A one month occupation has ended, but community commitment to resist the building of a McDonald's restaurant in Tecoma remains strong.
Residents of the town in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges have fought against McDonald's for several years, but activity has intensified after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) approved the outlet against the wishes of locals and council.
Locals responded to the news of the VCAT decision in true Hills style. A few days after the decision, 600 residents and supporters turned out to the site and planted a garden that became the epicenter not only of resistance to the proposed McDonald's, but also a gathering place for the community.
During the day many came to tend or expand the garden or have a cup of tea or coffee. In the evenings, musicians would sit around the fire at the centre of the garden to lead a sing-along.
Weekly community meetings and various training groups were held at the site. Garden caretaker Janine Watson and other supporters watched over the space each night, camping there to ensure it remained safe.
After two weeks, the group decided to shut the gates and leave the site unattended overnight. At 3am on October 28, the fire authority was called to a fire at the garden, lit by unknown arsonists, destroying some of the facilities that had been set up for the site.
The arson attack served to prove the strength of the community. By 10am the next morning, the site had been re-established and improved. A new patio tent was bought along with much better sleeping arrangements than those destroyed. The strength of a self-organising community showed through.
The garden from the outset has shown the power of decentralised, self-organising. Its creation came out of a late night discussion and a Facebook event. Without any formal organising committee, truck loads of mulch and dirt arrived along with various other supplies.
Other events around the garden have similarly been organised through Facebook.
Early on November 9, police moved in and removed the camp, evicting the one person that was on site at the time and locked the fence, restricting access.
The campaign is ongoing and has not lost energy as a result of the eviction.
[For up to date information on the campaign, visit: burgeroff.org.]