the first days of the occupation
had the effect of making our working groups disappear. Suddenly everybody was
doing everything but many things weren't actually getting done and many others
weren't properly finished. We realised that what was actually happening
realised that what was actually happening
was that tasks were being concentrated in
a core group of people while others were
dropping off the SHAC bus or having cups
of tea in the back seat. We have had to
move quickly to restore our task division
and participation is picking up again. It is
very interesting to see how the highs and
lows in group morale coincide with the
highs and lows of group participation.
Since moving in, SHAC has become a
little hub of community activity, holding
regular open dinners, breakfasts, film
screenings and public meetings. Periodical
working bees are organised in which
everybody's skills are directed to turning
derelict, isolated and bureaucracy-
flavoured spaces into an embracing home.
We even got tips from some of our friends
amongst which we count the Construction,
Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
(CFMEU), Union Solidarity, Electrical
Trades Union (ETU) and the Carlton

62 St. Georges rd, Northcote
Opening Hours: Monday, Friday
Saturday 2-6pm.
We stock a range of books on anarchism,
activism, gender/queer issues, environment,
animal liberation, workers struggles,
indigenous resistance, plus zines, magazines,
patches, music and propaganda. We also will
be hosting film nights and events, as well as
an extensive anarchist lending library.
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