Police and City of Perth Rangers have raided the homeless-friendly precinct at Matagarup, or Herisson Island, for a third time this week, forcibly taking the resident’s’ possessions and imposing fines on homeless families and indigenous activists. The site is also home to the Matagarup refugee camp for Swan River Peoples and is an important centre of homeless and indigenous support and advocacy.
The first of the series of raids began on Tuesday, with another two raids taking place each following morning. Activists were told on Tuesday that WA police were instructed to continue raiding the island until families no longer had the equipment to stay. Activists as well as suicide prevention researchers have stated that the City of Perth is attempting to evict residents in a manner that would cause trauma and would lead to as many as 140 people sleeping on streets in the wider Perth CBD.
Personal belongings began to be seized on Tuesday with rangers taking tents, camping equipment, stoves, blankets, children’s toys and pillows from the homeless residents and imposing $60 fees for their return. Other fines and move-on notices were handed out in subsequent raids with one family being fined $500 for their immobilised car. In addition to the residents, media outlets were also fined while reporting, although these were later retracted.
The camp has been a centre for Indigenous activism and homeless support for many years, with large protests against a failed native title offer taking place on the island in 2012. More recently, Matagarup has been the target of raids, with the euphemistic objective of “decamping” the island, as well as comments by Premier Colin Barnett in March that the camp was an “eyesore.” Families have continued to return to the camp as it is the only centre of homeless advocacy in the CBD and one of the few safe places for families in need of relative security. No efforts were made to provide alternative shelter for families following the raids.
With no alternative, homeless people are continuing to stay at the island, although now without adequate shelter and little food. Perth residents have begun to ferry supplies and tents to the island in defiance of the raids and legal efforts at property reclamation have begun.
The Matagarup Swan River Peoples Refugee Camp has stated that anyone wishing to help homeless advocates continue to provide support should get supplies to Herisson Island. The Camp is in need of equipment like tents, blankets, pillows, doonas, camping stoves, pots and kettles. They are also in need of food like tea, coffee, UHT milk, sugar, biscuits, fresh bread, fruit, vegetables (ie. potato, pumpkin, onions), rice, stock, tinned food (ring-pull only), baked beans, spaghetti, tuna and soup.
Words by Hayden Dalziel