An air of extreme sadness

An air of extreme sadness pervades Millers Point. A unique community is being destroyed. Many people who would say g’day to you each morning are gone. But Brad still takes pride in sweeping the streets and paths.

Despair is catching. Residents feel under pressure from their Relocation Officers. They are urged to move from their homes. They become powerless and believe they have no choice but to accept what is offered. When a resident agrees to move, others support and respect their decision. For some the move is successful but they miss the village life of Millers Point. For those who remain there is the nagging threat of an uncertain future, making some of the older residents dig in and determined to stay. Services they depend on are being withdrawn or have had a payment added to them. The local aged care facility, Darling House has been forced to close and the residents moved on. Some who cannot see any hope for the future have taken another way out.

Death hangs in the air. Sometimes it is not spoken about as a sign of respect for the next-of-kin left behind, or for elderly neighbours. It is more than an elephant in the room, it is as if there is a guilty secret and we have all done something wrong. My father died when I was six, we did not talk about it. But this was over sixty years ago and attitudes should have changed. I now know death should be talked about and a life however short or long should be celebrated.

Why do we have to hide the fact that people are dying in Millers Point? Why cannot some of this be attributed to the pressure of potential eviction? Someone should be held accountable! What has been going through my head round and round is the refrain Killing them Softly with a Song! I want to cry out it’s not the solution, it’s wrong, see how much damage you are doing! If we don’t talk about death in Millers Point surely we become complicit in the government’s plans.

By distancing themselves from the problem the decision-makers in government cannot feel the pain and immense despair experienced by those who are living in the centre of this catastrophe. I feel they need to know that what they are doing is wrong. Yet they do not feel accountable. It is my duty as a resident in this community to write about the situation in the hope of shaming the government into taking a charitable action.

Any attempt to contact the Minister results only in a reply from the Independent Facilitator. This protects those in power from becoming informed about the real situation in Millers Point. How do we get through to you? I know many of the houses will remain empty for years. Is there no room at the inn?

It’s also sad that many ill-informed members of the public think that moving the residents of Millers Point will allow others to be accommodated in public housing. They fall for the government rhetoric and spin that the houses to be sold will provide money for new public housing elsewhere. They seem to think the modest homes in Millers Point have harbour views, and as they don’t have water views, public tenants don’t deserve them! There is a creeping nasty attitude which demonises housing tenants. Some believe that tenants have not paid taxes, or don’t pay rent, and don’t deserve to stay in the community of Millers Point. What does that say about our attitudes to fellow Australians? People need to be more informed about why we need public housing. What happens when we desert the vulnerable, the less able and the elderly?

What happens to 88-year-old Myra who is now blind and has lived in this community for fifty-five years but is still independent in the physical environment and community she knows? What happens to 81-year-old Flo who was born in Millers Point and knows no other place. Flo likes to lean on the front rail and talk about the history of Millers Point to locals and passing tourists. She has always paid rent and her husband Teddy worked on the wharves. He died and was buried the day before Flo received Minister Pru Goward’s letter of 19 March 2014 titled Moving to your new home. We think of Myra and Flo as Millers Point pin-up girls who have bravely told their stories to explain some of the reasons residents should be allowed to stay in Millers Point.

There are many elderly residents in Millers Point who are not ready to be shipped off to old-age homes and wish to age in place in a community where they are known, respected and independent.


Margaret Bishop

A friend of Millers Point

19 March 2015

2 Responses to An air of extreme sadness

  1. JohnD 21 April 2015 at 8:42 am #

    The new minister has brought hope to the community. See the next story “Brad Hazzard might save Millers Point”. The decision a year ago to sell everything must have seemed clean and neat, but now the government seems to realise that the outcome in some cases is far worse than they anticipated. Brad Hazzard does appear to be a person who can look at these effects and adjust the policy so that the really valuable houses are sold, but some of the modest dwellings are kept along with the core of the long-term community which has links to the area and to one another, stretching back generations. Those long-term residents would agree to move within the Millers Point area to accommodate the government’s sale program. There are good solutions to this problem that will suit everyone. We are looking forward to talking with the minister.

  2. peter muller 26 April 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    I hope this social cleansing evil can be looked again with more thought for the social value of our communities. The long term interests of maintaining a mixed community in millers point for the next 100years far outweighs the short term cash it generates for the current government The Sirius Buildings sale exposes just what lies Housing NSW is willing to tell, It has no maintainance issues, was purpose built for it,s purpose as public housing, it’s got the same view it had when it was built for low income housing for people in the area. 30 years ago. The view and the people haven’t changed, just the attitude of the Government departments and the government itself to ordinary workers of this city and retired workers that live here, they just don.t have the same values that the federation of the Australia’s constitution was supposed to enshrine 6 years before the public housing estates were built. Shame on this government for this forced relocation of ordinary workers and retirees This belongs in Appartide south Africa not in Australia

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