The Merlynston Progress Hall was full of people from all walks of life showing support for Socialist Alliance’s (SA) state election campaign on October 2.
It was a great start to the campaign, with volunteers exchanging ideas about how best to build support for the grassroots, activist party.
Volunteers signed up for door knocking, letterboxing and street stalls. SA is standing in four seats for the November 26 election.
Sarah Hathway, Socialist Alliance candidate for Lara, described life in the disadvantaged suburbs of Norlane and Corio where “unemployment is at 15.7%, education levels are low and poor incomes all lead to lower life expectancies.
“The area has been dubbed a ‘food desert’ with limited supermarkets to buy fresh food,” Hathway said. But locals have come up with initiatives such as “urban farming, weekly community meals and a pantry filled by a network of local urban farms”. As a result, there is a “real sense of community”.
Sarah Hussain, a Fawkner community leader and activist in the Merri Food Hub Fawkner Marketplace told the launch she was supporting SA because “we’ll be able to build a community where we care for each other’s needs”.
“SA calls for economic inclusion, not just a celebration of cultural differences,” Hussain, a migrant from the Middle East said.
Kisanet, from the Eritrean community, reminded the room about the government’s abrupt lockdown of Flemington and North Melbourne residents during the pandemic “without proper access to food, nappies and medication”.
She said SA’s support for the community and “against racism during the COVID-19 housing commission lockdowns” was one of the reasons behind her endorsement.
Monica Harte, a councillor in the City of Merri-bek, said she supports the party running in Pascoe Vale, Broadmeadows, Lara and Geelong because of its “analysis and commitment”.
Arie Huybregts, SA candidate for the seat of Broadmeadows, said: “We’re standing because there should be people in parliament who actually care.”
The party’s campaign slogan, “For community need, not corporate greed”, spells out its approach. “The only way to really stop corporate greed from controlling and destroying the world is for ordinary people to unite and build community campaigns and create a powerful movement for social change.”
Long-time SA City of Merri-bek councillor Sue Bolton, who is running in the seat of Pascoe Vale, said SA was committed to working for “real treaties for the First Nations, real solutions to the housing and cost-of-living crises and a right to industrial action.”
“The housing crisis isn’t an accident: years ago, the government privatised public housing and developers manipulate the market with land banking.”
SA is campaigning for 100,000 public dwellings to be constructed over five years. “Privatisations and public private partnerships are way of shifting wealth from the poor to the rich,” Bolton said.
Bolton continued: “It’s important to elect socialists who fight for people’s needs. But that isn’t all they should do. A socialist in parliament needs to actively build the movements for social change and economic justice.”
SA member and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union activist Mick Bull spoke about SA’s “deep reach in this area”.
It is unique, he said, describing SA’s work over the years with the Kurdish, Eritrean, Sudanese, Nepali and Kashmiri communities. Other parties do not have this connection, he said.
The campaign to refurbish the dilapidated Merlynston Progress Hall in 2017, originally built in the 1920s, is one of the community campaigns SA helped support.
“This very hall would not be here if not for the hard work of committed activists like Sue Bolton,” one supporter told Green Left. “We fought together to keep this hall in community hands and we won. We need to take this approach to parliament.”
[For more information and to get involved in the campaign visit the website.]