City News

Vale Debra Berryman

OBITUARY by Elizabeth Elenius

Debra Berryman, a Pyrmont resident for nearly forty years, passed away on New Years Day.

What a woman! Debra was an enterprising East Ender who moved to Bulwara Road with her husband Ray in 1976 and worked tirelessly for the community.

She would tackle anyone to get things done and her forthrightness could be quite intimidating. I recall some fierce head-to-head battles between Debra and (then) mayor, Frank Sartor, at our regular community-council forums.

While I am a relative newcomer to Pyrmont, I worked with Debra on a number of successful campaigns, including protection of the old Festival Records building (housing IGA), construction of the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre (complete with hydrotherapy pool) as originally designed after a 12-year delay, and at least one unsuccessful campaign against the unfiltered emissions stack built for the Cross City Tunnel. Fortunately, for the health of Pyrmont/Ultimo residents, the projected usage of the tunnel did not eventuate.

Debra also campaigned for the sound barrier between the Western Distributor and Bulwara Road, and for Paradise Reserve, a green haven between the Distributor and the quiet residential street.

At the celebration of her life, I learnt of her opposition, with other locals, to the excesses proposed for the redevelopment of Pyrmont and Ultimo, including the proposed sell-off of the Ultimo Primary School site. She was a strong supporter of the Pyrmont Republic and many a heritage building was saved by this small band of passionate people who cared about their community. I also learnt about her devotion to her friends and their families.

She was the person everyone in the street went to if in trouble and they were sure to receive help – and copious quantities of delicious food at the same time. She was also a leading light in getting the UpTown Festival running and could always be found in Quarry Green at such events, chatting with her friends and visiting the various stalls. It is sad the festival no longer receives the support required to keep going.

Debra had an amazing store of historical information and always passed on notices about up-and-coming developments which she deemed inappropriate. Her last email to urged inclusion of policies for disabled access in the NSW government’s Sydney City Centre Access strategy – a serious omission, if not corrected.

The Pyrmont and Ultimo communities will be poorer for Debra’s passing. We offer our condolences to Ray, her family and her many, many friends.

Elizabeth Elenius is the convenor of Pyrmont Action Inc.

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