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Single mother and friend living camping on owned land risk eviction

Written by on May 17, 2024

Two friends who have been forced to camp on their own property amid Australia’s mounting housing crisis are now facing eviction after a local council stepped in.

In 2020, Nathaniel Muller purchased a two-and-a-half-acre parcel of land near Castlemaine in central Victoria, initially intending to use it for camping.

However, as rental costs across the state became too unaffordable, he began living on the property with his friend Beck Myers and her two young children.

But Mount Alexander Shire Council is planning to evict them, citing “serious” constraints that make the site unsuitable for habitation. Council workers are scheduled to visit on Friday to ensure compliance with the council’s directives.

Ms Myers criticised the council for lacking compassion during a time when more and more Aussies are resorting to off-grid lifestyles to combat the gargantuan cost of living increases seen around the nation.

“There has been so much press about how the council is becoming so much more compassionate about people’s living situations and the affordability of rent, so I feel surprised and dismayed at just how un-compassionate they are,” she told the Midland Express.

“Given the housing crisis, it feels a bit ludicrous to me.

“We’ve got everything here, we’re not causing harm, we’re complying with our waste system, and we could just be adding to the burden and the strain that’s on society to find housing for everyone.”

Michael Annear, Mount Alexander Shire Council’s director of infrastructure and development, explained that the council had communicated with the pair several times over the years.

He claimed that the block is unsuitable for living due to a wide range of reasons, including bushfire risk, cultural sensitivities, environmental impact, and its location in a farming zone.

“Unfortunately, it’s got to a point where we’ve had to ask them to look at moving out this week,” Mr Annear told the ABC.

“We will be talking to them … and we’ll go to that with compassion. We will talk to them and listen to their situation.”

Ms Myers is now been forced to look for a similar location to move to.

“Somewhere bushy in someone’s big backyard or property is ideal,” she said.

“We are also open to a short-term rental, but I can’t keep up with current rental prices, so it would have to be $190 max per week.”

‘The status quo is unsustainable’

Homelessness advocates around the country are continuing to face immense strain on resources after battling one of the toughest periods on record, with many being forced to turn people away due to a lack of resources.

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of those surveyed said the housing problem had worsened in the last year.

A recent report by Finder showed Australian households are under “extreme” cost-of-living pressure with two in five people struggling to pay to have a roof over their head.

The reading “is a good indication of how under the pump Aussie households are feeling”, and despite a slight decline from the May 2023 peak of 85 per cent, “current levels remain considerably higher than most of 2020 and 2021”, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Homelessness Australia chief executive Kate Colvin says providers were worried about potential cuts to the sector as the federal government crafts its latest National Housing and Homelessness Plan.

“Homelessness providers are expected to work miracles, but the strain is simply unrelenting,” Ms Colvin said.

“Funding, which is already uncertain, is plateauing while demand surges.

“The status quo is just unsustainable.”

Ms Colvin said homelessness providers are already being forced to make extremely difficult choices as the deadline looms.

“If they’re approached by a mother and child fleeing violence and a teenager escaping abuse they need to decide whose predicament is worse,” she said.

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“Often, if someone has a car they can sleep in then they won’t get accommodation.

“People working in our sector are confronted by trauma and are taking that home with them.

“They deserve support and certainty.”