SYDNEY — Sam Charan and his family are leading a fight to save their home and two others on Webb Street in Riverwood, a working-class district in this city’s southwest, from being demolished to make way for a commuter parking garage.
Placards outside the three houses say “Save our family homes” and encourage people to sign an online petition against the car park. Before the Sydney-wide pandemic lockdown was enforced at the end of June, Charan distributed flyers in the neighborhood to win support.
The petition, signed by 1,596 people, was presented to the New South Wales state government July 24. It called on the government to prevent the compulsory acquisition of the properties and allow time for community consultation to reconsider the location of the car park.
The first the Charan family knew of the car-park proposal was an early morning “loud banging” on their door Feb. 16. They were handed documents giving 90 days’ notice of compulsory sale of their house.
Sam and his wife Monika are Fijian Indians who fled Fiji following the 1987 military coup. Now in their 70s, they have lived in their house for 28 years.
“We will not budge,” Sam Charan told the Militant when Robert Aiken, Communist League candidate for Georges River Council, and his supporters visited June 19. “I will stand in front of the bulldozers when they come.” The council district includes the Riverwood neighborhood.
“The government has no interest in working people’s livelihoods,” Aiken responded. “They only act to shore up the interests of big business.” They discussed how winning the support of neighbors and workers in the area was key to winning the fight. “Working people need to act independently of the bosses and their parties,” Aiken said.
Sam Charan said that residents from the south Sydney suburb of Jannali had come by to lend support to the fight. The Jannali families had been involved in a successful campaign earlier in the year to stop their houses being demolished for a similar car park.
Channel 9 interviewed the Charans and neighbor Jing He on “Current Affair” Aug. 3. The families had received notice that compulsory acquisition of their houses would take place in 30 days.
The Riverwood car park is just one of many government schemes nationwide that have come under public scrutiny for the way they were selected and funded. The federal government allocated 660 million Australian dollars ($478 million) to a project to seize properties and build car parks near suburban train stations.
The cost of building the planned car park at the Riverwood station is $41 million, “Current Affair” reported. The Charan family received a below-market price bid for their property while housing prices in Sydney have continued to surge. “We couldn’t find a similar house for that amount in this neighborhood,” Sam Charan told the Militant.