The Concert for Matargarup: Refugees on Our Homelands Event held on Heirisson Island this last Saturday, was all about society’s most vulnerable – the homeless. One of the most affluent cities in the world, Perth, has a homelessness crisis, with the number of homeless on the increase. One high profile identity travelled the continent, from Sydney, to meet the Matargarup homeless. He was impressed by their resilience, the re-establishing of the homeless camp despite four police escorted City of Perth raids. Bandjalug man, champion boxer Anthony Mundine wanted to find out more of the plight of those at Matargarup.
Mr Mundine did what not a single Western Australian politician has done and that was turn up to Matargarup to listen to the camp’s homeless and to their supporters.
“I came to Matargarup to support the people. They are very resilient.”
“Australia is the most racist country, especially in how it treats the Indigenous people.”
“I wanted to hear from the people.”
“I am here for them, to stand with them.”
“All these police raids, council raids and they have proven resilient.”
“Our people need to unite. They won’t get justice till they unite.”
“Few of us have been able to deal with the oppression since colonisation.”
“Western Australia and indeed Australia across the board should have a good look at themselves.”
“They want the Black to feel inferior and to keep us in this state.”
“We have to try to inspire the others and unite the people as one to fightback,” said Mr Mundine.
How many more days and nights Matargarup survives as a safe space for the homeless only the City of Perth and the State Government know. However, in Matargarup’s 100 days thus far, through thick and thin, Matargarup has shimmered a little more of an insight into the extensiveness of homelessness in one of the world’s most affluent regions – Western Australia.
The Matargarup human rights struggle has given birth to the Concert for Matargarup – which will now be an annual event, not necessarily at this time of year and not necessarily at the same location. Saturday’s Concert was taken notice of by some of Perth’s concert makers and the fact that something special was delivered on Saturday, an event with 25 bands and performers coming together and with multicultural content; commencing in the morning and thriving late into the night with much camaraderie and joy while at all times highlighting to all who came the urgency we must shoulder if we are to respond to the needs of the homeless. The Concert was the work of many and was delivered on the smell of an oily rag which would surprise many but a lesson that in the social justice cause we can do big things when we all come together.
Special thanks to Cody Osborne who in the one day drove in the huge stage, set up and packed it away. He will not be forgotten. Special thanks to Matt Crock for a relentless effort in bringing together people and the generators and lights. Special thanks to Loki Writhes ‘that sound guy’. Special thanks to Rachel Riggs – Imaginary Leaps play coordinator (and friends) who put together a wonderful ‘Kid Zone’. Francis Italiano cardboard cubbies, Rebecca Riggs Bennett, Joanna Riggs Bennett – face painting, Adam Bennett, Shakera Ahad – puppetry, Janice Holland, Sheri Mcleod – craft activities volunteers. Thanks to Louise Edwards who co-ordinated the Abmusic acts, thanks to Taniera Hohepa (and friends), Kelly-Marie Thomas, Dommy Hammond (and friends), Iva Hayward-Jackson, Toogarr Morrison, Louise Edwards, Jane Byers, Craig Stanton-Yea, Kim Horrigan, Tj Te Rehu-Tuki, Tayo Snowball, Seamus Doherty, Kate Doherty-Martino, Lynda Nutter, Noonie Raymond, Fee Plumley, Tanya Cairns, Josh Stratton, Nadja Kubalsky, Christine Camilleri, Erin Shay Horrigan, Riyadh Al-Hakimi (and friends), Marziya Mohammedali and the irrepressible Mervyn Eades.
Special thanks to Chris Mason and Tanya Bunter of RTRFM.
Special thanks to Jeff Michaels of Nyoongar Radio.
Special thanks to all the volunteers.
Indeed, a tremendous special thanks to Jennifer Kaeshagen.
Concert for Matargarup will be an annual gig with all proceeds going to those who need help the most.
Tomorrow, Jennifer Kaeshagen and myself will meet with Member for Perth, Eleni Evangel to begin the long overdue journey for homeless friendly precincts for all of Perth’s major hubs. The homeless want this, very much so. We drove women from Matargarup to Perth City Railway Station for showers.
“You all came here to the Concert clean and that is how we want to feel too,” said one homeless woman.
After I announced the campaign for homeless friendly precincts several of our homeless approached me and said ‘please, we need this’.
One woman looked into my eyes as we discussed these precincts – this little sliver of societal compassion, a glimmer of human dignity – and then cried in my arms.
I have met people on the streets who we helped to the best of individual abilities while Governments misspend monies on the meaningless, folly and vanity. Some of those I have met on the streets are no longer with us, their last breaths taken while alone on our affluent streets. Every time I look at Perth’s Bell Tower, which nearly two decades ago came at a cost of $85 million but of nil benefit to the common good I think of all those who could have been helped, all the lives that should have been saved.
There is no greater legacy that we can have than in having improved the lot of others to the point of saving lives.
Politicians rock up at events that they perceive or have packaged as sexy enough for their agenda – they are obsessed with their political ‘careers’ and in the public relations exercise that is their vehicle to politics, their political party. It is to their shame they did not have the honour to be part of Matargarup, of something raw, earthy, real. The counter narrative to their obsession of the self, to the theatre they perform within, to the citadel of privilege, is one of human misery and suffering, one of wrongs and injustices, one of inequalities they have failed to chase down from the dawn.
Matargarup has had its ups and downs during the last 100 days – but for each of those 100 days Matargarup was home to people who would have to do it alone in alleyways, squats, traps, bush outskirts. Matargarup fed and sheltered people – there was campfire music, camaraderie, caring.
Matargarup may not stand another 100 days but despite its troubles it can stand proud. If homeless friendly precincts eventuate, if Governments respond to the homelessness crises, Matargarup may finish up a by-line but for us in our time, and to the end of our days, we will always remember the Matargarup human rights struggle.
Mr Mundine delivered with his presence. The homeless were stunned by his appearance and by the fact he stayed and mixed it with them. Tears flowed in the understanding that they mattered. For anyone to get on a plane and travel the continent to meet those neediest, well then from Jennifer and I, “much respect, respect indeed”.