Theatre of the streets gives homeless a voice in human rights debate

A unique theatre group is being used to ensure the views of homeless people are heard during the national consultation on human rights.

Milkcrate Theatre has been performing in Sydney for several years and is performs entirely to homeless people. The material and scenarios that are acted out reflect some of the challenges that homeless people face on the streets. The performances are very interactive and allow audience members to direct the action and participate.

Chief Executive Officer of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), Ms Robin Banks said, ‘There’s nothing quite like Milkcrate Theatre because it is homeless people explaining their problems, their frustrations and their hopes in an honest, revealing and direct way. That’s why PIAC and the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service* (HPLS) are using the group to encourage homeless people to contribute to the national consultation on human rights’.

PIAC and HPLS together with Milkcrate Theatre will hold five consultation workshops at spaces that are routinely used by homeless communities in the Sydney area. The consultations will begin with a rehearsed drama performed by professional actors from Darlinghurst Theatre Company. The inspiration for the performance piece will come from the real life story of someone from the homeless and disadvantaged community. The piece will also reflect and explore a number of different human rights issues and how they are currently protected or not protected in Australian law.

‘Government consultations sometimes struggle to effectively engage with a broad spectrum of the community. PIAC recognised early on in the national human rights consultation that some communities would require highly specialised processes to effectively engage them. Milkcrate Theatre is a novel way to ensure the views of homeless people are included’, Ms Banks said.

The fifth and final consultation will be a public forum entitled, ‘Your Rights Matter: Homelessness and Human Rights’. The Federal Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McLelland, will speak about the national human rights consultation and its relevance to homeless people. The Forum will also feature presentations from representatives of Sydney’s homeless community and a performance by the Sydney Street Choir.

‘The national consultation into human rights protection is not only a chance for advocates for homeless people to respond to the consultation questions, but also to listen to the voices and views of the people who really matter, members of the community, including members of the homeless community’, Ms Banks added.

The forum will be held at the Metcalf Auditorium, State Library of NSW, on Wednesday 20 May at 4:00 pm. For details, contact Chris Hartley on 02 8898 6510.

To interview Robin Banks, call 02 8898 6508 or 0423 100 807.

* The Homeless Persons’ Legal Services (HPLS) is a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House. PIAC receives core funding for HPLS from the NSW Attorney General, the Hon John Hatzistergos, through the NSW Public Purpose Fund and project support for a homeless consumer advocacy group, StreetCare, from the City of Sydney.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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