Horn of Africa refugees and migrants

Cory Memery

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with many Horn of Africa residents of public housing in Melbourne. 

They have made Melbourne their home and a recently published book titled, A Home for the Diaspora From the Horn of Africa to Melbourne’s Public Housing, tells their stories in their own words. Written by Sandra Carrasco, Neeraj Dangol and Majdi Faleh, it can be downloaded here for free by scanning the QR code.

A human right to affordable housing in Victoria

I believe access to adequate housing should be a human right for all adults and children in Victoria and everywhere else around the world.

The right to affordable, safe housing has been recognised as a fundamental human right under the UN’s International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This UN Covenant has never been voted into law by any governments in Australia as they have all held the view that somehow the private market will deliver. 

Despite decades of federal government subsidies through tax concessions and Commonwealth Rent Assistance, though, the private rental market has proven unable to deliver what is needed. Tax concessions have instead driven the price of housing up dramatically during the past two decades. As the subsidies flowed to private investors, investment in public housing was wound back to next to nothing.

Castan Centre for human rights law

The Castan Centre at Monash University wants to change our state’s position on this basic human right to have the Victorian Parliament vote the UN Covenant into law and to have a plan to end homelessness in our state.

I met recently (along with other members of the Save Public Housing Collective) with Professor Kevin Bell and Professor Jean Allain from the Castan Centre to hear about their work on making both changes in how we should all see and support the provision of affordable housing for very low- to low-income earners in our state.

During our meeting we agreed that there had been an abrogation of a duty of care by successive state governments for those who are homeless and desperate for affordable, secure housing. I have accepted an invitation by Professor Bell to help the Castan Centre gain support for their work and I will update readers on its progress in my future columns.

COVID and public housing residents

The management of recent COVID-19 Delta outbreaks in public housing has been managed very differently to last year’s detention lockdowns.

No police control over residents and there is a sense of support rather than repression, despite Premier Andrews boasting he would do it all again if he had to.

I want to give a big shout out to Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass for her fearless criticism of the state government’s actions last year and my own city councillors call for an apology – an apology we have yet to hear. It was her report that made this outbreak’s management different.

Public housing maintenance

Despite funds being made available for maintenance many high-rise buildings have lifts in disrepair and other urgent jobs needing to be done. The Carlton Tenants Committee met with Minister Richard Wynne recently via Zoom and he has promised to act. I hope I can give you a positive update in my next column •

The Bridal Lament opens at Arts House

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