Each year the Amnesty International Australia Media Awards acknowledge those Australian media stories that have presented a fair and balanced report of a human rights issue, highlighted hidden abuses and encouraged an audience’s greater understanding of a human rights issue.
With a week left before entries close for this year’s 2021 awards, we’re celebrating winners from previous years’ to demonstrate the importance of a free press.
Media Awards’ 2017 Cartoon Winner
Winner of the 2017 Amnesty International Media Awards Cartoon category was Cathy Wilcox with ‘Low-cost Housing, London’ for The Age & The Sydney Morning Herald.
Cathy Wilcox joins the Awards this year as a judge for the same category.
In ‘Low-cost housing, London’, Cathy Wilcox comments on the devastating Grenfell Tower fire – a fire which broke out in June 2017 at Grenfell Tower in London. Grenfell Tower was a building that formed part of Lancaster West Estate, a social housing complex of almost 1,000 homes. The fire claimed the lives of 72 residents and left many without permanent housing.
What caused the Grenfell Tower fire?
The fire broke out on 14th June, 2017 due to a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor, but quickly spread up to the 24th floor in less than 36 minutes.
The tower underwent a refurbishment in May 2016 to add new exterior cladding, replacement windows and a communal heating system.
The replacement cladding is suggested to be a main cause of the rapid spread of the fire. The cladding was a cheaper alternative called ACM cladding which is made from aluminum sheets and plastic. Another suggested reason for its rapid spread was flammable insulation which pre-dated the refurbishment, and a faulty smoke extraction system. The lack of equipment and building infrastructure needed to support the work of firefighters targeting the blaze is also said to have contributed to the high level of fatalities caused by the fire. Alongside elevators being unfit to assist in helping people escape from the building.
Members of the Grenfell Action Group had been calling for improvements to fire safety measures for years before the Grenfell Tower fire, and had warned their tenant management organisation, Kensington and Chelsea TMO about the possibility of a fire outbreak.
Why is the Grenfell Tower relevant today?
Despite an Inquiry being called into the cause of the fire, in June last year 56, 000 people were still housed in buildings using flammable ACM cladding.
Right to adequate housing is a human right that must be upheld by governments through legislation, preventative and budgeting measures, particularly to ensure vulnerable groups are housed in places which do not threaten their right to safety.
Climate Change and the Right to Adequate Housing
In Australia a common cause of house destruction is bushfires. In the 2019/2020 bushfires over 3, 094 houses were destroyed.
Unless we act for climate justice, extreme weather-related disasters and rising seas threaten to destroy homes and ruin people’s ability to earn a living. Unless emissions are reduced significantly, around 600 million people are likely to experience drought and famine as a result of climate change. There’s a direct link between climate change and human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and housing.
It is vital that we hold governments to account on providing the right to adequate housing for people around the world.