why squat ? why not !
[There have been squatters for as long as there's been the concept of
owning land and squatting on land that formally belongs to someone else
takes place all over the world. There are probably as many reasons for
squatting as there are people who squat so rather than pointlessly trying
to outline them all, what follows are just a few particular reasons
motivating people to squat in Sydney today]
Despite government policies that aim to promote 'affordable housing', it
is clear that the numbers of low-income people able to afford housing in
the Sydney area are rapidly decreasing. The costs of private rental
accommodation are increasing exponentially, pushing many low-income
earners away from the places in which they and their friends live. The
private rental market is largely de-regulated and tenancy laws afford
low-income earners little protection from the increasingly exorbitant
rents demanded by landowners and their real estate agents.
[It is profit margins that count. Look at the scale of urban
gentrification in Sydney at the moment - doesn't look like abating in the
near future does it? Relax. It is only natural - the strong over the
weak. It is just space, not place. One day - when you can afford to
purchase property of your own - you will understand. And you too will
give the gift of rental accommodation to someone who has enough money to
afford it but not enough to return the gift. And they will give you the
security you need for further speculation in real estate. Everyone's a
winner. Sydney 2000 Yes!]
Public housing once may have been an alternative. But with waiting lists
as large as they are, and with the length of wait as long as it is (up to
12 years), government housing is not really a viable option for many. As
governments become visibly less interested in housing low-income people -
by selling department of housing land to private developers, cutting back
on spending for new places, outsourcing their role to private contractors
in 'community housing' - it becomes more blatantly obvious that to rely on
their goodwill to satisfy your housing needs and wants is a ploddingly
[people used to squat government-owned buildings before any others because
it was thought that there was more room to negotiate with 'public'
authorities with a 'conscience' than with 'private' property speculators
and companies who were more obviously concerned with 'making money'. Now
there are no doubts that such a comforting distinction cannot be
maintained. Where is 'public' space and where is 'private' space? They
seem to have melded and colluded some time ago, and if they are keeping
any secret it is this : welcome to a world without clear borders where
power is much more diffuse and consumption (of goods, services,
information) is much more all-encompassing]
If you can't afford to purchase private property - or simply don't want to
assist private property owners to purchase more property by paying them
excessive rent - then there is no need to wait for the private rental
market and/or the government to provide a solution for your housing needs.
There are hundreds of houses/buildings left empty around Sydney right now
whilst people in need are left homeless or in substandard and unaffordable
accommodation. Help yourself and solve your own housing problems - squat
these places before the owners rot them!
Squatting allows you autonomy. Despite the 'threat of eviction' squatting
actually gives you a high degree of control over where and how you choose
to live. It enables you and the others that you squat with to learn a
great deal about how to build a place, repair a place, and organize a
place according to your individual and collective desires - a privilege
usually reserved for owners of private property to enjoy. And when you
create that kind of autonomy you tend to actively participate in
maintaining it rather than simply waiting for the government / rental
market to try and provide it for you.
[This is something that has perplexed town planners and 'housing experts'
for some time - why have government programs to 'house the poor' in
western and non-western countries failed to satisfy peoples needs for
housing and community, while self-help squatter settlements around the
world have been so successful? The answer lies in the autonomy that
squatters create and maintain for themselves by taking control of their
own housing problems]
Being squeezed out by ridiculously high rents and the gentrification of
the city? Tired of waiting for disinterested governments to come to your
assistance? Fed up with sleeping in parks/bus shelters/friends' lounge
room floors? Wanting to create your own housing machine? It's not
finding an empty building
Finding an empty building is generally pretty easy. Sydney is full of
empties ranging from totally destroyed shells to perfectly livable places
that have nothing wrong with them. The best way to find a building is to
simply walk around the streets and look for the signs.
Is there mail overflowing from the letterbox? An overgrown garden ?
Broken and/or boarded-up windows and doors ? Is the power off ?
[check at the electricity meter].
If unsure, you might want to ask a postie, a local shop owner or a
neighbour if anyone is living in or using a place that you think is empty.
It may help if you make out that youíre looking to rent the place [or
acquire it for use by a housing co-op, or research it as part of an
ëarchitectureí or ëgeographyí project on housing or something - be
inventive and plausible.
Being honest with the neighbours and local residents about your intentions may
be just as successful. If you decide to be honest, explain your case to
them. Give them some figures on how many people are homeless and/or on
the waiting list for public housing and unable to find affordable housing
in the private rental market. Tell them how you came to be in the
situation youíre in.
who owns it ?
It is important to know who owns a building you squat or consider
squatting, and what the owner intends to do with it. An easy way is to
check the letterbox and/or debris around the place or ask the neighbours
if they know.
Failing this, you can go to the Land Titles Office in Macquarie St,
Sydney. Whilst the system there looks quite hectic and confusing, it is
actually quite easy to use. The staff are quite friendly and the
information cannot be denied to you - though extensive searches and
print-outs may cost a small fee.
Before you begin you will need :
a) to know the exact address of the building youíre investigating
b) to know the council municipality the building is part of
c) 40c and/or a Telstra Smartcard
Then (1) using the Valuer-General and/or Water Board Records (on
microfiche, catalogued by council area and street name) find the lot
number, the DP (Deposited Plan) number and the listed owner of the
building. To find where these microfiche records are, just ask at the
information desk when you walk in.
(2) The microfiche listings may well be out of date so it is
important to double-check your results. Approach a friendly looking staff
member. Tell them what youíre looking for (the current owner) and what
you have found (the lot number, DP number and owner), and ask them if they
have more recent computer records concerning the property.
(3) Using your 40c or Telstra Smartcard, call up the Development
and Planning section of the local council that covers the building that
you are investigating. Tell them that you are wanting to know whether any
development applications (DAs) have been lodged for the premises within
the last five years or so.
The council staff will ask you for the address and possibly the lot and DP
numbers, so have these details handy. They will be able to give you basic
information concerning all of the DAs that have been lodged, and approved
or refused, for the building. Make sure that you ask what the DAs
(especially the most recent ones) were for, and whether or not the
building is (partly or wholly) heritage listed or registered as an item of
environmental significance. This information could prove very useful
later on if you are faced with eviction.
If they think that you are being a bit too feisty or suspect you are
wanting to know this information for ëillegitimateí reasons, that council
staff may ask you why you are wanting to find all this out. Have a story
ready - Iíve said that I am part of a registered housing co-op looking to
acquire a building or some property - but donít feel obliged to use it.
You cannot be denied access to this kind of basic planning information.
Be assertive in your consumption of government services!
Knowledge of who owns that place, and what plans they have for it, is
important for a number of reasons :
1) as discussed more fully in the section on ëimportant legal stuffí, it
is only the owner or representative of the owner (or the person apparently
in charge) who is actually authorized to ask you to leave the place once
youíve settled in. Generally speaking, the police cannot just turn up
without prior direction from the owner and throw you out.
2) different owners are likely to respond to squatters in different ways
and these differences need to be taken into account if (and when) you
negotiate with them to stay. A multi-national corporation or a government
department with a fragile public-image, for example, is much more likely
to be vulnerable to the threat of a negative media campaign than a small
time property investor - a theme discussed in more detail in section on
ëimportant extra-legal stuffí.
3) a knowledge of the history and intended future of the building will
help you to realistically evaluate the risks and benefits of squatting
there. Donít make the mistake of assuming, however, that an approved DA
will necessarily translate into any actual development of the building.
Property investors (corporate-governmental or otherwise) indefinitely
shelve approved DAs all the time for a variety of reasons.
Often this will be the easiest part. Most of the places that are
squattable have been left empty for some time and there will be broken or
unlocked windows and doors. Some times local kids may be using the place
to sleep if theyíve runaway and/or are homeless. Other times people may
have been inside and stripped the place of its fittings for resale. Often
the owner has deliberately damaged the house to ward off potential
Check all of the obvious access points - doors, windows, skylights, holes
covered by board or tin etc - to see if they allow you entry into the
building. Kids or people looking to find stuff to sell may have already
opened one of the windows or doorways and in so doing saved you from a lot
of work. If the place still seems fairly secure after checking it out,
then you will need to get a bit more tricky.
Louvre (slat) windows can be easily be pulled out of their frames in most
cases. Old style windows with rotating latches can often be opened by
slipping the latches with a knife [see figure 1]. Some of the newer type
sliding windows can be pulled out of their frames - try pushing the window
up in its frame. If all else fails you may be forced to break a window.
If you end up having to do this, make sure that you clean up afterwards
and repair the window as soon as possible.
Ordinary Lockwood door latches can be overcome with a crowbar and a
screwdriver [see figure 2]. Deadlocks are a bit more difficult, but not
impossible to deal with. You may need 2 or 3 people, a crowbar and/or
screwdrivers. Jemmy the door from the doorway and use screwdrivers to
force the lock tongue and the deadlock button back into the lock. Then
the door should be able to be opened. Its also worth being careful of
glass panels when using a bit of force to jemmy doors open.
Roofs are always another access option. Once you are up on the roof,
remove a few tiles and enter into the place through the ceiling hatch. If
there is more than one of you then have someone as a lookout whilst
getting into a place this way.
If you think that someone might suspect your motives or is intently
watching you it is probably best to leave, remove any tools from you and
the building, and to come back another time. Noisy entry work may attract
attention so go there at inconspicuous times like on a weekday. People
are much more wary of noise at night. Try and stay calm. Dressing in
overalls or work uniform (or suits!) may help divert some of the attention
of others and keep you focused on the task at hand.
You could possibly be charged with Break and Enter if the police catch you
in the process of entering the building - especially if you have got tolls
on you. If you do happen to get arrested and charged with Break and
Enter, donít tell the police anything (apart from a name) until you get
once you are inside
Once you are inside your new home, you will firstly ñ or as soon as you
can ñ need to change all the locks so that you can feel secure and safe
and keep out anyone that you donít want coming in.
If the lock is a common lockwood, you will need a philips-head screwdriver
to remove the three screws from the back section. Two long screws secure
the backing plate and the barrel/cylinder to the door. Remove these and
the barrel will be released.
The barrel should be the only part of the lock that needs to be replaced,
and these can be purchased at almost any hardware store. The replacement
process is pretty straightforward. Most of the problems associated with
this process concern the proper fitting of the ëtongueí inside the lock.
Sometimes the tongue is too long and will need trimming to suit the
thickness of the door. You can tell if the ëtongueí is too long by
sliding the new barrel into position with the ëtongueí fitted into the
slot provided. To shorten the ëtongueí ñ and so properly fit the lock to
the door ñ you will need a hacksaw and something to hold it (pliers or
vice) while you cut it to the proper length.
There will probably be quite a few things/areas needing repair or cleaning
up. Make a list, go to the hardware store and start fixing the place up.
Get friends to come around ñ both to help and just to be there. The first
few days/weeks of occupying the building are critical and so its important
that no-one is left alone (or the building is left empty) much during that
time. Use this time early on to establish your new home. Cleaning up any
rubbish that has been left around and putting curtains in the windows are
good ideas and will probably send a good message to the neighbours that
you are not going to trash the place.
If the owner[s] or the police turn up, it is important that you tell them
that the premises were open and that you just walked in. A good rule here
is : Never admit to forcibly entering the place (see the section on
ëimportant legal stuffí for more details).
Services such as electricity, water and gas cannot be legally denied to
you as long as the wiring and plumbing etc is still intact. To get them
connected all that is usually required is a phone call to the appropriate
company and a work or estate agent number as a character reference.
Nevertheless, corporate service providers sometimes make it difficult for
squatters to have access to these services so, again, be assertive and
demand access if need be. Try not to tell the corporate service providers
that you are squatting and always check (and where possible, repair)
plumbing and wiring before applying for connection. If they are making it
difficult for you to have access to services an assertive reminder of
department policy will often help.
Always check ñ and where possible repair ñ the plumbing and wiring before
applying for a connection [see the ëmaintenanceí section in this site].
If parts are damaged beyond what you are capable of learning to repair,
and services are unavailable until repairs are made, then you may need the
services of a tradesperson. Again, try not to let tradespeople know that
you are squatting because they may assume that you are not going to pay
them so refuse you service.
The water is usually connected. If it isnít, find the mains/water meter
tap (usually at the front or back of the building) and turn the tap on.
This is usually all that is needed to restore the water to the building.
If not, call up the corporate water provider in your area, open an account
and get the mains turned back on. This means that every three months or
so you will have to pay for a bill for water consumption.
The owner should be paying water rates on the premises. However, some
owners who leave buildings empty also neglect to pay rates. Failure to
pay rates will often result in the water being turned off at the mains.
If this is the case, the corporate water provider will usually reconnect
it if you agree to pay off some of the outstanding bill ñ sometimes even
as little as $10. Alternatively, you may be able to negotiate to pay the
rates for the amount of time that you are there. This will probably mean
explaining that you are squatting and have no contact with the owner. If
you are in contact with the owner and they wonít pay the rates, then you
may be able to negotiate an arrangement to pay it ñ perhaps on the
assuarnce that you can stay there for a certain period of time. If an
agreement to stay and pay some rates is made between you and the owner,
try and get it confirmed in writing as it could be used as evidence of an
implied license for you to stay until the end of the agreed period.
If the wiring is ok then you have a legal right to electricity. Sometimes
you will have to provide I.D and something to prove that you are a
legitimate resident (such as a lease). Here, a good story (eg, busy
moving in and need to warm the babyís bottle ie need electricity TODAY!)
will often go a long way and get you connected without I.D.
The situation with getting the electricity connected will vary from
corporate provider to corporate provider. Call them up anonymously with a
hypothetical example (Iím about to move in to a place that needs the power
to be put on. What will I need to do and what kind of I.D will I need to
provide etc ? ) to see what is required.
If it turns out that the electricity cannot be turned on ñ for example,
due to an irrepairably damaged main fuse box ñ then donít despair. Solar
cells, car batteries, candles and kerosene heaters (used responsibly) can
all go some way to making life very possible without mains electricity.
Again, if all is fine then they are obliged to connect you.
If all of the lines are still intact, an account can be organized over the
phone. If there has been damage, then a time can be made for some
company employees to come and reinstall the line. Costs vary according to
the extent of the damage and the amount of work that they have to do.
Again, it helps to make a hypothetical call in order to sound out what the
particular corporate provider will require in terms of I.D, address
details and deposit etc.
Whilst there are exceptions, most empty houses are old and often their
essential facilities are in want of repair. In most cases, however, the
problems arenít very big and you will find that you can do them yourself
without having to pay tradespeople to do it for you.
general d.i.y plumbing
1. Broken copper pipes2.
Make sure that the water mains are turned off. Broken or crcked water
piping (most houses have copper) can be cut and repaired. To go about it,
cut out the craced section with a hacksaw [see diagram one]. Then get a
piece of garden hose and two hose-clips to ensure that there are no leaks.
Get the right sized hose-clips to fit the hose to the pipe. Put the clips
in the centre of the hose piece, then slip the copper pipe into one end
and out the other [see diagram two]. To finish up, place the clips on
either side of the hose and tighten the clips with the right screwdriver
[see diagram three].
3. Cracked PVC pipes4.
Cracked and/or leaking pipes are very easy to repair. If you have cracks
in bends ñ ie, traps under sinks or basins ñ take to it with leak sealant.
When using a sealant, ensure that the surface is dry for better and longer
sealing. If it is a straight section of pipe, get some duct tape and
secure it tightly around the pipe so that there are no air bubbles.
Again, there has to be a dry surface for better sealing.
5. Leaking taps6.
There are generally two problems with leaky taps :
1. If the tap is leaking while it is off, then the problem is in the
spindle [see diagram one]. Tap leakages of this kind are generally caused
by old or deteriorated washers. Usually, only a shifting spanner is needed
to change tap washers. Some old taps can be badly corroded. If so, the
use of some kind of spray lubricant can make all the difference. To
change the washer :2.
1) Make sure that the water is turned off at the mains
2) Remove the tap handle. Sometimes there is a ëbuttoní on the handle
that conceals a screw. If so, prise the ëbuttoní off and unscrew the
screw. The handle should then come off with a bit of a pull.
3) Remove the spindle. Once the handle has been removed you will be able
to see the end of the spindle surrounded by a flange. The flange will be
sitting flat against the tiles or the basin. The flange can be removed
by simply unscrewing it anti-clockwise. With the flange removed, you will
be able to more fully see the spindle. The spindle can then be removed by
securing and turning the shifting spanner around the spindleís hexagonal
4) Replace the tap washer. The tap washer ñ which is located inside the
spindle ñ will have been pushed against a ëseatí in order to make a
water-tight seal. Using your finger, feel the ëseatí for grooves or nicks
that could cause a leak. Put in a new washer, making sure that the
spindle is turned open so as not to squash the washer. When screwing the
spindle back into the tap, reverse the procedure described in step (3).
3. If the tap is leaking at the joining of the lever then : 4.
1. Make sure that the water is turned off at the mains2. 3. Unscrew the
lever anti-clockwise with a wrench or shifting spanner4. 5. Wrap some
teflon tape tightly around the worn thread a number of times to prevent
further leakage.6. 7. Screw the lever back on clockwise8.
1. Roof Leaks2.
Most roof leaks can be repaired with tube silicone in a gun.
important legal stuff
some legal history -
Prior to 1970, squatting was not illegal in NSW. It was a civil offence.
That meant that if someone occupied a place (i.e., trespassed) and the
owner wanted them out, then they would have to apply to a court to get a
'possession order' allowing them to take the place back from the
squatters. All of this could take some time meaning that squatters
enjoyed a bit of security. While things were in court they could work out
what they wanted to do / where they wanted to go etc.
During the late 1960s there were a lot of student/worker/citizen
demonstrations in cities around the world. When anti-Vietnam protestors
began 'sit-ins' - a form of trespass - in Australian cities around this
time, the conservative NSW liberal government began a 'law and order'
campaign to make protesting more difficult. To do this they proposed to
pass a law that made it illegal to demonstrate without prior police
permission. And they quietly passed a law making 'sit-ins' - and
therefore, squatting - on private property illegal.
Squatting was not always a crime and it still isn't illegal in many other
places. In England, for example, the tory government tried to criminalize
squatting in 1974. A very visible and effective campaign by squatters,
workers, trade unions and civil liberties groups led to these plans to be
shelved. More recently, the English government tried to outlaw squatting
through the infamous Criminal Justice Bill. But even now, after the
passage of the bill, squatting is still not a criminal offence. Until
recently, squatting was still only a civil offence in Victoria - giving
squatters there a greater degree of security than in states such as NSW.
Squatting is not a crime in and of itself. It is made criminal by
particular governments for particular reasons - usually in a spurious and
spectacular attempt to maintain 'law and order'.
squatting today -
Today, squatting in NSW is covered by the Inclosed Lands Protection Act
(NSW). Under that law it is illegal to either :
1. enter upon inclosed lands without consent from the owner or
representative of the owner2.
3. remain upon inclosed lands after being requested to leave by the owner
or the agent4.
If there is no evidence that you actually entered without 'lawful excuse'
or 'consent' - i.e., a witness' account, surveillance camera footage,
crowbars and broken locks lying around - then you cannot be charged under
the 'entering' provision. It's important to not admit to entering without
consent. If asked, say something like the door was open when you - or
some imaginary third person who used to live there - walked in and decided
to secure the place and stay.
This means that once you are inside and have secured your place then you
cannot be evicted until the owner, or the owner's representative or agent
[eg, security guard, hired henchperson etc] actually asks you to leave.
When this happens, don't simply let them in - talk to them through the
door if possible. Demand to see their ID and some authorization that they
are acting on behalf of the owner. Police and neighbours cannot just ask
(or try and force) you to leave without prior direction from the owner.
So knowing who the owner is and what they plan to do with the place is
important because it will help you see through the lies that potential
evictors are likely to tell you - i.e., that they are the owners and they
need you out because they need to start construction of a fun park or
something. Also, you may be able to bluff them into thinking that you
have made a mutual agreement with the owner regarding your living there.
When demanding to see their ID, do not reveal who the owner actually is
and don't say who you are unless they specifically ask - this will only
make it easier for wannabe evictors to get you out. If they do not or
cannot prove that they are authorized to act, then tell them that they are
not legally empowered to ask you to leave and ask them to go away. Be
careful but be assertive, and don't be intimidated into leaving when you
don't have to.
If they are authorized and they ask you to leave then try and negotiate
for some time or try talking them into letting you stay. Sometimes they
may go away and not bother you for months. Other times they may come back
with some police when you are even less prepared. Either way it will give
you some time to work out want you want to do - open up another squat,
move your stuff out, organize an eviction party/protest/media event,
fortify the place etc. If they are authorized to act and they ask you to
leave and you refuse, then you could be arrested for trespass under the
Inclosed Lands Protection Act. However, this rarely happens. Arrests of
squatters are very uncommon. Most owners will just want you off the
property and are not interested in pressing charges.
If you are arrested then you need only tell the police your name and
address. You will be taken to the police station, your name and
fingerprints will be taken, and you will probably be released quite
quickly. You do not have to go to the police station unless you are
arrested. Don't tell the police anything more than you have to (i.e.,
name and address of your squat). You do not have to answer any questions
at all, either before arrest or during interrogation. You must be
informed of your right to remain silent during interrogation. DO NOT SAY
ANYTHING !! Once you speak you cannot go back to being silent - it could
go against you in court. Nothing can go against you in court for
remaining silent to EVERY question. But give your name and the address of
your squat for bail. You must be entitled to a phone call. Use this
chance to call someone for help and legal assistance.
You should be allowed bail if the police are fairly certain as to your
identity. However, if you don't have ID then this could be difficult and
you will have to verify it some other way. The police may hold you if
they think that you will re-offend (re-squat) which may be likely for
squatters who cannot prove alternative means of accommodation. If this
happens, you may have to tell them that you will be staying at a friend's
house. If you are not bailed you must be brought before a magistrate
within a 'reasonable' time. The magistrate will either bail you, remand
you (only in exceptional circumstances) or hear the charge.
squatters' rights -
If you talk about squatting, people will often mention 'squatters rights'.
What they are usually referring to is the doctrine of 'adverse possession'
- an old English common law (i.e., judge-made not parliament-made) rule
that allows squatters to get legal title (i.e., own) the property they
occupy if the owner shows absolutely no interest in it for a certain
period of time. However, the length of time required is so long (12-18
years), and the conditions are so strict, that you may as well forget
about 'squatters' rights' giving you any legal protection.
There are no 'legal rights' for squatters. There are, however, certain
steps the owner, owners representative or police have to follow if they
are to evict you. And there are plenty of extra-legal things that you can
do to postpone eviction or stay there indefinitely [see section on
'important extra-legal stuff'].
legal help -
If you are squatting it is a good idea to get in touch some community
legal centres/tenancy services, or at least have their phone numbers
handy. Though they are generally underfunded and overworked they should
be able to give you some legal advice/information if you need it. Try and
find someone with some knowledge of the law who is prepared to help in the
time of eviction - they may prove valuable in negotiating with the
Better still, be your own lawyer. The Activists Rights Handbook -
published by Redfern Legal Centre Publishing - is a good source of
information on police powers, what to do if arrested etc. Find yourself a
copy, familiarize yourself with its contents and have it handy in times of
owner/police negotiation or confrontation. Get a copy of the Inclosed
Lands Protection Act and familiarize yourself with the relevant bits -
quoting section 4 may be enough to get an unauthorized wannabe evictor to
back off for a while. You can find legislation in the NSW state library
or in most university libraries. Or if you can access the internet, you
can find all current Australian laws at the Australasian Legal Information
Institute site : <http://www.austlii.edu.au/>http://www.austlii.edu.au.
The Law Handbook - published by RLC Publishing - is available in most
libraries and is a good source of information on legal rights. The
Tenants Rights Manual - edited by Philipa Bellmore and published by RLC
Publishing - also has a small section on squatting. This information is
of limited use and merely highlights the disadvantages of squatting as
compared to renting.
Be confident and learn what little 'rights' you have as a squatter.
Knowing where you stand legally will help you act effectively at eviction
important extra-legal stuff
Just because the law doesn't offer much help - by granting squatters any
kind of legal rights - doesn't mean that there is nothing that can be done
to avoid or delay eviction.
If a day has been set for eviction then barricading yourself in and
refusing to leave is a tactic that you can adopt. Physical resistance is
a common practice in many squats overseas - which have large and defiant
squatting movements - and has been used there to effectively stall
eviction for some time. In Australia, you will usually get thrown out
even after trying to resist. Physical resistance will generally attract a
lot of attention - which can be a good thing - and give you a chance to
voice your opinion in the media. It can also be a good way of releasing
some frustration and anger. It will piss off the police - which can be
fun but dangerous. Be aware that the NSW special police group and other
specially trained paramilitary thugs have been used to empty otherwise
empty houses from squatters who physically resist. Waiting for eviction
in these cases can be stressful, so be organized and prepared. Have a
collection of things - including water bombs, flour bombs, rotten food etc
- ready to throw at the evictors. Also, have a supply of food and water
stored (in case you succeed) and an escape route planned so you don't get
Good luck if you try but be well aware of the risks - ie, almost certain
media - print/television/radio
One of the most important tools in avoiding or resisting eviction is the
media. We are living in a televisual culture - a society of the
spectacle. Governments respond to 'public issues' measured through
opinion polls and ratings and the voting/television-watching public give
them/help them create the 'opinions' they need. Private companies have
public images that can either make them or cost them money, depending on
how they used and abused. You can organize events/stunts to get exposure
(and public support) for your squat and to highlight the nasty plans that
the government or private owner has for it. Discretion and invisibility
can be the most useful tactics of successful squatting. At the
appropriate time, however, it's well worth making it all very visible.
Tactical and well-timed use of the media can go a long way toward
prolonging your stay in your squat come eviction time.
It's worth having a camera ready to go in your squat at all times.
Whenever there is any heated dialogue/confrontation with the owners or
police, having a camera - and the threat of exposure that it carries -
handy can go some way toward defusing a potentially violent situation. A
tape recorder can also be useful in this respect. In particular, pictures
of angry and violent police can go down well in the visual media. Sound
recordings may work well on radio.
Squatters are usually represented in Australia as drug-addicted bludgers
that make life difficult for everyone in the area except themselves.
There are, however, a whole range of different images that you can
generate instead [and remember that unless you try to represent yourself
differently the media can easily represent you as the drug-addicted
good-for-nothing squatter] Some of the most successful squats in Sydney
- such as the Pyrmont squats of 1978-1993, and the Glebe Estate squats of
1984-1985 - were able to generate popular and political support through
using the media effectively. In so doing, they were able to defer the
threat of eviction for some time. At the same time, however, other squats
Making contact with journalists/reporters/freelancers in both the
mainstream (SMH, Daily Telegraph) and alternative (City Hub) press can be
a good idea. Let them know that you are squatting and ask if they would
be interested in doing a story or covering the eviction. Be careful that
you do it in such a way that the location of your squat is not disclosed.
Have their numbers handy so that you can call them when you need them.
Also, try and get the phone and fax numbers of some television
reporters/stations and radio journalists/stations. A sympathetic radio or
television story can go a long way. And the threat of media exposure can
work to your advantage against an owner desperate to avoid tarnishing
their public profile [insert image of owner's hired thugs trying to break
in to your squat].
Press releases are an important first step in generating media interest.
To learn how to write a good press release, check out the public relations
lts.com/PR/pressrelease.html. This PR site also provides you with a
sample release, a template to use for your own release, and good ideas on
how to best distribute your press release once you have written it.
Contact activists/organizations that have used the media effectively. See
if you can get media contacts and tips from them.
Getting in touch with sympathetic politicians may or may not be useful as
well. Whilst they will ultimately try to use the exposure you generate
for their own political ends, they generally do have a good media network
of journalists and reporters in place that you may be able to use to get
your messages/images across.
The internet can be one of the most useful tools in generating support for
your squat. Most public and university libraries have some kind of free
internet access that you can use. Often the university libraries will
want student ID, so try and work out the where the best - and most
hassle-free - places to go are.
Make yourself an email address on one of the scores of 'free' web- based
email sites and get in touch with other squatters by contacting the sydney
housing action collective! - their email address is
<mailto:shac [at] kiitymail [dot] com>shac [at] kiitymail [dot] com. You can use the links on
the SHAC web site to contact squatters/activists groups across australia
and overseas for solidarity and support. In sydney, c@talyst
(at <http://www.cat.org.au/>http://www.cat.org.au) hosts a wide range of
activist web sites and groups that may be worth contacting for support.
If you can get access to the internet, and have a little bit of time, then
making your own web site can be a good way of getting some exposure,
sharing information with people, and generating support for your squat.
There are plenty of web site building guides available on the internet.
Try going to
http://www.hunterlink.net.au/~ddsbh/media.html and clicking on the Octapod Internet Guide. This is an
excellent source for DIY web site construction and other handy electronic
Be aware, however, that police intelligence units routinely monitor email
communications with known activist groups/organizations for 'security' and
'counter-terrorist' surveillance purposes. But don't let that stop you
from using the internet as a communicative tool. Just make sure you give
false name and details when signing up for any free web-based email