Over four years, Sydney newspapers have run three newspaper reports on one Ashwyn Falkingham.
Since it is he who has been found vandalising Party property in Tempe recently, we ponder whether the persona is one and the same.
Ashwyn Falkingham is not an unusual Anglo name. The White Pages lists a few and we have one of our own, but ours has an alibi on the night in question, and doesn’t match our photos.
The newspaper reports:
‘Inside the Kidney Cult’
“In 2008, Life-giver… Donor Ashwyn Falkingham (aged 23 in 2008) visits Sandi Sabloff in her hospital bed shortly after the transplant in Cyprus.
Ashwyn Falkingham flew to Cyprus to donate his kidney to a stranger, despite his mother’s protests he was being unduly influenced by a religious sect.
THE Jesus Christians, otherwise known as the Kidney Cult, have a golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Ashwyn Falkingham, 23, is now recovering after proving his merit to the sect’s leaders by donating one of his kidneys to a Canadian woman he met online.
Mr Falkingham, of Sydney, flew to Cyprus to give a kidney to Sandi Sabloff almost a year after a Toronto hospital refused to get involved.
The devoted member of the Jesus Christians said he and Ms Sabloff, a 65-year-old retiree who battled kidney failure for 18 years, were a near perfect match, with their organ compatibility rated at greater than mother and son.
“That’s a really good indicator that the kidney will function really well,” he said from the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.
“It seems a bit unreal at the moment. It’ll take a while to sink in that it’s finally happened. I feel really good that it went so well. It’s really touching to see the difference it’s making already.”
Ms Sabloff’s partner, Jane Murray, praised Mr Falkingham, saying he had given the gift of life. “She used to be cold all the time; now she’s warm. She used to be yellow; now she’s pink,” Ms Murray said.
“I am absolutely excited to think of her having a healthy future.”
Mr Falkingham and Ms Sabloff were devastated when their first attempt at the transplant was cancelled after objections from Mr Falkingham’s mother, Cate Croft.
Ms Croft, of Enfield, told the Toronto hospital her son had not made the decision of his own free will but had been unduly influenced by the cult and its leader, David McKay, of Waterloo.
She went to Cyprus after a surgeon contacted her to tell her of the pending operation, but was uncontactable yesterday.
Yesterday Mr McKay said kidney donation was not compulsory for Jesus Christians but it was a great way to put the “golden rule” into action.
“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you. If you were sick wouldn’t you like someone to donate a kidney?”
Mr McKay said he had donated a kidney to an American man in 2002 and 19 of the world’s 25 Jesus Christians had also donated.
More people should consider donating a kidney because it was a relatively simple way to change someone else’s life, he said.
The Jesus Christians shun worldly possessions and paid work, instead surviving on donations and scavenged food.
Mr McKay said the group, criticised by former members for cutting them off from their families and taking their money and assets, was misunderstood. The rules had changed since Mr Falkingham had joined so members’ money was deposited into smaller “team” accounts rather than a joint account for the whole group.
He said he and his wife, Cherry, were among just seven Jesus Christians in Australia. They survived on her pension and lived below their means so they had cash left over to fund the group’s education activities in Kenya.
A NSW Health spokeswoman said altruistic kidney donations were allowed in the state as long as they were genuine and not for profit.”
‘The art of setting up home for diddly-squat’
“With more than 120,000 unoccupied homes in the city and a housing crisis, it’s no wonder squatting is thriving, writes Erik Jensen.
The best place was probably in Northbridge, living in the pylon of a suspension bridge overhanging Tunks Park. It lasted half-a-year before Ashwyn Falkingham and his fellow squatters were thrown out.
”That was a really beautiful place to live. I stayed six months under the bridge and cooked on a fire each night,” says the 26-year-old student of renewable energy engineering.
”Within the past eight or so months I’ve roughly been through one property a month.
I was in a place in Leichhardt, then had to move to Erskineville, then to Marrickville, then to another place in Redfern, then to Hurlstone Park, then to Kensington, then to where I am now.”
According to people involved in community law and rental advocacy, squatting has changed a good deal in the past few decades. It is not the domain of the truly disenfranchised, they say, as it is too unstable for these people.
”In the ’70s, squatting was very political,” one said. “Now it’s, well, very middle class.”
Many squatting in Sydney come to the practice after travel in Europe – particularly through London and the Amsterdam squats. ”The laws there are a little more organised,” Falkingham says. ”And a little more civilised, if you will.”
For some, it is a political decision – a desire to arrest gentrification; to make accommodation more equitable; a decision, in the words of one, to not sell his labour so he might pay someone else’s mortgage.
There is a vague fraternity of squatters in Sydney – in the industrial estates on the approach to Marrickville, shop fronts in Rozelle, terraces in Redfern. They are in loose contact. Sometimes squats come up on trading sites such as Gumtree. Others identify each other through community gardens.
When the Herald arranges to meet Falkingham, he nominates a cross street in the eastern suburbs, a few hundred metres from the beach. He lives nearby but this is easier than directions. The house is difficult to find, which suits.
”A friend of mine told me about an abandoned building in the area. I drove around looking for it. I couldn’t find it but we found this place – it hasn’t been used for a year,” says Falkingham, who has been squatting for three years.
”It’s quite easy to find places that are empty in Sydney. The problem is using it without someone getting angry and leaving it unused for another 10 years.”
Collectors in the latest census counted more than 122,000 unoccupied houses in Sydney. The number would swell substantially if it were to include the thousands of empty warehouses, pubs, churches and shops across the city.
Col James, the former director of the University of Sydney’s Housing Research Centre, believes there are thousands of squatters in the city. But there are no firm figures.
The City of Sydney has no data of its own. It evicts squatters from buildings it deems unsafe, but there is no formal process for these decisions. ”We don’t keep figures on actual evictions,” a spokeswoman says. ”Or have a firm policy.”
Transience is the constant state of the squatter. ”Calculated risk,” says Liam, who has been squatting more than two years. ”I’ve lost count, but I’ve been evicted maybe eight or 12 times.”
Most recently, police arrived at a squat where he was living. His housemates were charged. A text message was all that stopped him walking into the raid.
”There’s cause for concern but there’s a bit of a thrill,” he says.
“It’s exhilarating when you get into a new building and see all this potential and you also know there’s a limited time. It’s a combination of exhilaration and stress.”
After 20 years researching the practice, James says he feels squatting has become more acceptable in Sydney. He points to the Broadway squats in Chippendale a decade ago and the caretaker leases occasionally negotiated with developers – a method he advocates for more buildings.
”I support squatting even up to the point that I just don’t see any problem when there are vacant buildings,” he says. ”Caretaking is a legitimate use of vacant property and it should be supported.”
James is at a loss, he says, to understand any opposition. ”I think it’s because they lose control. There are a lot of people who can survive very well without being pilloried by the council or authorities or the coppers.”
Mickie Quick was among the group of people living in the Broadway squats. But he, too, has since moved into renting – he got older, he says, and weary of instability.
”It ebbs and flows,” he says. ”There’s a lot going on at the moment but it drops off very quickly, because eviction here is so swift. The ongoing expensiveness of this city is why it never disappears. Every time I explore an empty building there is usually someone stowed away – they are there, but by nature they keep a low profile.”
Until recently, Madi was squatting in the inner west. The carpentry pre-apprentice moved five times in a year. She is now renting a room in a share-house. ”I decided now, for me, it’s important to have a stable space that I can count on being in for a period of time,” she says.
”My decision to rent doesn’t equate to me saying squatting is hopeless … There’s a housing crisis going on and it’s really almost unapproachable to try and rent. It seems crazy in that situation that there is so much vacant property.”
‘Violence at chapel – riot squad removes squatters’
- Clementine Cuneo and Renata Gortan
- The Daily Telegraph
- September 17, 2011 12:00AM
The protestors have hung banners from the roof saying: ‘All power to the people’. Source: The Daily Telegraph
Police leave the site with a machete after the protest on the St Michael’s building at the University of Sydney. Source: The Daily Telegraph
A GROUP of squatters had to be dragged from the roof of a derelict building by riot police yesterday after protesting their eviction from an abandoned church where they had been living illegally for months.
Seven people were removed from the roof of the building at the University of Sydney after a six-hour stand-off.
Heavily armed officers from the Public Order and Riot Squad broke into the building just after 2pm and carried away the protesters one by one.
The squatters took to the roof after being evicted from St Michael’s Chapel on City Rd at Darlington, where they had been squatting for the past few months.
Ashwyn Falkingham (aged 27 in 2011), said he and about 30 other people had been living in the abandoned church because the cost of Sydney housing was “unaffordable”.
“I am a student, and I get $377 a fortnight in Austudy … I cannot afford to rent somewhere,” he said.
The land is owned by the Archdiocese of Sydney and had been deemed unsafe but cannot be demolished until a development proposal is finalised with the City of Sydney Council, an Archdiocese spokeswoman said.
“What we are trying to highlight is the unaffordability of housing in Sydney, and the inaccessibility for students in particular, and for people out of work,” Mr Falkingham said.
While squatting in the building, Mr Falkingham said they had made improvements to it and had the longer-term plan of turning it into a performing arts space. It is not the first time some of the squatters have been evicted.”
Is this persona one in the same or just a religious cultist, or a squatter, or a feral with affinity for anarchism and violence?