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Final residents fight on at Millers Point

A sign on the day. Photo: Georgia Fullerton

By Georgia Fullerton

With 145 dwellings yet to be sold off by the state government at Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks residents are concerned about their futures. The area houses a disproportionate percentage of more elderly residents, so the dislocation will be all the more disruptive if the eviction plans go forward.
Bev Sutton lives in public housing and said the fight is about their community.
“You don’t give in to the bureaucrats just because they want to make money. It’s about your neighbours and it’s all very well to say they’ll move people elsewhere and of course they will, but there won’t be a community there,” she said.
Many of the buildings were originally accommodation for dock workers, but were transferred from the Maritime Services Board to Housing NSW in the 1980s.
“You cannot move 80 year old people to areas where they don’t know anyone. It’s frightening enough that they’re being moved. It’s even worse that they don’t have people around them they can call on,” Ms Sutton said.
There are currently 57,000 families on the waiting list for public housing. Chairman of the Millers Point Resident Action group, John McInerney, said the demand for housing is serious.
“It is crazy to give up good welfare housing so close to the city which is where you need it, for a short term monetary gain. It’s a false economy to think you can build two houses for selling one here, when you can’t build on in here,” he said.
Redfern Legal Centre helps tenants who are being relocated with written records and attends various meetings and inspections. Redfern Legal worker Lindsay Ash believes the increased popularity of the area has contributed to the relocations.
“This area was never associated with privilege or wealth, but now, with the way the city is developing, it’s seen as a prime area in Sydney, and of course it is,” she said.
“This has been sitting in government hands for a long time and I think they’ve been thinking about it for a long time. They’ve decided that it’s justified to sell it off because they say it’s very difficult to maintain properties here. A lot of them are heritage listed so in terms of development there’s only so much that can be done to them.”
Prior to the relocations, a social impact assessment found that moving elderly people from the area could result in sickness or death. These findings were left out of the published version of the study until Alex Greenwich’s office later found and released it.
“The residents had the feeling that they were promised to stay here forever. Certainly that is a feature of the way public housing has been run for a long time. Government is aware of the social and health risks and they’ve made the decision with that fully in mind,” Ms Ash said.
The action group held a community meeting last Saturday April 11 to inform residents of the latest development of their fight for the area.
On the Monday following the meeting, the government announced plans for the sale of a further 12 properties at Millers Point.
“The commitment to continue the divestment of more than 290 government owned properties in the Millers Point precinct is now well underway,” Brett Newman, CEO of Government Property NSW said in a statement.

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