When politicians and property developers threaten to knock down Sydney's Waterloo and force public housing battlers to the edges of the city, the locals fight back: their war cry an ambitious artwork, the making of which will both unite and divide.
As city housing increasingly becomes a battleground between rich and poor around the world, in Waterloo, Sydney, 5000 residents face losing their homes in the name of ‘rejuvenation', colonisation by developers and their home ownership obsessed clients. Residents use Art as their weapon to fight back. Their ambitious project to light up their massive apartment blocks forces them to knock on 500 doors inside the iconic and much misunderstood high rise community, taking us inside the fascinating lives of those who live within them. #WeLiveHere2017 follows the all but impossible journey to illuminate the apartment blocks from within and the wider battle for Waterloo. The glowing towers unite - and divide - a community at risk of being extinguished forever.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Philanthropists who may be concerned with ensuring Sydney and other cities continue to be liveable for all people should be interested in We Live Here. The project is a powerful expression of what is possible when a community comes together. The lighting project itself was conceived as a point of connection between private and public residents of Waterloo, to work together in a meaningful way and build long-lasting connections. We Live Here fosters tolerance, compassion and collaboration between diverse sections of the community, making it stronger and more vibrant as a whole. Waterloo and Redfern have a strong community foundation, but there are social problems that can create divisions across the neighbourhood. We Live Here is already energising the tenants involved, acting as a catalyst for engagement with socially isolated people and intergenerational collaboration. We hope that the documentary can help a broad audience understand the importance of public housing and diverse communities. There are many reasons that someone may find themselves needing a home, and with this film, we hope to continue the current debate around the right to a home. There is a global push of the urban poor to the fringes of our cities through gentrification and rising land value. This film explores the most human dimension of the debate, the people who occupy one of the largest inner city public housing precincts in Australia, and the colossal redevelopment plan they face. Philanthropic bodies can be part of raising much needed awareness of the human impact and ethical tensions of urban renewal initiatives, and the creative possibilities that urban resistance can produce in the face of adversity. This project promotes the understanding that strong communities are ethnically, culturally and socially diverse and that diversity needs to be supported through compassionate government policy. These communities produce a huge range of artistic practitioners, creative thinkers and dedicated volunteer workers, and we need to protect these vibrant communities for a more equitable and sustainable society both now and in the future.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
We hope to reach a very broad audience in order to bring the debate on public housing to the fore. We will measure this by the level of debate we are able to generate both in traditional media forums (television, radio, print media) as well as through the various social media platforms we are running. We hope to grow our significant social media following to more than 3,000 Facebook followers with 1000+ actively engaged users and hope that #WeLiveHere2017 is used often in the lead up to the lighting project as well as the documentary release on other platforms such as twitter and instagram.
We want to ensure that any rebuild that happens in the area is done with proper community consultation. This also means ensuring that the proper community services (many of which may be depleted) continue in the area. #WeLiveHere2017 representatives will be at all community meetings and watching this process carefully, ensuring that the public housing community is listened to as the Government have promised. We will utilise our media platforms to reach out the broader community and keep everyone abreast of the latest plans and proposals from the Government and hold them accountable for the promises made.
We want to ensure that the community of Waterloo remains intact throughout the redevelopment of the area and that the people who live here can withstand the upheaval of redevelopment with minimal impact. Ensuring that the numbers of people who are being “moved out” are kept to a minimum, and ensuring that they are able to move back to the community, as promised, if this is what they want. This will be difficult to measure, but even if this is happening after the documentary is complete, we will be able to keep people updated on these developments through our social media network.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
We plan on developing an educational resource that explores through the spectre of Waterloo, the ethics of urban renewal projects, the right to a home, and the impact of policies that determine housing affordability and housing for vulnerable groups in society. Research shows these disruptions to communities produce a myriad of forms of urban resistance and protest, and this project of illuminating two highrises from inside in colours representing feelings, is a poetic approach to issues around social housing and government policy.
The various Action group approaches would provide fascinating examples of grass-roots activism and urban resistance that would be suitable to courses in Urban Studies and policy making. We would hope that the #WeLiveHere2017 film would activate discussions on the social impacts of dislocating people from their community, and perhaps shift the rationalised economic argument that the government so often lead with in relation to urban renewal. We intend for the film as an articulation of a widespread 'community action' might influence policies that increase affordable housing requirements for property developers, along with shifting problematic perceptions of the people who live in public housing accommodation.
We plan on staging debates around the social purpose of architecture, reaching out to architecture and design audiences to critically consider the architecture of the site before its demolition. The situation at Waterloo is mirrored globally as the precincts of the post-war public housing boom seem to be collectively reaching a preservation versus demolition juncture. Aside from promoting the film to social sciences, political studies and architectural courses, we would also more broadly like the issues around housing and the right to a home to be proposed to the volunteer teachers of ethics in schools across Australia.