Saturday, March 24, 2012

Canberra's teepee man

Woodbridge said he's "not that interested" in moving back into a house. Photo: Elesa Lee 

William Woodbridge has dodged a fine worth thousands of dollars, despite breaching a law forbidding people from living on lakes within the capital. The lenient gesture by ACT government officials was confirmed yesterday after an Aboriginal elder said it was okay for the 21-year-old to stay wherever he likes ''in Ngambri country''.

Mr Woodbridge's teepee is perched on a homemade raft which was a local talking point during its stay on Lake Ginninderra. But this unconventional housing is in violation of the ACT Lake Act 1976. The University of Canberra student has been given until the end of the month to leave his floating home, initially created six weeks ago to protest high rental prices after receiving a fine at his on-campus accommodation. But now it seems Mr Woodbridge has support from traditional owners of the area, in the form of an ''Authorisation Certificate'' from Ngambri elder Shane Mortimer.

 it reads. ''Mr William Woodbridge is hereby authorised to occupy Lake Ginninderra or any other lake estuary or wetland he may so choose upon to reside as suits his needs in Ngambri Country,''

Waterfront views ... William Woodbridge, a University of Canberra student,
has been living on the homemade raft for six weeks. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man 

A spokeswoman for the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate said the ACT Government was helping Mr Woodbridge find alternative accommodation after granting him an extension, allowing him to stay on the lake till the end of the month. ''A condition to this is that it is not allowed to relocate on any other public body of water in the ACT,'' she said.
But this condition may prove problematic for Woodbridge, who intends to continue living rough somewhere on the water.
''I'm not that interested in moving back into a house,'' he said.
Student William Woodbridge has built a teepee and is living on Lake Ginninderra
as an alternative to the rental market in Canberra. Photo: Elesa Lee 

He moved to Canberra at the age of 16 and has struggled to find an affordable home, experiencing everything from share houses to living out of the back of a car.
Affordable student housing remains a prominent issue among Canberra's youth, despite new residences being opened at both the University of Canberra and the Australian National University recently. For Mr Woodbridge, the cost of having a roof over his head wasn't worth the hours spent away from his studies.
''A lot of students I know, even with Centrelink (social security payments), still have to work long hours,'' he said.
''Before this I had to work 20 to 30 hours a week just to feed myself. It really does take a toll.''
After receiving a fine at his on-campus accommodation, he decided to abandon conventional housing. Within days the industrial design student had fashioned his floating home, consisting of a deck and teepee housing a bed and ice box. The makeshift accommodation has lacked power since someone stole his generator, but he said getting back to basics was comforting.
''I could probably finish my degree out on the lake, if they'd let me,'' he said.



Sharon said...


Sure beats the back of his car!

LindaG said...

I wouldn't move back to a house if I had a view like that, either.
Please keep up updated if you hear more.

Jo said...

Very interesting - I had heard people talking about the teepee but wasn't sure about the whole story - thanks!

Yaz said...

U make my heart sing...William of the lake, I salute u...

JohnD said...

Welcome Yaz - follow along - there was a current affairs show about William last night on TV - I'll see if I can find the link today!

JohnD said...

There was a current affairs show about William last night on TV - I'll see if I can find the link today!