There have always been close bonds between the residents of Sirius. They have formed a strong and happy community. From the outset, Sirius has been one of the great success stories of public housing in New South Wales.
How to account for this? For one thing, many of the original residents were firmly connected to the area before they moved in. They had fought alongside Nita McCrae, Jack Mundey and the Builders Labourers Federation with the world’s first Green Bans to save The Rocks from demolition at the hands of the NSW Government. The Green Bans were lifted to allow Sirius to be built. Another reason for residents living happily together in Sirius is that individual units are well designed, and there is a mix of one, two, three and four-bedroom units to accommodate families, couples and single aged units. At the time it was revolutionary to combine different types of units in a single block of units, but the success of this approach was soon evident. (See a typical floorplan here.)
But perhaps the most important reason Sirius became a strong and happy community was that it had a variety of common areas where residents could meet one another. Near the entrance to the main tower is a large community room, and through this are open-air courtyards at the rear of the complex; above this community room is a library; on the eighth floor is a Heritage Room which was originally set aside for older residents; and on the stepped rooftops of the tower are several roof gardens. Residents are now denied access to most of these areas, effectively cutting them off from one another. Could this be one more way Housing NSW wants to make Sirius unliveable for its residents? Below is a summary of the community areas that are now denied to residents.
The Phillip Room
For the majority of residents living in the central tower, the most important communal area was the Phillip Room, the large community room on the ground floor. The Phillip Room was the only room all residents passed when they entered the tower. Not only did the Phillip Room provide an area where people could meet, it was the only way for residents in the tower to access the open courtyard areas to the east of the complex.
General access to the Phillip Room by residents is no longer available. Over the past year it has been used by Housing NSW for Housing Lotto. If residents wish to use the room, a phone number is provided where a message can be left, and if their proposed use is approved, residents are given permission to travel to Surry Hills to pick up a key the afternoon beforehand, and the key must be returned the following day. Effectively, this procedure locks residents out of the Phillip Room and also denies them access to outside, the shaded area in the plan above.
Above are photos of areas on the east side of Sirius where it seems Housing NSW has encouraged weeds and undergrowth. Residents are not permitted in these areas.
The Heritage Room, the Library and the Roof Gardens
The 8th-floor Heritage Room was planned as a refuge for older residents, and for 35 years it was well maintained by residents. The photo on the walls records the city skyline when viewed from Sirius at the time of its construction.
Late 2014 Housing NSW, Housing NSW locked the door and pinned a sign on it. The Heritage Room joined the Roof Gardens of the tower block and the first-floor Library as areas to which residents were denied access.