Behind the facade of central Sydney Shopping mania and tourist attractions there exists a culture of activists, anarchists and environmentalists that make themselves heard. During the first ever Global Young Greens Conference at the start of April a group of young people marched along George Street and down to the Broadway squats. Greeted by a row of seemingly abandoned shops to find a shop front crowded with Teddy bears the Teddyman introduced all the bears through the glass pane, all of which has been rescued from local rubbish bins. It gives credit to the recycle, reuse idea as it provided a fantastic artistic display of what people can do with the amazing things that people just biff away without a thought.
Squatting in Sydney is no new thing. The broadway squats have existed before but are frequently evicted. This time around a broad group of people occupy the long row of shop fronts and upstairs living spaces. They range from the "Teddyman" to students, employed, unemployed, activists, a Japanese exchange student, environmentalists and people interested in permaculture and sustainable cities.
Housing in Sydney is very expensive and in the last 10 years, Sydney has experienced an average 200% rise in the price of houses, and a 40% rise in rents per week. The occupiers of the Broadway squats often can afford housing but are squatting as a form of protest on various levels. Several squatters commented that there are huge numbers of buildings empty and thousands of people struggling with rent and not being able to find accommodation. Others said they did it to try and create change for those who genuinely cannot afford shelter. Others do it to reiforce ideas of over construction and waste. The city is clouded with vacant buildings and too much rubbish, so they recycle it, even down to the toilet paper.
In 1995 a survey by the Sydney City Mission revealed that 665,000 houses in the lowest income bracket in Australia were spending an average of 33.7% of their income on private housing, or between 30% and 50% of their income on communal and sharehouse accommodation. The Ministerial Task Force On Affordable Housing considered 30% of a household's income as a generous cost benchmark for rents in Sydney. at eh time of the survey it was found that the total homeless population of Australia in 1995 was approximately 40,000.
Not only is the place a centre of protest against the Howard governments lack of action but it also provides a space for the subcultures within Sydney to express themselves.
The space upstairs is open weekly ro the public for vegan food, plenty of it: free if you cannot afford it or a small donation otherwise. They play excellent films, one often hard to get hold of such as the film SLAM starring the new poet-preacher-actor-rapper-singer-musician "hyphen-artist extraordinare" Saul Williams. The space also features an art gallery for the public.
The sad reality of all the effort and hard work is Eviciton. The date Wednesday 16th May 2001 has been given by South Sydney City Council to the residents of the Broadway squats to vacate the buildings. As residents prepare to leave, it is timely to consider the achievements of the campaign to resists the South Sydney City Council's attempt to evict the residents in this space.
"We are not going to be pushed out. We are wanting to stay - at least until the council demolishes the buildings to build exclusive apartment and shops."