Synopsis by Blue Lucine, Helen Barrow and Tom Zybriski
On prized harbour-side land, a fight is being waged to protect one of Sydney’s oldest neighbourhoods. An entire community of public housing is facing eviction.
On March 19th, 2014, the face of Sydney changed forever. On the Cahill Expressway, Minister for Housing, Pru Goward, announced the biggest sale of public housing in Australia’s history, a decision that would see almost 500 vulnerable and elderly residents evicted from their homes. Behind her lay Millers Point, Dawes Point and the iconic Sirius building, all in the firing line. The Barangaroo development site loomed in the background, a silent player in this political game of money, greed and power.
One year later half the residents have already been relocated to Department housing all over NSW. The remainder will be moved over the next few months but a core is refusing to leave. The forced evictions have affected people in different ways. Some have grabbed the chance to leave with enthusiasm, but for most residents it has been upsetting, disorienting and even life threatening. Their worlds have been turned upside down.
As filmmakers we set out to pursue the legal and economic ramifications of the sale, as well as observe the changes in the community. Through our characters we see Department’s lack of maintenance in the homes. Roofs falling down, grass growing out of gutters, and rising damp and mould running rampant. Seeing this long-term destruction, we start asking questions. Why have these houses been left to decay? Why have so many been vacant for so long? Why does the final eviction date coincide with the completion of James Packer’s casino, just minutes away at the controversial Barangaroo development?
Social and urban planners around the world have recognised good cities as being layered, complex, fine-grained and both functionally and demographically mixed. Social mix and diversity is the key to a good city. Low-income people need to be urban, close to services and transport. Just as crucially, this city – any city – needs low-income people, for work, for mix, for vitality.
FORCED OUT will provide a personal look inside the lives of those at the heart of the sale. This is the biggest public housing sale any government has ever proposed and will utterly transform a 200-year-old part of Sydney. It is an important Australian story about a community of underdogs seeking social justice and taking on the big guns. It is representative of a bigger fight many communities face around Australia. The State Government says the decision is final and the battle is already lost, but for these residents, it’s only just the beginning.