The Great Disappearing Act - Last Day at the Safe Space.

Images from the last day of the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space for the homeless in Martin Place.

Yesterday, residents peacefully withdrew from Martin Place after being threatened with new coercive legislation passed in Parliament the day before.

The Space was set up on Xmas eve 2016 and has been run by homeless people and rough sleepers ever since. Some residents were offered temporary accommodation (for 28 days) while others were dispersed back out on to the streets around the CBD.

All this happened during National Homelessness Week.

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Clinton Pryor, 'Spirit walker', Arrives in Redfern

Noongar man, Clinton Pryor is now on the final leg of his epic journey, after having arrived in Redfern to a tumultuous reception of around 300 people. Dylan Voller and Aunty Jenny Munro, amongst others were there to greet him.

Clinton has walked over 5,000 kms since he left Perth 8 months ago. His aim is to raise awareness of the many issues facing Aboriginal people in Australia. During his journey, he was given the mantle, 'Spirit Walker', having visited countless communities along his path.

Speaking to the thronging crowd at the Block in Redfern, he declared, "There is no justice in this country... The truth is, this country is living a lie."

Clinton Pryor next heads to Canberra, his final destination, to confront the Federal Government with his experiences of the many hardships faced by Aboriginal communities across the country. He arrives in Canberra on the 3rd of September.

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Clinton Pryor Arrives in Redfern

After walking around 5,000 kms from Perth, Noongar 'Spirit Walker', Clinton Pryor arrived in Redfern, Sydney, to a rapturous welcome from around 300 people.

More pics to come.

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Lanz - National Homelessness Week, 2017

Lanz Priestly, organizer of the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space in Martin Place, takes a much needed nap in a wheelbarrow, where he sleeps each night.

For the last few weeks, Lanz has been engaged in relentless media interviews, press conferences and meetings with all levels of governments to try to negotiate the long term fate of the homeless community which sprang up in Martin Place in Sydney's CBD late last year. Up to 80 homeless people sleep at the Space every night.

Yesterday, the NSW State Government rushed special legislation through Parliament that will provide police with extraordinary powers to move the homeless on by force. Some fear these powers are far-ranging and could be used against all forms of protest. 

According to Homelessness Australia, homelessness is a human rights issue.

It says:

"Access to safe and secure housing is one of the most basic human rights. However, homelessness is not just about housing. A person who is experiencing homelessness may be facing violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to privacy, the right to social security, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to vote and many more."

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Mark - National Homelessness Week 2017

Day Four in a series of posts during National Homelessness Week, 2017.

Mark has been sleeping in a tent in Martin Place, part of the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space which is facing forceable eviction in the next few days as the passage of special legislation makes its way through NSW Parliament. The new laws are specifically aimed at providing special powers so that police can remove tents, belongings and residents from the CBD. Around 80 homeless people are currently sleeping at the Safe Space. No alternative accomodation has been created and it is not known where these people will go.

Mark has lived with severe depression all his life. He has attempted to take his life on three occasions - once where he was revived after being pronounced deceased. In his words, Mark has not just attempted suicide, he has committed it. The social aspect is what attracts Mark to the Safe Space. He cites this as one of the most important needs of most homeless people - not just a 'roof over their head'. Alienation is one of the key effects of homelessness, he says. The Safe Space provides a rare, meaningful and productive community for its residents.

According to Homelessness Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, homelessness has increased by 8% in the last five years.

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Melissa - National Homelessness Week, 2017

Another image as part of National Homelessness Week, 2017.

This is Melissa, who has been living at the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space in Martin Place. The Space was originally set up with a specific focus on supporting homeless women, who are the most vulnerable cohort of people living on the streets, next to children.

According to Homelessness Australia, 44% of all homeless people in Australia are female. Nearly a quarter of all homeless people say that domestic and family violence is the reason they are homeless, and nearly all those people are women.

Under the NSW State Government's Going Home Staying Home program that targeted women's refuges, 336 individual services were 'consolidated' into 149, resulting in nearly 80 homelessness services being lost. Women experiencing domestic violence were at the forefront of these changes.

Since yesterday's negotiations between the NSW State Government, the City of Sydney Council and the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space, the agreement that promised new accomodation for these homeless people has been reneged, leading to the State Government initiating special powers legislation that will allow police to dismantle the Safe Space by force. The legislation is expected to pass by Friday.

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Brendan - National Homelessness Week, 2017

A continuing series of posts during National Homelessness Week, 2017 to highlight the burgeoning crisis of homelessness in Sydney and across the country.

According to Homelessness Australia, there are over 100,000 men, women and children without permanent shelter. It is expected that these official numbers only scratch the surface of the real situation.

The photos below show Brendan, an elderly but exuberant man who has lived on the streets of Sydney for many years. More recently, he has found accomodation in Maroubra, but still finds time to visit the 27/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space in Martin Place. The space was set up and is operated by homeless people themselves.

Today, a tentative agreement with the City of Sydney Council was reached, to create a permanent site to accomodate these people. Until that rehousing takes place, the Safe Space will continue to operate as it has been for the last 8 months.

 

Russ - National Homelessness Week, 2017

Over the next week, I'll be making a series of posts as part of National Homelessness Week.

This is Russ, who is an artist and ex-chef, and was part of the Occupy movement in 2011. He suffers from bi-polar and mental health issues. Russ has been an on and off resident at the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space set up in Martin Place since its beginnings, in late December last year.

According to Homelessness Australia, 1 in 200 people go homeless on any given night across the nation.

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Dylan Voller Leads Protest March to Sydney Opera House

Dylan Voller, one of the victims of Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, led a protest march yesterday from the Supreme Court of NSW, through the CBD, to the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

About 300 people attended the rally, organized by the Grandmothers Against Removal (GMAR). Speakers spoke out against the ongoing and disproportionate removal of Aboriginal children from their families, abuse of Aboriginal children in detention and continuing Aboriginal deaths in custody.

The event came not long after the acquittal of Elijah Doughty's killer on manslaughter charges and on the third anniversary of Ms Dhu's death in a police watch house in Western Australia. It also coincided on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children's Day.

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From the organisers:

"The lead up to this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day on August 4 has seen Elijah Doughty’s murderer get off so lightly that First Nations people across Australia have risen up against the colonial government’s racist disregard for children’s lives.

This disregard is also evidenced by the abuse, torture and injustice that accompanies the extreme, and growing, rates of incarceration of Aboriginal children by the criminal ‘justice’ system and removal from family and community by the child ‘protection’ system.

It is one year since Four Corners sparked a supposed national outrage against the horrific treatment of Dylan Voller and other kids like him at the hand of the state. But despite an ongoing Royal Commission in the NT, the abuses are getting worse. There are more children locked in solitary confinement in Don Dale than ever. Similar abuses have been exposed in juvenile prisons across the country in recent months, including here in NSW.

More than 16,000 Aboriginal children are currently in out of home ‘care’, many completely cut off from their family, land and culture."

Justice for Elijah Doughty - Rally

Around 300 people descended on the Supreme Court in Sydney to demand justice for Elijah Doughty, a 14 year-old Aboriginal boy, who was pursued and mown down by a white man driving a 4-wheel drive in Kalgoorlie last August. On Friday, a West Australian court acquitted the man from charges of manslaughter and sentenced him to 3 years on a lesser charge of dangerous driving occasioning death. The maximum sentence for this charge is 10 years.

The rally was orgainized by the Aboriginal advocacy group, Fighting In Solidarity Towards Treaties (FISTT). The protesters insist that this was a case of murder, another in a long line of Aboriginal deaths that have been failed by a prejudiced and racist system.

In a symbolic gesture, red ochre was daubed on the windows of the Supreme Court, representing the blood of Aboriginal people that has been spilt in the process of ongoing colonisation.

Speakers at the rally included Lynda Coe, joe Williams, Aunty Jenny Munro, Shaun Harris and the mother of Ms Dhu, Geoffrey Johnson, Meyne Watt, Cameron Manning Brown, Elizabeth Jarrett, Raul Bassi, Paddy Gibson, David Chapman, Gwenda Stanley, and Albert Harnett.

Protests have been and continue to be held around Australia, with little mainstream news coverage.

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24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space

An ongoing project documenting the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space for the homeless and rough sleepers in Martin Place, Sydney.

Since being moved out from under cover by Sydney City Council last month, the space has instead set up a tent community outside the Reserve Bank of Australia. As demand grows, more tents are springing up. There are now roughly around 40 tents stretching down Sydney's main pedestrian thoroughfare. 

As well as food, tents, clothing and healthcare products, an upright piano has recently been donated.

Laurence and the Midnight Train to Kiama

A well-known identity amongst the Sydney homeless community, Laurence takes the midnight train to Kiama and back every weekday - a 6-hour return journey - seeking refuge away from the streets, as a chance for warmth and a place to sleep.

Countless homeless people use long, late night train trips as a source of shelter every day - not only to Kiama, but also to the Central Coast, Lithgow or just to the far reaches of Sydney's suburbs. If they can afford it, a train ticket is cheaper than overnight accommodation.

But these train trips are not entirely free from danger. Drunken hoodlums and police checks provide the greatest sources of anxiety, so any amount of sleep is often interrupted and done with one eye open, so to speak.

After a short break at their destination, the trains usually return to Central Station before sunrise, after which the homeless must negotiate the city's streets once more.

Laurence, who is 20% deaf, has been living on the streets of Sydney for the last 18 months. He became homeless not long after both his parents died and was sole carer for his sick mother before she passed.

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Laurence - A Sydney Homeless Identity

Laurence has been living on the streets of Sydney for the last 18 months.

A well known identity amongst the Sydney homeless community, he travels by train each night to Kiama and back - a 6 hour journey - seeking refuge away from the streets, as a chance for warmth and a place to sleep.

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Protest at Kirribilli Against Constitutional Recognition

Two years ago,  a rally took place against the 'Recognise campaign' at the Reserve Bank at Kirribilli, where the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and 40 hand-picked members of the Referendum Council met to formulate the government-led programme to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders into the constitution. Protesters confronted some of the Referendum Council members to challenge them about the process and substance of the programme.

Portraits From A Safe Space - Part 2

Part 2 of 'Portraits From A Safe Space' - an ongoing photographic project taken in situ at the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space for the homeless and rough sleepers, set up and operated by the homeless themselves in Sydney's Martin Place.

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Contesting the Referendum Council and the 'Uluru Statement'

Elders and representatives of several Aboriginal nations across Australia came together last week for an historical gathering at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra to formulate a response to the Uluru Statement, the culmination of the government-sponsored 'Recognise campaign'

Many in attendance at the Embassy were delegates who walked out of the National Constitution Convention in May, in protest against the substance of the Uluru Statement and the process at which it was reached.  They say it undermines and endangers the fundamental right of sovereignty of Aboriginal nations that was never ceded.

Wiradjuri elder, Les Coe, subsequently released a statement in response to the National Constitutional Convention on Constitutional Recognition and the Uluru Statement, which follows after the photos below.

These photographs were taken on the 23rd and 24th of June, 2017.

Why I Walked Out of the Referendum Council’s
National Constitutional Convention at Uluru (Yulara) 

Held 23-26 May 2017

Statement by Les Coe, Dubbo Delegate, Wiradjuri Nation

In early February 2017, I managed to obtain an invitation to attend the upcoming National Constitutional Convention on Constitutional Recognition being conducted by the Referendum Council. This is an issue that I believe is of national importance, not only to Sovereign First Nations Peoples but the whole country, and is an attempt to try and address unfinished business that Australia has left unattended since Captain James Cook first set foot on our shores back in 1770 and shot a Sovereign First Nation Gibba. This set the scene upon which race relation in Australia have been based to the present day.

In 1788, all Sovereign First Nations Peoples lived as a free and independent people with the resources to be able to support and sustain ourselves. We had our own complete systems of Governance, Laws, Culture, Religion and Languages including land management and other resource management systems, built on empirical knowledge acquired arguably over 3000 generations.

Despite me having reservations based on how the Referendum Council was going about organising the Dubbo dialogue (in what seemed to me to be a veil of secrecy), I attended the Dubbo dialogue. I was elected by the other invited attendees to represent the Dubbo dialogue at the National Constitutional Convention being held at Yulara, Northern Territory, scheduled for 23-26 May 2017.

Prior to going to Yulara (not Uluru), I attended a meeting with the Wiradjuri Council of Elders in Wagga, NSW along with my daughter Lynda, who was also elected as a delegate at the Dubbo dialogue. We obtained a mandate from the Wiradjuri Council of Elders to attend at Yulara and speak on their behalf. I sought a mandate from the Wiradjuri Council of Elders because I believe that being elected by a group of 100 invitees at the Dubbo dialogue was an insufficient mandate to be able to speak for 40,000 Wiradjuri people, let alone for all Sovereign First Nation Peoples west of the Great Dividing Range in NSW. What I have just written is no reflection on any of the elected delegates, nor other invited Sovereign First Nation people at the Dubbo dialogue.

I travelled to Uluru by car accompanied by my seventeen-year old granddaughter and a friend who offered to come and help with the driving. I drove to Yulara with some false hope that the long-standing issue I have already hinted at, namely the Sovereignty of the Island Continent known as Australia today, would be openly discussed with honesty and truth.

On the first day of the National Constitutional Convention, I started to have the same sorts of reservations I picked up on at the Dubbo dialogue, which I will address in point form in the body of my paper. What was transpiring at the National Constitutional Convention on the first day was making me uncomfortable and uneasy. By lunch time on the second day, I was utterly disgusted with what was happening. After the resumption of the meeting after lunch, I felt I could not stay in the National Constitutional Convention and still retain some form of self-respect, so I walked out of the meeting feeling ill and sick in the stomach.

As I walked back to the room where I was staying, I was fighting to try and hold down the bile building up in my stomach. When I arrived back at my room, I remembered that my granddaughter said she was going to go for a walk around a very sacred site and had the keys to the room with her.

Unable to get into our room, I walked back to the resort meeting room where the Referendum Council’s farce was being conducted and spoke to another delegate from the Dubbo dialogue. He informed me that delegate from Dubbo and other regional dialogues had walked out of the National Constitutional Convention as an act of protest, and he said that he felt we had to stay together and walk out with them in support of their action. I asked him where the other delegates who walked out went. I found them and stayed with them in solidarity and protest against how the National Constitutional Convention was being conducted.

I have my reasons for why I decided to walk away from the government sponsored National Constitutional Charade held at Yulara, and I now share them with all Sovereign First Nations Peoples to hopefully help assist in making you understand what happen at Yulara and help make your own minds up.

• The National Constitutional Convention commenced with the usual formalities and then the conveners engaged to facilitate each dialogue from across the country, to present the outcomes of each regional dialogue to the meeting. However, when delegates started asking questions they were being shut down by the conveners.

• There was constant chastising of any delegates who wanted to ask questions about issues that they had concerns about.

• Cultural protocols were being used to silence and bully delegates to deter them from asking any questions or stop them from expressing their views.

• Respect was given, but was not reciprocated. Elected delegates from across the country were invited to attend the National Constitutional Convention, but were then not being allowed to represent their region’s views and concerns, unless it was in accordance with the Referendum Council’s position.

• The Referendum Council’s conveners had complete control of the meeting, and governed the whole proceedings with their minds firmly set in concrete. They were changing words and their meanings from those that were spoken in the workshops I attended, on the notes taken on the whiteboard to purposefully distort and misrepresent what was being said by delegates who were expressing their views and concerns, turning words and statements into sedated, pro-minimalist approach to constitutional reform.

• There was no time allocated or reserved for all delegates to comprehend, analyse, consider, review or discuss amongst ourselves the questions being put to us all by the conveners.

• There was no independent, expert opinion of the issues being presented to us (maintaining the status quo).

• There was an endorsement made for the continuation of the Northern Territory Intervention by the convenors and the majority of delegates. A motion was put to the meeting that the Australian government, as an act of good faith, cease the Northern Territory Intervention. The motion was stopped by the convenors when the majority of the delegates and the convenors voted for a continuation of the Northern Territory Intervention. The convenors then said that no more motions would be accepted from the floor. But they then allowed other motions to be made from the floor that suited their closed agenda. (maintaining the status quo)

• The continual time wasting by conveners during workshops in explaining their own positions or the positions of the Referendum Council.

• Delegates were being forced to hastily reach a decision on issues with insufficient time to even consider their positions.

• Conveners had disrespectful attitudes, and openly showed their contempt including aggressive and intimidating treatment of elected delegates in the workshops.

• The conveners were altering and paraphrasing opinions or concerns raised by the regional delegates and were actually changing their words to reflect a Referendum Council friendly position by changing delegates’ statements into meaningless gibberish.

• When I was finally given the opportunity to speak during the fast forward workshops, I said, “We need some form of protection against Governments, their agents and institutions excesses and attitudes towards us, but if that protection diminishes our sovereignty in any way then we are not interested. Our sovereignty lives and breathes, because they have not exterminated us. What I want is the same thing that governments want and that is certainty!”

• What I said above in a workshop was changed by the conveners when they presented workshop findings when reporting back to the whole Convention. My statement was then changed into something like, “We need protection, pause mmm ha government mmm ha pause ha excesses, Les Coe.” Making my statement sound like nonsensical mindless rubbish.

• Conveners had voting rights but were not elected to represent any region or people other than themselves and the Referendum Council’s position, which was a direct ‘conflict of interest’, in my view.

• There was no declaration made about any ‘conflicts of interest’ by the Referendum Council members, their paid employees, consultants, advisors or conveners.

• There was no time allocated or reserved for the delegates to have any open discussion or debate on any of the issues. From what I saw there was no debate and very little discussion.

• It appeared to me that there was an expectation that delegates were only there to be used as a rubber stamp for the only road map put on the table. I see this as a map with one lane one way road going to places we have been before, and eventually end up going nowhere? (maintaining the status quo).

• From my perspective, the secrecy surrounding the whole process was highly questionable, as was the dialogue held in Dubbo from where I was elected. The way that this whole process was being conducted and controlled indicated to me that it was fraudulent and it was going to be forced upon Sovereign First Nations and peoples, whether we agreed with it or not (maintaining the status quo)

• The way the National Constitutional Convention was being conducted indicated to me that outcomes were pre-determined and already bedded down (maintaining the status quo)

• The way the process was being conduct convinced me that the Referendum Council and their paid conveners were going to ensure that the only outcome to come out of the National Constitutional Convention in Yulara was the complete endorsement of the Referendum Council’s road map.

• There was an expectation of compliance by the delegates at the Convention to simply comply with the process and the prearranged outcome, without addressing the underlying issues on the agenda, such as First Nations Sovereignty, and how constitutional recognition reforms impacts on our Sovereignty.

• 10 years researching and planning to comply with a well-hidden Government agenda in maintaining an unlawful colonial system of governance and control over Sovereign First Nations Peoples by rigidly standing blindly by a colonial skeletal framework that is clearly riddled with cancer which is not to be disturbed, contested or altered in any way, shape or form and protect it at all costs despite the disease being terminal (maintaining the status quo).

• Overly paid lawyers and advisors engaged by the Referendum Council produced the one and only road map, under the agenda of the Referendum Council Co-Chairs Mark Liebler and Pat Anderson, Noel Pearson, Megan Davies and the Australian government. This was presented at the National Constitutional Convention at Yulara as the only viable option.

• The well sponsored government created conservative Aboriginal elite’s voices as being the only voice of all Sovereign First Nations Peoples (maintaining the status quo).

• Aboriginal people with vested interest in maintaining a minimalist approach to Constitutional reform with the black money stream firmly under the control of government created conservative Aboriginal elites (maintaining the status quo).

• Aboriginal people representing their employer’s organisations, and the established order of the ‘Aboriginal problem’ involved in the latest government experiment, were ensuring that their gravy trains keeps delivering their gravy with all the trimmings. Thereby continuing the ‘terra nullius’ of all that is Sovereign First Nations (maintaining the status quo).

• No truth and justice was on the agenda - only more lies and deceit (maintaining the status quo).

• You could smell what was going on; the resurrection of an ATSIC type organisation with only an advisory role to government, thereby providing an advisory body with a get out clause: “The Government would not accept our advice”(maintaining the status quo).

• The question of a ‘treaty/treaties acknowledge First Nations Sovereignty was going to be put on hold and deferred, until it went away or died (maintaining the status quo).

The above are some of the reason why I walked away from the Yulara Convention. It has taken me this long to provide some answers because I was feeling too ashamed to even admit I was involved in any of it. I approached the opportunity with some hope - but any hope I had died at the Yulara Convention. Why I call it the Yulara Convention is because that is where this charade and junket was held. It had nothing to do with any ‘Statement from the Heart’, as the Referendum Council is now calling it. It was a very big heap of guuan?

There is a lot more to this yarn, but I also believe that each delegate should give their own reasons for walking out from the Yulara Convention. What happened after a group of elected delegates exercised our Sovereign right and walked out is another story and needs to be told soon.

All I can say for now is if what I witnessed over the last few months of this new farcical government experiment called constitutional recognition, then we as a people are being looked upon as being complete imbeciles by the Australian government, the Referendum Council, their conservative Aboriginal elites, and anyone else associated with their lies and deception. If anything, what is about to transpire will raise an expectation of hope for the future, but that future will never be realised by Sovereign First Nations Peoples, and the realisation itself will not emerge for years to come.

I for one have no intention of joining the ship of fools at the National Constitutional Convention that is about to sail away, and leave the rest of us stranded, constantly being circled by a ravenous, insatiable evil.

Always was
Always will be
Aboriginal Sovereignty

Les Coe

Aboriginal Embassy
1 King George Terrace
Barton, ACT 2600
30 June, 2017

Portraits From A Safe Space - Part 1

Portraits taken in situ of some residents of the 24/7 Street Kitchen and Safe Space for the homeless and rough sleepers, set up and operated by the homeless themselves.

Over the weekend, the space was shut down by the City of Sydney Council. The organizers immediately relocated themselves to the other side of Martin Place, right outside the Reserve Bank of Australia.

These photographs were taken on a chilly evening, a few days after the eviction. The kitchen and sleeping places remain despite the ongoing threats by Council.

 

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Troy

A portrait of Troy at the Sydney Street Kitchen and Safe Space for the Homeless, Martin Place, Sydney.

Troy, 18,  is the youngest resident at this facility, which was set up by and for the homeless and rough sleepers in the CBD.  Last week, the space shut down by the City of Sydney Council. The organizers immediately relocated themselves to the other side of Martin Place, right outside the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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