The Battle for Bowen Hills

THE BATTLE FOR BOWEN HILLS by Peter Gray

Starting in 1972, inner-city residents of the city of Brisbane in Australia struggled against the Queensland Government’s plan to build a freeway that would destroy their community. The Government was cold-hearted and dismissive of the community’s concerns, plus the residents were offered inadequate compensation for their properties. As their voice went unheard, the residents decided to change tact and joined together in and effort to make the Government “sit up and take notice” of them.

To highlight their case, the residents and their supporters occupied recently evacuated Main Roads Department houses. The State Government responded with a provocative show of strength. They used the police to carry out evictions. The Government also used scab labour to hurriedly demolish houses right before people’s eyes. The protestors were forced into frightening confrontations with baton-wielding police dramatically captured in this film. When the protestors appealed for justice, they were dismissed by the Minister for Main Roads as “fairies” and “a pain in the neck.”

The residents ultimately won the battle. The freeway was never built. Unfortunately their victory came at a price with the partial dismantling of their community in the process.

This film is about winning and how to win. While highlighting the valiant struggle of the people of Bowen Hills, this is also a universal story that may prove helpful to others facing a similar threat.

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