A report on the history of the Working Party by Marcia Chalmers with photos by Neil Saul Photography
On 19 April 2014, John McInerney, Joel Pringle, Chris Hinkley, Bev Sutton, Terry Tooher, Marcia Chalmers, David Carey and Barney Gardner met to initially determine the group’s role. At a later meeting the group decided that it would be called the Millers Point Community Working Party.
After a series of meetings a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was agreed with the group containing representatives from the Resident Action Group (Chair John McInerney and Secretary Marcia Chalmers), The Millers Point, Dawes Point & the Rocks Public Housing Tenants’ Group (Chair Barney Gardner, Chris Hinkley (Treasurer) and PaddiO’Leary) and CoRE (Members Bev Sutton and Terry Tooher). The Group determined the following aims:
- to work to stop the relocation of tenants and the current sale of Government owned public housing;
- to retain Millers Point as a truly mixed community;
- to assist tenants in obtaining their legal rights;
- to adopt the Millers Point Community Association as the auspicing body for the management of all donated funds, subject to the consensus recommendations of this Working Group;
- to meet regularly for information sharing and planning of activities with a Convenor as elected from the members of the Working Group as required;
- to act as a central contact and organising point particularly for other interested group and organisations as appropriate; and
- to establish a website under the Millers Point Community Association.
The membership changed during the first year with the withdrawal of CoRE and its representatives.
So started the long and difficult process of negotiating with the State Government. Minister Pru Goward had made the announcement regarding the relocations on 19 March 2014, and neither on that date nor any other date did she visit the community to discuss the process or hear the public housing tenants’ concerns. There was no acceptable explanation as to why the recommendations of the consultants who had been asked to survey the tenant population had been ignored, again without discussion. The change of portfolio to Minister Upton followed the same track of no discussion or negotiation.
It was only with the appointment of Minister Brad Hazzard that a more humanitarian approach was brought to the table. He offered 28 properties in Millers Point that the local public housing tenants could apply for. Unfortunately alterations were made to the properties, without consultation, that limited their acceptability to the majority of potential tenants. However, some properties were later altered to meet some specific needs. Minister Hazzard met often with the Working Party to discuss issues.
It must also be recorded that both the Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich and the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, worked assiduously from the beginning to have the concerns of the public housing tenants given a wider and better hearing both within the State Government and in the Sydney community. The City Council provided funds for the Redfern Legal Service to provide the tenants with legal advice regarding the relocations and to assist local fundraising activities.
The Redfern Legal Service representatives have given the tenants much needed advice and support before and at hearings regarding the relocations. It should be remembered that many of the public housing tenants who were to move were elderly, had lived locally for many years and were frightened by a future that took away their friends and isolated them away from their health professionals and other support systems.
The Working Party (WP) continues to work for the benefit of the remaining public housing tenants but also as a contact point for those who have been relocated and continue to need support. The WP acknowledges that the outcome so far has not met the aims of the MOU listed above but has achieved retention of some residents in Millers Point and provided the basis and impetus for the establishment of the Save Our Sirius group.
The WP now consists of members Barney Gardner, John McInerney, Treasurer Chris Hinkley and Secretary Marcia Chalmers. It has been an unusual group in that it has operated for nearly four years without needing to appoint a Chair. The group will continue to operate while there is a need in the community.
The contact details for the Millers Point Working Party are:
0414 421 906
0402 550 603