Victorian Socialists protest environmental neglect in western suburbs

Posted on Wednesday, 28 September

On Sunday 25 October Victorian Socialists, working with environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion Westside Naarm/Melbourne and No 3rd Tulla runway, led a protest march in Sunbury, demanding an end to the toxic pollution of air, land and waterways in the western suburbs.

About 20 percent of Melbourne’s industrially zoned land is in the inner-west. This, combined with corporate negligence, has meant the area is rife with toxic industrial fires, chemical spills, dust, truck and noise pollution. 

Protesters march through Sunshine

Across the western suburbs, hospitalisations due to respiratory and heart conditions sit at rates well above the Australian average, according to a 2020 report by the Inner West Air Quality Community Reference Group. Hospitalisations due to asthma are 40% higher in Maribyrnong and Brimbank than the national average. 

“The western suburbs are treated like a waste dump,” said Liz Walsh, Victorian Socialists candidate for the Western Metro upper house region in her speech. 

Victorian Socialists Western Metro candidate Liz Walsh speaks at the rally
Victorian Socialists Western Metro candidate Liz Walsh speaks at the rally (PHOTO: Matt Hrkac)

Protesters particularly took aim at the Barro family, whose Kealba landfill site has been on fire for over three years.

“Residents have had to deal with the toxic smoke for year upon year - having to close their windows, avoid sending their kids outside,” said Walsh. “Dealing with nausea, having respiratory symptoms. And this landfill site is run by one of the richest families in the country.”

A woman holds a placard at the rally

The Barro family are worth over a billion dollars. On the Australian’s 2022 Rich List, the family came in at number ten. All of this wealth has come from exploiting workers, polluting their neighbourhoods and lungs, and digging quarries to rip construction materials from the Earth.

Despite the ongoing pollution from the site, the Environmental Protection Agency has hesitated to use its powers to punish the company. 

We can't rely on toothless government regulators to ensure a cleaner environment. To address the growing environmental and climate crisis, whether in Melbourne's west or anywhere else, we're going to need to use our collective power to fight the rich and their political servants.