Mudcat Café message #3869762 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #113225   Message #3869762
Posted By: Helen
03-Aug-17 - 05:54 PM
Thread Name: Oz Rent Strike Song from 30's
Subject: RE: Oz Rent Strike Song from 30's
Hi all,

Just to complicate the story even more, in the Great Depression there was a rent eviction riot in Union St, Tighes Hill, which is a suburb of Newcastle NSW.

Unfinished business: The story of the Tenants' Union of NSW 1976-1996

Depression evictions

During the Great Depression of 1929-33 families of unemployed workers were evicted for not being able to pay their rent, and this led to a great deal of tension and militant action. The Anti-Eviction Campaign of 1930-31 was organised by the Unemployed Workers Movement in Sydney, and their tactics included occupations and, as a last resort, sieges. We know there were major confrontations with police in Bankstown and Newtown in Sydney, and at Tighes Hill in Newcastle. These became known as the 'eviction riots'. (9) In Newtown a large crowd watched as a group tried to stop an eviction. The following report appeared in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 20 June 1931:

"The most sensational eviction battle Sydney has ever known was fought between forty policemen and eighteen communists at 143 Union Street, Newtown, yesterday morning. All the defenders were injured, some seriously, and at least fifteen of the police were treated by ambulance officials. Only one man was hit by bullets fired at the walls of the house by police, and it is not known how the injury was inflicted. Probably the wounded man was struck by a bullet which had been deflected in its Unfinished business: The story of the Tenants' Union of NSW 1976-1996 7 Early tenant struggles path. Entrenched behind barbed wire and sandbags, the defenders rained stones weighing several pounds from the top floor of the building onto the heads of the attacking police, who were attempting to execute an eviction order."

In Cessnock, a Hunter Valley mining town with strong union influence, unions declared houses 'black' where evictions had occurred. No one would rent them and they were left to rot. Jack Lang was the NSW Labor Premier of the day and he passed laws to postpone evictions where there was hardship. These laws didn't really improve things for tenants but the Anti-Eviction Campaign lost its momentum.

Until about 10 years ago there was a street art mural on the side of a building in Union St, Tighes Hill commemorating the event.

Also Rothbury is in the Hunter Valley, and is now the name of a winery. (Nice wines, too.) I went to an event commemorating the Rothbury Riot, maybe back in the 70's or early 80's.

My thought is that it might not have been sheer coincidence that the events took place in streets called Union St. The workers' unions probably had a lot to do with the riots.