The Great Australian Right

Monash University Publishing
Kevin Bell
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Almost everyone in Australia is feeling the impact of the national housing crisis, which is traumatising individuals, families and communities. In the reconstruction period following World War II, governments ensured that access to adequate and affordable housing was virtually universal. But now, many young people and families are finding it almost impossible to buy, or even rent, a home. During the COVID years, government action took the homeless off the streets, yet homelessness is now at a record high. The fact that significant numbers of women are currently living in their cars is just one tragic example of the depths to which the entire system has sunk. We seem to be trapped in a vortex of minimal government ambition, stale non-strategic thinking and maximum profits.

Housing: the Great Australian Right argues that governments have the capacity and the power to resolve this national plight. The first step is for Australia to rethink its approach to housing policy and recognise access to housing — having a home — as a fundamental human right.

The current crisis can be traced back to when growing the property market and treating housing as an investment became the dominant considerations, with the welfare of people relegated to a distant second. This order must now be reversed, beginning with making the human right to housing the central focus of the system. This will require profound changes to government policy, administration and legislation, to be fuelled by reimagining ‘the great Australian dream’ of housing as ‘the great Australian right’ to housing.

Contributor Bio

The Hon. Kevin Bell AM KC is a baby boomer who grew up in social housing in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin — fittingly, in the language of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung, ‘Moorabbin’ means ‘resting place’ or ‘mother’s milk’. He graduated in Arts and Law from Monash University and worked at the Tenants Union of Victoria before practising as a barrister for twenty years, including in Victorian housing and residential tenancies law. As a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria for fifteen years, he wrote many influential judgments on human rights, including the right to housing and home. As a professor in the Faculty of Law at Monash University and director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, he similarly focused on housing, homelessness and human rights. He also served as a commissioner of the Yoorrook Justice Commission and has a masters in international human rights law from Oxford University. He is presently an adjunct professor at Monash and the patron of Tenants Victoria.

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