Sirius resident Ron Jennings, the Chair of Urban Planning and Policy at University of Sydney Professor Peter Phibbs, the Director of City Futures at University of NSW Professor Bill Randolph, architect of Sirius Theo Gofers, Sydney Labor candidate Edwina Lloyd, curator and architecture writer Charlie Pickett, Shadow Housing Minister Sophie Cotsis and former BLF unionist Jack Mundey were some of the speakers at yesterday’s Getting Serious about Sirius forum at NSW Parliament.
Bill Randolf suggested the government’s plan to sell all public housing in The Rocks and Millers Point is a form of social exclusion, which he more forcefully named “state-imposed social apartheid”.
Peter Phibbs highlighted the government’s policy of encouraging “ageing in place”, which seems to hold true for everywhere except Millers Point, and the decision to move all public housing residents from the area is a cruel and clumsy policy.
Charles Pickett described Sirius as the last tower block built for public housing in Sydney, a special building that shows the potential of architecture geared to its site and its residents. He said it deserves to continue as part of the Rocks, where it is one element amongst many that provide a classic demonstration of the potential of public housing between 1906 and 2014. Read his full presentation here.
Two Sirius residents spoke at the forum, 85-year-old Ron Jennings and 87-year-old Myra Demetriou. Both Ron and Myra have rich, interesting and independent lives, thanks in part to the design of the Sirius apartments, but also because they know this area of Sydney after living here since the 1970s. Both have been told they will be relocated away from the area within 18 months. Will they be able to re-establish themselves in another area of Sydney when they are forced to move? Probably not, and this will diminish their lives. Similarly, it must diminish the lives of everyone living in Sydney for forcing this upon them.
During the forum Peter Phibbs said in the social impact study that investigated the effects of this relocation of an entire community which he reviewed for the government, it became clear that especially for older people, forced relocation would have a very negative impact on both their wellbeing and their mortality. It has been noted elsewhere that the way the government responded to this was not to make changes to their plans to relocate older residents but instead to change the report to bury this anticipated outcome.
In her 10th-floor Sirius apartment Myra has Christmas lights flashing S.O.S. to highlight the campaign for Save our Sirius. Her message can be seen across Circular Quay to the Opera House. She hopes the people of Sydney see this message, hear her story and call on the NSW Government to find a way to accommodate public and social housing tenants in this part of the city, especially the elderly and vulnerable.
(Note: an extended report on this forum will be posted soon.)