Melbourne

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has condemned the federal Coalition government for allowing multinational company Serco to operate a Centrelink call centre, saying the move will put thousands of vulnerable people at risk.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has announced Serco subsidiary Serco Citizen Services will begin operating a Centrelink call centre in Melbourne within weeks, with 250 full-time equivalent staff.

Changes to Victoria’s rental laws have been described by campaign group Make Renting Fair as “a significant step in the right direction”. However, spokesperson Mark O’Brien said more changes are needed because the state still “lacks adequate safeguards against eviction”.

More than 50 community services, local governments and others have been working for nearly a year, under the Make Renting Fair banner, to push the government to change the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

The Victorian Labor government plans to sell off inner city public land, which currently houses more than 2000 public housing tenants, to property developers. Under the misnamed Public Housing Renewal Plan, the government will give property developers access to land that is currently used for public housing.

This plan involves the forced removal of tenants and the demolition of nine or more public housing estates across Melbourne. Many residents have lived on the estates for many years and do not want to leave.

Consistent work by residents of Melbourne's northern suburb of Fawkner has resulted in a unanimous decision by Moreland Council to reject a development application on a site heavily contaminated with dioxin.

Dioxin is a byproduct of Agent Orange and is one of the world’s deadliest chemicals.

Moreland Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, who has been supporting residents in their campaign, told Green Left Weekly that without the community campaign such a decision would not have been possible.

"The result was a real example of people power,” she said.

About a dozen neo-Nazis stormed the Moreland Council meeting on September 27 following the council's decision at their last meeting not to celebrate Australia Day on January 26.

Councillor Sue Bolton, a member of Socialist Alliance, told Green Left Weekly she "didn't feel threatened" by the protesters, who "looked like buffoons", but that their actions indicate how provocative and confident they have become.

Deakin University researcher Ronan Lee believes Australia’s links with the Burmese military must stop in light of its recent campaign of violence against the Rohingya.

Lee, whose research focus is Burma, made these comments at a Darebin Ethnic Communities Council forum on Burma the Rohingya refugee crisis held on September 16.

Lee gave some historical background, noting there is evidence that the Rohingya have lived in what is now Burma’s Rakhine state for hundreds of years.

Staff at the Berkeley Living retirement village in Patterson Lakes, Victoria, walked off the job on September 15 after months of not being paid. Some staff returned the next day to look after residents on a voluntary basis.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is also investigating reports that the village operators owe money to former residents.

The daughter of a former resident backed up claims that staff had not been paid properly, but said they were providing the best care they were able to. “They are feeding the patients out of their own pockets,” she told ABC News.

Moreland City Council took a big step forward on September 13 when it voted to drop all references to January 26 as Australia Day out of respect for Aboriginal people. But it stopped short of cancelling its official Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

The National Union of Workers (NUW) joined with Melbourne’s Rohingya community on September 7 to protest the genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar. The NUW has formed a strong bond with the Rohingya community through its work organising Rohingya and other heavily exploited migrant farm workers to win better wages and working conditions.

Many members of the Rohingya community in Melbourne have family members who have been killed in the current genocidal attacks on Rohingya in Myanmar.

"Northern Syria’s Feminist Revolution" is the title of a one-day seminar to be held at Victoria University on November 4.

It is being jointly organised by the Kurdish Democratic Community Centre of Victoria, the Kurdish Women’s League of Victoria and the Australians for Kurdistan solidarity group. It is also sponsored by Victoria University’s Community, Identity and Displacement Research Network.

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