Occupations

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Sit-ins

A sit-in is when a group of protesters occupy a space and refuse to leave. It could be private or public property. 

Sit-ins are usually short and last for anywhere between a few hours to a couple of days.

Sit-ins or occupations of property or premises can result in criminal charges.

Usually these are:

  • trespass,
  • obstruction, or
  • besetting.

It can also result in civil action (for example: where you are sued by the property owner) such as civil trespass.

Sit-ins or occupations will often mean facing private security guards before police arrive. Be prepared for this. Private security guards can be unpredictable and verbally or physically aggressive.

 

Learn more about trespass.

Learn more about besetting.

Read more about Private security guards.

 

Squatting

Squatting is living in or using disused and abandoned property.

Squatting helps people who can’t afford to rent of buy a house or building to have a home or make a productive community space.

Unlike in some other countries, In Victoria there is no legal right to squat in empty, disused and abandoned property.

But if squatters have been in a place uninterrupted and exclusively for 15 years they can apply for ownership over the land. This is known as ‘adverse possession’. 

There have been successful attempts in stopping the eviction of squatters and instead moving people into stable and permanent housing. In 2016 the Homeless Persons Union Victoria represented a group of people who were living in a number of houses (in Collingwood, Parkville and Clifton Hill) which had been left vacant for the construction of the controversial “East-West Link” road. After receiving eviction orders from the State Government and Victoria Police the group filed for an injunction in the Supreme Court of Victoria. An injunction was granted on two occasions.

      • Firstly, because insufficient time had been allowed to the residents to find alternative accommodation and the residents would be forced into, or back into, homelessness.

      • And secondly, that the government’s choice to use Victoria Police, and not the courts or a tribunal, as to secure possession of the properties was uncommon.

    In granting the injunction, Justice Garde said that Government agencies’ primary roles were care givers and supports and that the way the State Government had tried to evict people was in opposition to this primary role.

    For information about the law and squatting in Melbourne go to the No Frills Melbourne Squatters Guide (much of the information will be useful for people in other parts of Australia as well).

    Other resources include: The SUWA show on Community Radio 3CR.

    The website of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights provides useful information on forced evictions and human rights.

     

    Read about the history of squatting rights in the UK in this 2014 article by Crimethinc.

    Read a range of essays about squatting here.

     

    Social centre squats

    Social centres are an international activist initiative that aims to make use of self-managed space through autonomous decision-making.

    Social centres are the result of occupation movements that re-appropriate property for activist and working class community space.

    These kinds of squats are part of an international matrix of squatting movements with histories of supporting worker, peasant, student and community uprisings that are critical of private property systems and government power.

    The Occupy Melbourne protest was itself a social centre. The squatted space regularly held meetings, workshops, skill shares, provided food and meals, and was a space for people to collectively meet and discuss the occupy movement.

    For information about social centres from Social Centre Stories.

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