PERTH city council rangers have again descended on Matagarup/Heirisson Island, a police escort in tow, to issue fines.
The raid has been described as “revenge” for campers taking legal action against the council over damage and disappearance of confiscated goods.
What started as a protest camp last year has more recently become a sanctuary for homeless people, who say they feel safer on the island than on city streets.
Rangers visited Tuesday afternoon—the first time they’d taken police since August last year when they confiscated camping gear in an effort to uproot “illegal camping”.
One homeless family was issued a $500 fine over its broken down van.
WA Labor senator Sue Lines is calling on the council to cancel the fine.
“The City of Perth has fined a homeless family of seven people (two adults and five very young children) sheltering on Matagarup (Heirisson Island) $500 because their van, the family’s only asset, is broken down and immovable parked at the island,” Senator Lines posted online.
“I will write to the City of Perth requesting that the fine be withdrawn. A family who is homeless has no ability to pay a fine.”
The PCC’s well-paid media unit is maintaining its long-standing policy of silence on controversial issues: senior media officer Michael Holland is now failing to even acknowledge queries (he has not communicated with the Perth Voice in over two months).
Nyoongar man Clinton Pryor has been helping homeless people on the island and headed down when he heard police and rangers were there.
“It’s revenge tactics,” he says of Tuesday’s raid, “because we’re taking them to court for compensation for the raids from last year.”
The council held onto confiscated goods long after the legal seven-day limit, and now owners have finally been allowed to inspect their impounded goods they’ve discovered much of it is either missing or mouldy. Several are taking the council to court for compensation.
Mr Pryor first got involved a little over a year ago.
“I was sitting at home and I’d seen about the forced closures of communities, and I thought something needed to be done.”
He went down to the Matagarup First Nations Refugee Camp, set up by Bella Bropho and fellow activists to protest the closures. Since then it’s become a refuge for homeless people.
“After that day, I felt better,” Mr Pryor says.
“I started fighting for the communities and homeless people. It’s changed my life, it’s changed how I think.”
He says people on the island won’t be scared off by the council’s tactics: “The people are going to stick around. We told them not to give up. They were frightened but we told them to stick their ground.”
He’s organising a free Matagarup Family Day and Concert this Saturday, April 2, to raise awareness about community closures and homelessness, with a corroboree, bands, food vans and kids stuff. It’s on 10am to 7pm.
by DAVID BELL