Protest at Picnic Point during the auction of 37 homes from a Aboriginal housing company. February 2019
Protest at Picnic Point during the auction of 37 homes from a Aboriginal housing company. February 2019 Bev Lacey

Hundred protest auction of 37 aboriginal housing homes

ABOUT 100 protesters from Toowoomba and Brisbane ascended on the Picnic Point café on Saturday morning to protest the sale of 37 aboriginal housing homes.

Tensions were strong as buyers entered the auction to chants of "shame" and "always was, always will be Aboriginal land" from the crowd of protesters.

Kevina Suey was forced out of her Downs Housing Company home several years ago after she raised concerns about the company. She has been one of the leading voices behind the current protest.

"It just makes you sick, nobody is helping us," she said.

"I've been fighting this fight since 2015 and this is the first time we're getting heard.

"Government needs to stand up and stop blaming each other and help us. Take the lead on it. We're stressed and we're strained."

Ms Suey said the State Government should have acquired the homes and not let them go to auction.

"Help aboriginal people, first nations people, we own this country," she said.

"Why are we pushed to the side all the time. We're sick of it."

Inside the tightly-secured function centre, about 300 people gathered to bid on the homes.

The chants of the protesters outside could be heard from within as the homes went under the hammer.

One home sold for $315,000 while another sold for $230,000.

The auction, run by Success Realty, is expected to continue throughout the day.

Brisbane City Greens Councillor Jonathan Sri said he had a message for those buying the homes.

"Keep your tenants and don't put the rent up," he said.

 "Some have lived here for 30 to 40 years. I hope people can imagine what it's like to live in the one home for 40 years and then suddenly told you have to move out.

"A lot are struggling to pay bills, and if their rent goes up they'll become homeless. We don't want these people to end up on the street."

Mr Sri said the protesters had chosen not to burst into the auction room and instead make themselves heard from outside.

"It would have been very easy for the protesters to burst into the auction room and disrupt it, but they've made a deliberate decision not to break any laws and they've just been peacefully protesting outside the building," he said. 

Maiwar MP Michael Berkman, who is also a member of The Greens, has sponsored a petition against the sale of the homes and also attended the protest.

"With the sale of 37 houses today we have to view that through the lenses of the ongoing disadvantage, dispossession and inherent racism of our system, a colonial system, and the impact that is having on aboriginal people to this day," he said.

"Great to see the amount of support there is in the community for these people facing eviction from their properties.

"It's a strong turnout (at the protest) and it shows just how upset people are with what's happening with the dodgy dealings behind the scenes."

The houses were previously owned by a not-for-profit company called Downs Aborigines and Islanders Company Ltd, established in 1983.

According to public documents, the new entity was created in 2016 and all the properties were transferred over.

The sole shareholder of that Downs Housing Company is Brisbane man Geoffrey John Hirning.

New mortgages with several investors were established the following year.

Investors called a mortgagee auction in December in a bid to get their money back.

Thirty two of the 37 homes are currently tenanted, with the homes spread across Newtown, Centenary Heights, Wilsonton Heights, Harristown, Mount Lofty, South Toowoomba, North Toowoomba, Kearneys Spring, Wilsonton, Harlaxton, Rockville, Glenvale, Toowoomba City.



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