Our beautiful neighbour Mrs Mary Vo, is being evicted from her home because the NSW State Government has decided to sell it and all other public housing in Millers Point. Not only is this decision by the government hard-hearted, it also runs against the best financial and urban planning advice and the government’s own policy of allowing elderly to age in place.
Mary was born in Saigon, South Vietnam, just before the outbreak of World War II. In 1975 she was working as the secretary of the Vietnamese Radio Broadcasting station for ‘The Voice of Freedom’ and ‘The Voice of the Mother of Vietnam’ but under the communist regime there it became ‘very terrible’. She escaped Vietnam by boat, survived a shipwreck, then waited a year in a Thai Refugee camp before coming to Australia in 1987 where her children lived.
Mary is now 76 and some of her story is already known by viewers of a television series documenting her family’s palliative care journey with cancer before her beloved husband passed away just three years ago this week. Mrs Vo herself has heart, gout, asthma and other health conditions to manage as well as impaired mobility. In the last few years she has had seven major operations. Mary has survived much struggle to raise four children including her nephew and family and Church are at the centre of her life. She relies on the community around her for support but is still active in caring for her children and grandchildren, and when Church events come around, cooks delicious dishes for fellow parishioners. Mary’s home is only a short distance away so she is able to slowly walk to Mass.
Despite her impairments Mary manages very well in a community where she is valued and known and she was always a cheerful person. However the toll since the decision was made to sell her home has been terrible. With many health challenges Mary is particularly vulnerable to the extreme stress brought about by the threats of forced eviction including intimidating visits from those carrying out the process, and the prospect of her loss of identity and established circle of support. This has resulted in bouts of depression, memory problems and declining health.
The government’s social impact study (which was ignored) warned that the forced relocation of elderly people is likely to result in death and higher incidences of morbidity, which has come to fruition. Other studies have shown that the death rate for people like Mary is increased dramatically following relocation. Relocating a vulnerable person who has a history of trauma associated migration runs the very real risk of re-traumatising them – compounding the stress anyone would experience in response to being evicted from their home. The safety and stability provided by that home has no doubt played a vital role in healing the wounds of the past. Taking it away is likely to re-open them.
At a time in Australia’s history when we are learning more and more about the ongoing impacts of trauma and the many ways our society re-traumatises victims, it is unconscionable to take actions that will clearly cause harm.
Mary often says, ‘thank you very much Australia Government and Australians’. She likes to live here for the ‘freedom for life’. She understands that the Government can sell her property and she is scared of the repercussions of asking but she pleads that they wait until she has lived out her few remaining years.
Given that there is no reason to sell Mary’s home immediately, and the process promises very poor outcomes for Vo (and she will need additional and significant health, medical and social services if she is evicted), we urgently request that Premier Baird give her, a resilient but vulnerable elderly woman, clemency from eviction leaving her to age in place in her home. Here she can continue to be supported by her community.
Premier Baird please be compassionate, sensible and show that you are able to respond to the needs of real individuals rather than blundering forward with a blanket decision that is OK for some but life threatening for people like Mary.
Please sign the petition to save Mary Vo from eviction. Share this link and ask your friends to do the same. We will be very grateful.