Sunday, December 13, 2009

shacks and squatters

I saw in the Examiner in land tax saga on Tas a whole lot of stuff about shacks... is that where really poor people put up corrugated iron and cardboard shanties on vacant land... or is it Oz code for a holiday cottage? Some things are really very confusing - "squatter mounted on his thoroughbred";-) a la Waltzing Matilda - our squatters here are obviously a lower class of squatter than Australia got. ;-)


  1. A sort of explanation here, Dave...

    Holiday cottages are often called bush or beach or fishing shacks - usually because they got built in places where there wasn't much in the way of amenities and were typically made of relatively cheap materials. Some of them are actually pretty swish, and some are fibro and corrugated iron, but not shanties.

    Waltzing Matilda's squatter is part of the "squattocracy" - a group of people who claimed large chunks of land in the Outback during the 1800s and made themselves tidy fortunes in the process. Not to be confused with modern squatters, who aren't nearly so classy :)

  2. In Oz most shacks (at least originally) were either official or de facto leaseholds on Crown lands. Thus at the end of the lease they would revert to the Crown, which was a considerable incentive to build something less permanent/valuable. And yes, they used the same legal argument as pastoral squatters as in Waltzing Matilda, in order to gain the leasehold, hence the connection.

    [ covers the squatocracy quite well.]

    However about two or so decades ago the various governments started converting many of the leaseholds into freeholds, allowing more permanent construction to take place. As Kate has said, the name "shack" is still traditionally used for these holiday homes, even if they are of quite sturdy and modern construction.*

    For example my father's old shack as a leasehold was little more than a concrete shed/garage. When it was converted into a freehold, it was replaced with a a modern holiday home on stilts.

    They also tightened the strictures allowing such construction, banning it in some of the areas where it used to be common (such as along the River Murray, except in allocated areas). It is still technically legally possible to construct a shack if you can find an appropriate area of unclaimed Crown lands, although attempting to do so now days will probably encounter numerous legal obstacles, not the least of which is Mabo.

    [* I believe that the building codes are also less stringent for a building designed for temporary occupancy. Converting a "shack" into full-time occupancy would almost definitely require considerable upgrading (such as the installation of a sewerage system). Some of these requirements were innate in the lease, which I believe forbade permanent construction in many cases. Hence many leasehold "shacks" were effectively "sheds."]

  3. Ian what is a Mabo? Thank you both - I had sort of figured it out, but it does confirm the total discrimination Africa has always been victim to (heh. in it's own mind ;-)) You get beach shacks and squatocracy. We get the other kind. sniff. I think a UN resolution is called for.;-)

  4. Mabo was a famous (High Court) court case in 1992, concerning land rights for the Aboriginal and Torres Islander community. It nullified the legal concept of terra nullius which was the legal basis of the squatocracy. Whilst it, and the more important Wik case, specifically does not extinguish freehold title, it definitely affects questions of ownership of Crown Lands (and hence leaseholds).

    [And we still have traditional (at least as far as the rest of the world views it) squatters. However, unlike the UK, they can be charged with criminal trespass, rather than it being a purely civil case (provided they were not originally tenants of the property owner [and thus incapable of trespass]).]

    As to it's effects on potential leaseholds you'd need an actual lawyer (and probably one specialising in the field). But unless you've got a lot of money to throw around in compensation at the appropriate native Tital Tribunal, I suspect claiming a leasehold now would be heavily contested, just on principal.

  5. Please excuse the above ordering. Shouldn't try to do three things at once. It should be read Paragraph 1, 3, 2. Mea culpa.

  6. well, as I was merely planning to buy a piece of land and not squat it's pretty arb right now. Mind you I hold the only ancestral land we're all entitled to is a cave somewhere in the Afar or rift valley... every other bit has been taken from someone else, somewhere along the line (maybe not Antartica - but everywhere else from China to the Faroes) - not that I think we should go on doing so, just that conquest and occupation is a human trait that all of our ancestors did somewhere.

  7. Well yes, but the Australian Aborigines managed to wipe out* almost all the inhabitants of the previous migration so there was nobody left to complain and demand their indigenous rights.

    I say almost, because, if I remember correctly, the Tasmanian aborigine population showed a marked genetic variance from the mainland aboriginal population, which I believe some anthropologists suggest marks them as remenants of an earlier migration. Of course, in the case of obvious genetic differences such as median population skin colour, such things tend to be considered mostly irrelevant.

    I'm unsure how many distinct waves of earlier migrations came down to Oz. I've heard three quoted. However, the topic is, shall we say, extremely politically incorrect, so attempts to do serious work in this regard tend to be viewed with great askance by funding bodies. Or at least that's my impression from chatting with anthropologist friends.

    Then again the theories might have changed – it's been a while since I looked at this situation with regards to Oz. I've mainly been considering this with regard to the ancient Mediterranean societies.

    [* This gets more complicated in that, if it followed normal patterns for human conquest throughout history, the surviving members (mostly female) of the previous migrations were generally "genetically coopted" (shall we say) by the conquering population. It's not a simple matter of the conquered population being wiped out, but rather, in most cases, assimiliated. (Colonialism didn't tend to include a policy of this forced cooption because of racial bias, so it did tend to be more atrocity prone, at least in my opinion. Although to our modern sensibilities the old behaviour would be just as abhorrent.)]