The economic depression of the 1930s saw thousands of Australians thrown out of their homes and into the streets. These actions did not go unopposed. Across Australia pickets, occupations and protests were organised to successfully disrupt and prevent evictions and auctions, winning forms of rent assistance along the way.
This pamphlet chronicles just some of the many struggles that took place. It includes a chronology of actions as well as photos and quotes from those involved, providing a fascinating insight into the events of the time as well as the means and strategies communities can employ against homelessness, as shown in this excerpt from the introduction.
“Campaigning for the unemployed to be exempted from paying rent Anti Eviction Committees (AECs), the Unemployed Workers Movement and other organisations utilised a variety of strategies against the bailiffs, landlords, banks and finance companies who preyed on the disadvantaged.
The AECs would approach people in danger of eviction and offer to set up pickets and provide food, childcare, help with moving, etc. They would usually then go to visit the owner or real estate agent to warn them that any eviction would be resisted. Street meetings would be called to consult local residents as to what action they would be willing to countenance.
Once the picket was set up community sing-a-longs and demonstrations would be held to rally support and when the eviction attempt began pickets on bikes would be sent out to alert residents and gather as big a crowd as possible. On some occasions the picketers would occupy and barricade houses and on others they would take revenge on the owners by trashing properties. Deputations would also go to councils and government departments to try and secure facilities for the homeless and where this failed evicted tenants’ furniture would be dumped outside the Town Hall or police station. Faced with the indignity of having the homeless camped on their doorstep even the most heartless of authorities quickly located housing.
As the 1930s wore on the NSW government shifted the site of resistance to the courts by increasing the ability of tenants to appeal eviction orders and apply for short term debt moratoriums. In 1932 the Victorian government introduced rental subsidies equal to about two thirds of the rent for properties in low income areas and in 1934 South Australia saw the introduction of relief work for evictees. Whilst the AECs in those states began to focus more on providing advice and legal representation, sterner forms of resistance were still required as the number of evictions ironically climbed as the economy recovered with landlords tossing out unemployed tenants in favour of those who had once more found work.”
Download the pamphlet from archive.org.
See also the Walking Tours of Unemployed Resistance in Brunswick, 1929-35.
- Campaigning - Approaches_Actions_Tactics
- Campaigning - Grassroots
- Civil disobedience
- Direct action
- Direct action - Violent
- Lessons learned_Reviews_Reflections
- Movements_Campaigns - Economic justice
- Social justice
- Tactics - Creative