Only a handful of Sirius residents remain. For eighteen months a Relocation Team of twenty trained government officers has been pressuring them to leave the only community they know. They feel the threat of eviction hanging over them, and if they are evicted, for most it will be the end of their independent lives. From former neighbours who have been forced out they hear reports of isolation and depression. They feel they have no option but to hold on, asking the community for support and petitioning Minister for Social Housing Brad Hazzard for a reprieve.
Privately Brad Hazzard has been saying he will look at ways to keep these residents in the community, but publicly he has been pushing forward with selling all social housing in The Rocks, Millers Point and Dawes Point, and the Relocation Team has told residents there will be no softening in its efforts to force them out.
Recently the National Trust proposed Sirius be listed as a heritage item of state significance, and this has now been recommended by the Heritage Council, but Brad Hazzard opposes this move and wants 250 luxury apartments on the site. This coincided with what Elizabeth Farrelly described as a plan for a Celestial Christian Science style makeover for the building, but it appeared both Brad Hazzard and the pro-development lobby group behind the proposal were focused on emptying Sirius so it could be sold without heritage restrictions and then demolished. A central aspect of the proposed listing of Sirius is the people living in it and their role in stopping the demolition of The Rocks and Millers Point in the 1970s.
In November Brad Hazzard came out publicly and said he is looking at how he can keep existing social housing tenants in The Rocks, Dawes Point and Millers Point if they have a compelling case for staying. Brad Hazzard’s comments were broadcast on ABC TV News alongside interviews with three Sirius residents, Maureen, Cherie and Myra, and a proposal by Sirius’s architect, Tao Gofers, which would see the building become a mixed community of private owners and social housing.
There are many stories about Myra and what it would mean if she was forced to move. Legally blind but very determined, she goes out on her own most days, meeting neighbours at the community centre, or catching buses to her doctors in the city or to the State Library where regularly she attends lectures. At 88 years of age, she could not learn to navigate a new environment.
Cherie lives in the unit below Myra’s, which she moved into with her mother in 1980. In her interview with Jayne Margetts for ABC TV she said, ‘We all love, care and respect one another in this community. If anything goes wrong we band together and that’s the way it is, it’s like a little country town. The first day we moved here [we went] the following morning to Millers Point to buy a newspaper and ladies in the town [said] “good morning” and I thought how beautiful is that.’ Promised life-time tenancy when she moved here, after caring for her mother until she passed away, and now with severe health problems of her own, Cherie cannot imagine life away from the only community she knows.
Also with a long list of health challenges is Maureen, but Maureen does not dwell on these except to say she needs to be near her doctors in the city. Maureen believes she walks in the shadows of her ancestor, Mary Ann Curry, convicted at sixteen for stealing and transported to New South Wales where she later met and married a boatman, former marine David Davis who had fought with Nelson. The family still has his medal listing the battles in which he fought, which was made from a melted-down French cannon. Together they lived in Globe Street. One of their sons, also named David Davis, married Maureen’s grandmother, who with their family moved into the first flat in High Street when it was completed in 1908. It was here her father grew up, surrounded by his cousins, the Flynns, who lived nearby. Maureen is now in seriously poor health and carries with her a letter outlining her many illnesses and the doctors and professors who are keeping her going.
There are compelling reasons for Maureen, Cherie and Myra to remain part of the Millers Point community. Finally it seems Minister Brad Hazzard is looking for ways to keep them here and has come out publicly to say this.
What you can do
The government has proposed listing Sirius as a heritage item of state significance, but currently the government has also indicated it will oppose its own proposal. We are asking people to write in support of this listing. Let the Heritage Council and the government know you support Sirius or some part being kept as a sanctuary for this community, and that you think its history and theirs should be valued. There is no required way to write. Simply address your letter or submission ‘Attention Listings Manager’ and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Sirius and this proposal, see here.