Flo Seckold is leaving 48 Argyle Place for good. At 11 o’clock today she closed the front door for the last time after spending the morning with neighbours who dropped in. Then her Relocation Officer took her away and the removalists carried out the last of her furniture.
Flo has been at the forefront of the campaign to save the Millers Point community. For three years Flo has resisted all attempts to be moved from Millers Point. She has been the subject of dozens of media stories. Her home is covered with banners, petitions, photos and stories of the people of Millers Point, and most days she comes out to lean on her front verandah railing to talk to neighbours and tell visitors about the Millers Point community.
Born in Millers Point 83 years ago, Flo grew up and went to school here. She started work down the road in the Bushell’s factory where she met Teddy, the man she married, and in Millers Point they raised their children. Her father died in a waterfront accident in 1953 and a photo of him still hangs in the Hero of Waterloo hotel. Three years ago her husband Teddy died, and the day after his funeral she received the letter telling her she was being relocated from Millers Point, along with every other public housing tenant.
Following the government announcement that all public housing residents were being forced out from Millers Point, it took three ministers and eighteen months before a NSW Housing Minister visited the people of Millers Point. That was when Brad Hazzard came to tea at Flo’s. At the time, Minister Hazzard said he would do what he could to help Flo remain in Millers Point but so far this has not worked out.
Flo was one of the few remaining public housing tenants not yet relocated. She resisted the Relocation Team and its attempts to force her from Millers Point until the effect on her health became too great.
Forty-five years ago, Flo and Teddy were part of the Battle for The Rocks during the Green Bans era. Teddy was one of the first arrested and together they helped save The Rocks from demolition and put an end to the government plans for Sydney Cove Redevelopment.
In 2014 the government announced its plan to sell the grand old houses of Millers Point and Dawes Point. Many in the Millers Point community agreed with selling the heritage houses which the government appeared to be demolishing by neglect. But the community had two demands: that residents not be forced from their homes, with houses being sold only as they became vacant; and that some of the modest and purpose-built workers’ flats built throughout the 20th century be retained for public and social housing.
In 2017 the Working Party are talking to the Minister’s office about keeping a section of the Little High Street workers flats for public and social housing; and the Sirius Foundation has middle-ground solutions to put before the government and save Sirius and its residents before it is too late.
If Sirius is saved and some units remain available for public and community housing, the Sirius Foundation will ask the government to allocate an apartment to Flo so she can age in place amongst the neighbourhood and people who have surrounded her all of her life.
While Flo was packing the last of her belongings this morning, she was surrounded by family, friends and neighbours, and members of the Relocation Team. (For more about Flo see here.)
Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s response to Flo being forced from Millers Point…
“If Flo wasn’t there 45 years ago, Sydney’s historic The Rocks area would have been destroyed by the state government.”
“More recently, as one of the few remaining public housing tenants not yet relocated, Flo’s been the heart and soul of the campaign to save the Millers Point community — she’s had government Ministers for tea, talked to the media and fronted protests — yet despite her courage, the government has again moved to destroy this strong community.”
“She resisted the Relocation Team and its attempts to force her from Millers Point until the effect on her health became too great.”
“The best thing would be for Flo to be able to return to Millers Point and her community — if the remarkable Sirius building, purpose built for social housing, can be protected, the Save Our Sirius Foundation will ask the government to give an apartment to Flo so she can age in place in her childhood neighbourhood.”
“Sign here to show your support: www.saveoursirius.org”
Social Housing Minister Pru Goward says that Flo will be better off now that she has been forced out of Millers Point. She said, ‘It’s better for Flo’, using a familiarity suggesting she has had some contact with Flo Seckold. On A Current Affair Minister Pru Goward also said that for every property sold in Millers Point, the government has been able to build another five social housing properties, but neglected to say that the Millers Point community had been calling on the government to do exactly this for the past few years. At any stage in the past three years Flo was ready to move to more appropriate accommodation in the area, and the Sirius Foundation has middle-ground solutions for Sirius and the Millers Point community which it hopes to put before the government before it is too late.
Minister Pru Goward talks about “facing a waiting list of 60,000 people and you’re looking at people with children living in cars”. The minister wants to pit one group of vulnerable people against another, but there are solutions better for both that require no additional government funds.
Flo burst into tears speaking to Central, saying: “I have been crying for three years now and you couldn’t get me to cry before that. There is nothing that I haven’t loved about living here.” She told Central she will miss the suburb’s people and its sense of community.
John McInerney said forcing Flo from Millers Point will “lead to depression and to separation from everything that she’s known,” on the Channel 7 News story.
Two years ago ABCTV reported that Flo met the NSW Housing Minister, but the government has so far resisted hearing about the middle-ground solutions from the Sirius Foundation.
Recently, an in-depth story about Flo and Millers Point aired on Background Briefing, with the story by Ann Arnold and photos by Tiger Webb.
One week after Flo left Millers Point, these were the opening remarks in a speech by Lee Rhiannon in the Senate…
‘Last week Flo Seckold, who has lived in Millers Point all her life, left her home for the last time. Like many, she had been turfed out as the New South Wales Liberal-National government begins their public housing sell-off in Millers Point. Flo worked at the Bushells factory. Her husband, Teddy, was a wharfie. Teddy was one of the first arrested during the green bans action to save the area from the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority demolitions, back in the sixties and seventies. They were together for 62 years until Teddy died three years ago. The day after Teddy’s funeral, Flo was sent a letter to tell her that her home was to be sold off. In 2014 the New South Wales government announced the sell-off of public housing in the Millers Point area, and since then people have been forced to move out. Flo has been a central part of community campaigns against the public housing sell-offs in Millers Point, and I want to congratulate her and say that I am deeply sorry for what has happened.’