Hon. Mike Baird and Hon. Gabrielle Upton
8 December 2014
Dear Premier and Minister Upton,
Friends of Millers Point request an urgent meeting with you in regard to the State Government’s forced relocation and inhumane treatment of public housing tenants and elderly residents in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks. Despite compelling economic, social and moral reasons against this experiment, it appears that you are blindly pursuing total sell off of all public assets, eviction of all public housing tenants and forcing the closure of our only aged care facility.
When the decision to sell off the public housing in Millers Point, Dawes Point and the Rocks was announced on 19 March this year, the Hon. Pru Goward said she would “make sure that Millers Point residents are treated with respect and compassion”, and “that tenants’ direct engagement is important to making sure (they) are included and involved in the process.” Since that decree there have been numerous invitations not only to yourselves but to the previous ministers involved, to meet with the people at the receiving end of this decision but to no avail.
In your maiden speech to Parliament, Ms. Upton, you said that some residents in your electorate of Vaucluse are “less fortunate, socially isolated and need assistance with housing”, and that you understand “uncertainty and diversity”. Perhaps your residents are like our tenants,many of whom are elderly or otherwise vulnerable including 88-year-old Myra who has lived here for over fifty years, has a significant vision impairment but remains independent because she knows her physical environment well. Or maybe someone like Vo, in her seventies with multiple health conditions, a mother and refugee from the Viet Cong and dedicated member of her Church – close enough to her beloved home that she can slowly walk to Mass. Despite impairments, both Myra and Vo regularly cook for fellow parishioners. Perhaps you know elderly men like Joe in his eighties, another member of the oldest place of Catholic Worship in Australia, now extremely hard of hearing but awarded for his long leadership role over decades in the local St. Vincent de Paul.
Your social impact statement warned that forced relocation of elderly people such as these and people with mental health issues was likely to result in ill health and even death, and it has. Since that announcement, we have had one suicide, two hastened deaths and numerous hospital admissions. We have had an elderly woman seriously injure herself by falling following her move (a common occurrence when elderly are forced into a new environment), another enter a nursing home and numerous incidents of tenants feeling incredible stress from uncertainty and harassment from your eviction officers. The abuse of human rights and treatment of the elderly here has indeed been raised as high as the United Nations.
h t t p : // w w w . s m h . c o m . a u / n s w / r a t s – p l a g u e – v u l n e r a b l e – e l d e r l y – o f – m i l l e r s – p o i n t – un-told-20140802-zzf72.html
On top of this, your government recently announced it was removing Peppercorn rent from the inner city’s only Aged Care accommodation facility, Darling House, thereby making it extremely likely to close by March next year. How is this treating the community especially the elderly tenants with respect and compassion?
Ms Upton you said you “respected heritage”. We have a living heritage in Millers Point and surrounds extending back over 200 years with people who have worked hard as their forefathers and mothers did before them to rise up out of the squalor and despair to build this unique community, maintaining their heritage and culture while enduring famine, plagues, and wars – indeed hundreds of young men from Millers Point served in the major wars, some surviving Changi and New Guinea and their sons served in Vietnam. What is happening here desecrates their sacrifice.
Our main concern is that community is maintained and there are for example many dwellings purpose built for social housing available to help people remain in this area while less appropriate houses are sold.
It is important you know though that we cannot stand idly by and watch you destroy something as precious as a strong community, rich in social capital – the essence of so called “civil society”.
If all of this does not convince you, there is in addition a financial advantage in enabling residents such as Myra, Vo and Joe to age in their community. If in spite of this they are relocated, this will diminish their lives and ours, and it will mark your government as heartless and cruel. We urge you once again to consider the SGS Economic Planning report which provides an alternative way forward for Millers Point. The complete report is available at…
h t t p : // w w w . s g s e p . c o m . a u / a s s e t s / M i l l e r s – P o i n t – F i n a l – R e p o r t . p d f
Communities are invaluable no matter where they are located. Indeed combined with wise asset management and financial prudence, they flourish. We are therefore obliged to continue to fight unwise decisions with everything we have for what is precious, right and just; for our community and communities like this right across NSW.
Friends of Millers Point