Open letter to the Premier and Minister Upton

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.

Yours sincerely,

Kelli Haynes
Friends of Millers Point


6 Responses to Open letter to the Premier and Minister Upton

  1. Marie Sillars 12 December 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Hi There,

    My heart is breaking at he treatment that you are receiving at the hands of this so called Housing Minister and her Staff. We at Ivanhoe Estate are watching with sinking hearts as we know that we are next and that they will do this to us as well. Already the strain of waiting for 3 years is taking a serious toll on the Tenants here and some of the very elderly are simply giving up and dying!
    These people make so many promises but they are not following through. The beautiful Communities that will be torn apart cannot be replaced and history and wisdom of these people will disappear forever. I spent time at Millers Point in the 1960’s with my Great Aunt May Dainty and when I returned a few months ago that close Community feeling was still there. Millers Point will never be duplicated and it is a loss that ALL Sydneysiders should be fighting to keep.
    If there is anything I can do please let me know, our battle is about to begin and we are sick and tired of fighting with shadows for three years. I hope and pray that we here on Ivanhoe can show the strength, resolve and dignity that the people of Millers Point are showing in the face of adversity. God bless all of you.
    Marie Sillars – Centre Co-Ordinator, Ivanhoe Estate, Macquarie Park

    • Sailor 12 December 2014 at 11:54 pm #

      Many thanks – you are right, communities are an essential part of human existence and in community we find the social glue that holds society together. Money cannot buy the relationships, knowledge of individuals, freely given and reciprocal support that is the essence of community life – it takes decades of time, trust and commitment. Everyone in NSW and indeed Australia must be particularly protective of them at this time less they be lost to the seductive false economy of money forsaking all else.
      Your area was mentioned at the screening of Rocking the Foundations – shall we put you on our mailing list for Friends of Millers Point and consider how we may work to strengthen you too?

      • Marie Sillars 24 January 2015 at 9:08 am #

        Please put me on the mailing list! Yes I am pretty sure we are next and the people here on Ivanhoe are really doing it tough now. The sense of ‘evil’ coming our way is affecting even the strongest of us. I guess we just have to try to stick together, move forward and try to let as many people in NSW see how you at Millers Point are being treated and how, in the end, they will deal with us. Much thanks. Marie

  2. Peter Muller 19 December 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    A great letter Kelli I hope we can get a positive responce from the nsw premier or our new housing minister G Upton, what I would like to try is maybe getting icac or the ombudsman to look into the social cleansing of millers point under the bidding of currupt developers. Is it possible to write a similar letter to Icac from our community sighting the complete disregard of housing core values by the previous minister pru goward or also the lies that sirius building has high maintainance costs and this is why it should be sold etc I think it might be time to take a serius look at the elephant in the room that is the curruption oportunities that the social cleansing of Milles Point has been veiwed in relation to bangaroo developement do we have anyone that may be qualified to seek evidence of curruption by Pru Goward or put forward a request for investigation? I would love to see something of this nature come up soon to be debated before the next nsw election is that possible to get someone in freinds that might know how to search for evidence on this ?

  3. kimberly 3 March 2015 at 8:34 pm #

    I am 21 years old and I have just seen this story on TV. I feel so angry at the government, so heartbroken for the residents, and so helpless at the same time. Tears fell as i watched you all on The Project tonight. I feel so very passionate about this. You are human beings not objects that can be picked up and placed somewhere else. I will be telling everyone I know to support this and take a stand. After seeing this I have totally lost faith in the so called government. If there is ANYTHING i can do to help…please email me or if you just need someone to talk to. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! BIG HUGS AND LOVE TO ALL XO

    • JohnD 3 March 2015 at 9:07 pm #

      I am so glad the Project did an even-handed story. This lets people speak for themselves.

      Both Myra and Flo are strong, so don’t worry about them, but please sign their petitions (you can be the first to sign Flo after me).
      When people know what is happening to these residents, they will change public opinion, and maybe even the Minister’s opinion.
      Thanks for your support.

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