Image - Jennifer Kaeshagen

Image – Jennifer Kaeshagen

Matargarup was raided again today by 50 police officers who escorted City of Perth workers and other hired personnel. The City of Perth loaded onto trucks tents, swags, bedding, linen, and other daily essentials.

Ultimately, the City of Perth’s councillors and the Lord Mayor stand shamed. It is their watch. They have done ever so little for the city’s homeless. Indeed, their watch has led their response to homelessness to a deficit position.

Those present at the time of the raid on Matargarup were 20 women, most of them elderly. There were some young mothers with children and toddlers. There were less than 10 males as most of the homeless camp had left for a stretch off the island precinct. They left their tents unattended. Most of them being chronically homeless would return to find they have no tents or bedding. They will be sleeping on the earth, exposed to the night air, cold, vulnerable, as they are usually.

There was anger among the homeless but there was mostly tears. There was sadness, there was despair. After the cruel raid concluded and the police muscle nicked off, a few of them embarrassed by their compliance to “only doing my job”, melancholia set in among the elderly and the poor.

“Where are we to sleep tonight?”

“They take our bedding, our mats, our pillows.”

“They take our tents.”

“They just want us to disappear into dangerous places where often we get rolled, assaulted.”

“We were safe here. We had company.”

“We less than dogs to them. They don’t care about us.”

“We weren’t doing anything, just being safe.”

“We beggars in our own lands.”

“We not even that. They want us dead and buried, gone altogether.”

“Why would they move us on from a place of safety.”

I was there and I was angered and demonstratively frustrated by the City of Perth’s cruel conduct. I have spent a lifetime working with the vulnerable, with the homeless and in finding housing for the homeless. The Stringer’s Jennifer Kaeshagen was there as the raid occurred. Ms Kaeshagen coordinates the grassroots First Nations Homelessness Project. Ms Kaeshagen has been securing safe shelter and housing for homeless families and individuals. Her capacity to home families should embarrass the Department of Housing, many well resourced non-government housing mobs and especially the State Government – a State Government whom many of their parliamentarians I have engaged with and whom far too many could not care less about the homeless.

What is next? Move on notices for Matargarup’s homeless?

The Matargarup camp has been a safe space for the homeless who otherwise are vulnerable to the worst of violations on the streets, in congested squats and alleyways. The City of Perth and the State Government stand disgraced. Their conduct to move on Perth’s increasing homelessness into out of sight squats and traps, into alleyways should be condemned by all. The City of Perth’s bent to move on the homeless, and not all that long ago also considered criminalising beggars, are an indictment of their muddled-mindedness.

The City of Perth should be working to provide a homeless friendly precinct. The City of Perth should provide safe spaces with laundries and showers, storage facilities, treatment centres and other basics. But they do not; this speaks for itself.

Homelessness is on the increase, especially in Western Australia. Matargarup’s homelessness camp is a powerful statement of this State’s silence and of the negligible response to homelessness. This is the nation’s wealthiest jurisdiction but with the worst homelessness rates. This State has built only 700 public houses on average each year in the last 6 years but our waiting list is 48,000 people long. For the State’s First Peoples the average fall to below 100 public houses each year.

Perth has many large families, with six, seven, eight children, who are homeless, on the streets, but Western Australia remains silent.

In Australia we have 20,000 children under the age of 12 years homeless. In the Kimberley, nearly seven per cent of the region is homeless. Outside natural disasters and wars this is one of the world’s highest homelessness rates. Nearly 100 per cent of the Kimberley’s homelessness is of First Peoples. But does Western Australia care? Its State Government certainly does not.

Where is the respect for the homeless and a civil society?

Does the City of Perth have the courage to meet with us and talk this through. Well, we know the City of Perth has been reading The Stringer.


The Stringer emailed the City of Perth Council today. The Stringer offered the City of Perth Council the opportunity to present our readers with a statement – their side of the story – and The Stringer will publish it as soon as we receive it. Earlier today – 27.3.2015 – Gerry Georgatos phoned the Council’s CEO, Gary Stephenson. Gerry and Gary had a brief and open discussion on the issues at play and also discussed homelessness in general, which is increasing. Mr Stephenson has kindly agreed to meet with Gerry Georgatos and Jennifer Kaeshagen on Tuesday morning – 31.3.2015.


Radical Son - Leave Them Tents Alone (Pink Floyd) a campaign for the homeless

Other reading:

Jennifer Kaeshagen sets up The First Nations Homelessness Project | The Stringer

Six homeless children fighting for a better tomorrow | The Stringer

What sort of Australia is this? Seven homeless children in an asbestos slum | The Stringer

8 little children on the streets; youngest less than 30 days old | The Stringer

A nation shamed when the solution for its children is homelessness | The Stringer

Homeless family living in a tent near Perth

Homeless Perth family in tent offered interim housing

Family evicted the day before Christmas

Thousands of children evicted – nowhere to go