Recorded Twenty-seventh October 2012
Byron: So the first question I'll ask is, how did you get involved in Occupy Christchurch?
Julian: Actually thanks to Jo, a friend Joe Rau I think his name is, he was involved with Occupy Christchurch kind of near the beginning, used to pop around my house and always tell me "Come on down, occupy!", told me what they're all about, just come down see if you like it. One day I thought, I'm walking past it anyway I might as well stop and see how things are, and yeah, kinda went from there.
Byron: So this is quite early on in Occupy?
Julian: I think somewhere round November?
Byron: So what happened when you first popped on by that inspired you to get involved and stay involved?
Julian: It was actually during one of their meetings, and I just felt like, Joe was trying to like "oh these meetings go round and round" but I want to see what it’s like, and actually kind of liked hearing all the different opinions and what people thought of the state of, well, the country and the government and just all the different ideas on what could possibly be done, it just kinda really inspired me that we could do something to make a change in the world.
Byron: So this was one of the general assemblies?
Byron: So what sort of things were talked about at the general assemblies?
Julian: The first one I went too, what were they talking about... I know the tents got mentioned, I don't think it was the housing issue then, I think that popped up about a month or two later, I think the first one was on, the first meeting was on solidarity with, possibly Auckland or Dunedin.
Byron: So with Auckland or Dunedin; so there was quite a link between Occupy Christchurch and the other Occupy camps around New Zealand?
Byron: And when you got involved were you, you were camping at the site?
Julian: At first I still had my house that I was staying at in Sydenham but I did stay there almost on a daily basis after that, yeah just camping with a couple of mates on the site.
Byron: You moved out of your house to camp fulltime?
Byron: That must have been a big decision to make, or was it not?
Julian: It was actually, it took about a week and a half, two weeks of just sitting there humming and haring, thinking oh there could be all these benefits and it’s like, oh but I won’t have my house anymore, but then I'll be able to spend full time down at the site I'll be able to put all money into the site and won't have to worry about any of that sort of stuff.
Byron: And you obviously decided that was the best way to go then?
Byron: What was it that made you want to give so much to the movement, so much of your time and the extra money you had from not renting a flat?
Julian: I guess it’s just, I don't know the whole thing, everything about it inspired me, everyone kinda giving up their time and their money just to try and help virtually everyone they don't even know, like all these people no one really, they don't know but they do know are suffering you know we see people suffering all over the city and yet these people are giving up their time and money, just everything they have, just to try and help people, to make sure everything's fair for everyone rather than just you know, the rich elite or the government benefiting from everything and it was just, kind of because, I don't know, most of my life I've kinda lived in poverty and lived on the street and what not, and just to see so many people give up everything they had for people like me, was, extremely inspiring, like I just couldn't fathom it, I never actually, never really thought anyone would be willing to do those sorts of things, until I kinda went to Occupy.
Byron: So it wasn't your first experience of being with no fixed abode?
Julian: Nah [Laughs].
Byron: Do you think you would have been so willing to leave your house if you hadn't experienced that before?
Julian: I don't think so honestly.
Byron: Do you know if anyone did? Anyone who hadn't been homeless did choose to leave their home to camp there?
Julian: Kind of Natalie, kind of, but she was still kind of stuck with her parents, because she was staying with her parents she didn't really give up her home, I know Chef was thinking about it but I, I'm pretty sure he did but I'm not sure if was, had never been homeless before.
Byron: So was this your first, the first sort of involvement in political activism you'd had?
Byron: Did you find that the, the world views you were exposed to at Occupy, did they match your own or did they influence your own?
Julian: I think everyone had a bit of a different, a very vast and different world view, but it seemed to come together a lot at Occupy, like, as different as they were they could all influence each other and the end goal always seemed to be the same, no matter how different the view was.
Byron: So with you staying there full time, what would be a typical day at the Occupy camp site?
Julian: When I first went there usually 1) cleaning, that was always a big thing, especially for me because I'm quite a bit of a clean freak and any mess annoys me, so I just end up going on a big cleaning crusade. But depending on the day, sometimes we'd go on protests, we'd go just stop random people on the street and talk to them about it and one thing that was really important to me was just kinda starting the discussion with, just a discussion on that particular political topic with passers-by just to kind of get it into their minds, so that even if they don't agree with us, the topics there, its talked about, its known about.
Another thing like, the, what do we call it? the GK- General Kōrero, which was possibly to me one of the most important things because it gave us a chance to exchange ideas and kinda of, weed out the bad ideas if you know what I mean, like to try and sift through all your ideas to see what could possibly work, what we should do what we shouldn't do, and kinda what's going on in the world.
Byron: So what sort of things were discussed at the General Kōrero?
Julian: A lot about Wall Street and America and kind of the, what the original Occupy movement were doing and a lot about what the Mayor, Bob Parker, what he was doing with the city and Gerry Brownlee and sort of things we could do to kinda fix that, or any protests we could do to kinda bring attention to it.
Byron: So it was a mix of global and local issues that were being discussed?
Byron: And what were some of these, some of the protests that happened? What were they regarding?
Julian: I think one of the biggest ones, which wasn't kinda run by Occupy but Occupy was a big kinda partner in that, not only due to, not only with the kind of advertising of the protest as well, because the protest, the people who organised the protest came down and gave us all these flyers and all this information and got us to kinda hand them out to everybody but I think was possibly one of the biggest I was involved with, if not the biggest I was involved with at Occupy was the Brownlee protest, that was one possibly one of my favourites, there was another one protesting the Food Bill, although there [weren't] too many people at Occupy at that particular time, tend to be kinda fluctuations in how many people were there and whatnot, so that one was, one of the smaller ones, probably I think it was easily the smallest one. There was only about five of us taking part in it, but the way we saw it wasn't the amount of people taking part, it was the amount of people paying attention.
Byron: So with the Gerry Brownlee protest, why were people protesting Gerry Brownlee specifically?
Julian: [Laughs] there are a few words I'd like to say but I won't, I think the biggest thing is, his kind of way of dealing with the housing crisis in Christchurch, especially the fact that he has repeatedly refused to admit that there is any crisis at all, the fact that he's lucky enough to live happily in his wonderful home, [of] which he has many, while other people suffer and get still able to sit there and pass off everything as if "oh yeah perfectly fine no one’s really gonna, there's not much to worry about" that and the fact that, things were not being done the way they should have been, things were not, I mean, I guess nothing can be perfect but that's no excuse for not doing all you [can] and not putting all your resources, or as much resources as you can into kinda, fixing the problems that are there.
Byron: Do you think that being in this earthquake aftermath with the housing crisis and so on made Occupy Christchurch quite different other Occupy sites around the country and perhaps overseas?
Julian: Yes in many ways, I mean one was that people tended to be more tolerant and more kind of wanting to listen and hear what we had to say, whereas in other places, especially kinda places in Dunedin where they were kinda surrounded by pubs and they'd get waves of drunks coming though causing problems just for the sake of causing problems, and in Auckland where they had a lot of, bad reception with police, and I think one of the biggest things was in Auckland the police didn't seem to care too much whereas a lot of the police really liked what we were doing at Occupy Christchurch and supported us and, were more than happy to kind of hear our side of things, and often help us out and even sometimes they'd just come down to get us to help out with investigations [that are] on going and seeking missing persons and all sorts, I mean I think the biggest thing is after earthquakes and everything people seem to be a lot more tolerant of kinda everyone, of every kinda level, whether it be rich or poor or you know, they seem to have a lot more understanding of... closer knit than most.
Byron: So what are some of your best memories from Occupy Christchurch?
Julian: I had of fun times, I think my best by far was kind of the meeting of Natalie, and kinda with her, just kinda got to know her but apart from that, she, kinda made everything more interesting for me, when things started to go array she'd kinda help me though it a lot more to make it easier on me and even when times weren't that interesting she'd still make it more fun for me. When I first went there they were, that was really another one of my favourite times because there were so many different people there from so many different countries and all over Christchurch and all over New Zealand that, you know it’s amazing to have all these different nationalities all sitting there in this big group talking about the different things that are going on in their governments, and with our government and all things we should and could do to kinda help all over the world, like its, I've had a lot of meetings with and friendships with foreigners but never have I been able to have so many foreigners and so many locals all take part in something like that all together as if you know, we'd known each other for all our lives, they'd come down and they were treated like family as soon as they got there, it was absolutely by far one of the best times I've had in my life.
Byron: So there were a number of people there from overseas who became part of the movement here?
Byron: And were they people who had been involved in Occupy in their countries?
Julian: Some of them yeah, some of them had never even heard of it and happened to hear about it, come down and take part, and were promising to take it back to their country and take part in their country, and some of them had been long time activists and protesters, and some like TC were travelling from different Occupy points, like she was a part of, one of the many Occupies in America, and had been travelling around to different Occupies in America and came over to New Zealand and was going between the different Occupies, and there were so who'd kinda, like, from Australia came from came from the Australia Melbourne Occupy straight over to our Occupy and up to Auckland and were travelling overseas to all the different Occupy points, like there was a real kinda sense of solidarity between the whole, it was a worldwide thing it really was.
Byron: And you really felt part of that global movement?
Byron: Do you think that Occupy changed anything in Christchurch or in New Zealand?
Julian: Personally yeah I think it did, it really like, the thing I think it has changed more importantly is people’s views on things, like even if we've only reached out to one or two it’s still a big thing, because you've change the view of two people but at least if anything the one thing we really, really did do was get the whole country talking about, get the whole country there talking about these issues, get the whole country focused on the fact that these issues are there, they're prevalent and they're not going away unless we actually do something to fix them. That's why I think personally there's been so many little offshoots of like, all the protests, like the housing protests and the groups popping up to try and help all the homeless.
Byron: So in what ways has it changed you?
Julian: It’s made me less cynical [Laughs]. I think in just about every aspect of my life has changed because of Occupy, my outlook on life... I kind of always saw, throughout my life as I've said I've mostly lived in poverty and when I haven't lived in poverty I've lived in a relatively lower income family, I'd always kinda resented the rich as I'd always seen like, I don't know I guess you could say I was a bit, I don't like saying conspiracy theorist but conspiracy theorist-esque style as in, "most of the problems of the world are caused by the rich and the government and they'll all using their money just for the purpose of..." but I think it's changed by outlook as in, its more that, it’s not they're every rich person is intentionally trying to drive us down, its more that there are some people out there who are using their money to further their own gain at the expense of everybody else. I seem to be a lot more tolerant of, peoples wealth and peoples actions, and a lot more understanding as to why people do things, like, I don't know, one big thing for me was like, stories but, rich people using their money to push their own agendas, which for some reason always have a really bad habit of hurting poor people, but I can kind of see both sides of the coin a little bit better now, as in, you know I was always on just the one sided, you know "they're all a bunch of pricks" but these days I can kinda see both sides a little better, which is better than just being so staunch in your view that nothing's every going to change it. But yeah I guess most of all its just kinda being able to emphasise with a lot of different people and kinda being more caring about people especially those less fortunate.
Byron: Do you think if something like Occupy were to happen again, that, something like that big on-going public protest, do you think you'd get involved again?
Julian: It would depend on what it was about honestly, if it were like, for the kind of old Occupy style, at least protest of the super-rich using their money to hurt the poor, or the government corruption and corporate corruption I'd happily take part, but I think there would have to be, it would have to be vastly different to what it was to be successful, because I mean, we've had that, and, I don't know, you've kinda gotta change things up to get people talking about it.
Byron: What do you think would need to be different for it to be successful?
Julian: For one I think we'd need a better location, preferably not across the road from the hospital, two I think we'd need a little more... participation from people, because a lot of people were, although in love with the movement, they loved what it was about they were very much for what it was about, but a lot of people weren't able to give their all to it due to prior commitments and whatnot and that's understandable, but a lot of people who did end up giving as much as they can ended up kind of leaving rather early on due to whatever problems or disagreements they had and that kinda, a bit of its downfall, due to the fact that, to many people splitting off into their own directions and people giving up on, especially when a lot of the less fortunate came to join and kinda giving up on them and leaving out of anger or spite or fear or a lot of other things, it really did, kinda does need to, have a lot more commitment kinda from everybody to be more successful.
Byron: Is there anything else you'd like to say about Occupy Christchurch?
Julian: It was absolutely awesome [Laughs]. It changed my life, changed I mean about a lot of things, I mean I wouldn't have met Natalie without it, and I've made all sorts of friends all over the world from all nationalities because of it, it’s changed my outlook on life its changed kinda everything who I am and what I find important in my life, its, I absolutely love I'd never take that back in my life, no matter how many chances I had I'd, never take it back, I'd do it exactly the way it was.