This week, the Andrews Government has announced a major package of housing investment and reform called Victoria’s Housing Statement. Notably, it announces the demolition of very significant public housing estates across the State and the sale of additional public land to developers, expanded schemes for social and affordable housing delivery and minor changes to renters’ rights.
Independent Senator for Victoria Lidia Thorpe has criticised the package for selling off public land without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of First Peoples, which undermines current Treaty negotiations. In 2018, Senator Thorpe called for a moratorium on the sale of public land until the finalisation of Treaty negotiations, a motion that was rejected by the Andrews Government.
Senator Thorpe has also condemned the Victorian government for its plans to forcibly remove over 10,000 residents across 44 public housing towers that are now set to be demolished and replaced with a mix of private and social housing, which will displace families, break up communities and exacerbate the current housing and homelessness crisis for those already hardest hit.
The following quotes are attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and independent Victorian Senator representing the Blak Sovereign Movement:
“The Andrews Government’s new Housing Statement is a continuation of Labor’s agenda to sell off so-called ‘Crown land’ before Treaty negotiations are finalised and privatise all public housing.
“So-called ‘Crown land’, which should be called Treaty land, is the unceded Sovereign lands of First Peoples. This land is an essential part of any Treaty negotiations, and selling it off to private developers undermines the principle of good faith Treaty negotiations and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent as outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“In 2018, I moved a motion in the Victorian Parliament calling for a moratorium on all sales of so-called Crown land until a Treaty with First Peoples is signed, which the Andrews Government rejected.
“If the Andrew Government wants to show respect for First Peoples and a proper Treaty process, it will put in place a moratorium on the sale of so-called ‘Crown land’ until a Treaty with First Peoples has been negotiated and finalised.
“Dispossession from land is a hurt that still runs deep. Good-faith Treaties must provide land as well as opportunities for economic independence, self-governance, truth and healing.
“You don’t solve a housing crisis by knocking down 44 public housing towers and displacing 10,000 low income residents.
“This plan will see the housing and homelessness crisis get worse, particularly for First Peoples, migrant and low-income families, who are already the hardest hit.
“Forcibly removing residents from their homes in the public housing towers will throw more than 10,000 people into uncertain futures, break up communities, and cause serious harm to these families.
“In the midst of a rapidly growing housing register, rising rents and defunding of essential crisis services, the government should be building substantially more public housing, not knocking it down to replace it with mixed private and social housing.
“The Victorian government has failed to consult with First Peoples on this plan and there are no new commitments to First Peoples housing.
“If the Andrews Government is serious about addressing the First Peoples housing crisis, it will commit to working in partnership with First Peoples housing representatives and ensure a minimum of 10% of all new social housing is for First Peoples. This is the only way to provide certainty about achieving the aspirations of First Peoples while keeping governments accountable to meeting these targets.”