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Lessons for Millers Point from Anthony Albanese's mother

Date

Anthony Albanese

Millers Point residents supported Albanese in the fight to save his council home in the 1970s.

Millers Point residents supported Albanese in the fight to save his council home in the 1970s. Photo: Harry Martin

Like many residents of Millers Point, I was raised in a public housing property where I was born in 1963. My first community-based political campaign in the late 1970s, was fighting Sydney City Council, which had decided to sell our council house in Camperdown.

It was a battle that was fundamental to my identity and critical to the person I am today.

My mother had been born in this home in 1936 and was raising me there as a single parent. Her parents had been the first residents in the home after the Alexandra Dwellings estate was built in 1927.

For my family, this was more than just bricks and mortar. It was our home for three generations.

It sat in the centre of a proud working class community, made up of people as firmly anchored in the inner city as my own family.

The sense of community was enhanced by it being something of an island - surrounded by the Children’s Hospital, factories and light industry.

It was our home. We cared for it as though we had built it with our own hands, renovating and painting it at our expense to keep it up to scratch.

Yet the council was, as my worried mother said at the time, treating us with no respect. It was as though we did not matter.

My school friends from Millers Point at St Mary’s Cathedral School, supported our campaign because they understood the importance of security of home and community.

Months of tension and uncertainty followed, until the conservatives lost control of the council to Labor and the sell-off was shelved.

I lived at Camperdown for years afterward as I completed my education.

It remained my mother’s home until she passed away in 2001.

Today about 400 residents of Millers Point facing eviction at the hands of the NSW Liberals are suffering the same apprehension and uncertainty I remember so well.

For many, the first they heard of the government’s plan to sell their homes was a cold-hearted eviction notice slid under the door.

No respect.

The government appears to have made no attempt to weigh the financial gains of a sell-off against the social losses involved in the devastation of a community.

I was pleased to read in The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday that the National Trust is opposing the move because of the heritage value of the buildings at Millers Point.

But heritage is about much more than just buildings.

It’s about people.

Miller’s Point is a community – a living, breathing mixture of people that adds to the diversity of the broader Sydney community.

Successful cities are not disconnected enclaves of privilege and disadvantage. They are diverse. Their people come from a mixture of backgrounds.

The logic that only wealthy people should be able to live at Millers Point is a formula for a divided city based on haves and have-nots.

It also points to further public housing sell-offs in Sydney down the track.

That’s out of line with the values of most Australians who understand that a community is only as good as the way in which it treats its least-advantaged members.

Recently I read in The Sydney Morning Herald an elderly resident of Millers Point quoted as saying: “These people cannot come in and walk all over us and turf us out like we are rubbish’’.

It was as though I heard my own mother’s voice ringing down the years.

More than 800,000 Australians live in social housing, including a quarter of a million in NSW alone.

They matter.

Sydney, we can do better than this.

 

Anthony Albanese is a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

0 comment so far

  • This has been done to death. The Herald ran one sensible editorial explaining why the Miller's Point relocation was tough but fair and sensible. Since then all we have read in the Herald is this bleeding heart stuff which has ignored the balanced NSW government decision supported by the paper's own editorial.

    Mr Albanese wrongly claims that the Government made no attempt to weigh the financial gains against the social costs. The Government (and the Herald editorial) just came to a conclusion different to his.

    Does he believe that social housing tenants somehow "deserve" to have greater rights than other tenants and treated with more respect?

    Of course their is inconvenience involved for some of the tenants, and they should be treated with respect. I believe they are being shown greater respect and treated more favourably than private tenants whose tenancies are terminated or simply cannot afford to continue to live in the area they grew up in.

    Commenter
    melkin
    Location
    glebe
    Date and time
    March 31, 2014, 10:17PM
    • There are people who also fight for the rights of private tenants too - to try and change the very thing you are complaining about. Look at the submissions sent to govt when they changed the residential tenancies act.

      The comparison is relevant - all people have the right to safe and secure housing.

      It has not been done to death - unless one is ignorant to the actions of what a campaign is.
      If you care about tenants - whether they are private or social - then join the Tenants Union of your state.

      The NSW govt looking at short term financial gains is not good practice and who cares if the smh editorial agrees with them - it does not make it a valid argument.

      Commenter
      Lebanna
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 8:37AM
    • Quite right Melkin, though the professional whingers wont agree.

      Perhaps Mr Albanese would like to talk to the people on the housing waiting list and tell them how they should be forced to wait longer - with none of the security he enjoyed - just so others can live out their entire life in a government funded house.

      Perhaps he would like to talk to the people forced to take a housing department house in an area away from their family, friends and support networks, just so they didn't have to live on the street or crash at a relative's house for months on end..

      Perhaps he could discuss housing stability with the millions who rent, or those who have to share-flat because they can't qualify for commission houses, but can't afford to rent near their job.

      Commenter
      Get a Grip
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 9:25AM
    • It would be nice if social housing tenants had somewhat equal rights to other tenants. Social housing tenants have much less choice about where they can live compared to other tenants who can afford to move almost anywhere. People don;t understand the state of some housing commission areas are dangerous and threatening. How can you justify sending an older person to a housing commission area that is ruled by drug gangs and junkies? I'd like to see you accept your mother being told she has to move to such an area

      Commenter
      astroboy
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 9:29AM
    • @astroboy
      "How can you justify sending an older person to a housing commission area that is ruled by drug gangs and junkies?"

      Why are drug gangs and junkies allowed to life long access to housing commission housing, anyway? Maybe you should petition the government to do something about that, instead of bleating on about having no choice where people live, at the Gov's expense? Most of us don't have a choice where we live (lack of funds to buy/rent in a "safe" area), but that's OK, because we have to pay our own way....those who can't, should have a choice?
      Your logic has holes in it.

      Commenter
      noway
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 9:58AM
    • @astroboy, it's hard to read your post. Renters who are not in the social system have no stability. Landlords hike the rent up or sell. I have friend ho have moved every year. They would love the security that is offered of decades of housing. I think you have also missed the issue that state housing is state housing - you shouldn't get a pick of where you live, just that you get suitable accommodation. I think it the whole debate is forgetting the people on the waiting list and why they should miss out because one person is living in a large terrace in the rocks?

      Commenter
      Sydrenter
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 10:27AM
    • Seems quite hypocritical to me for a family who has enjoyed 3 generations of publicly funded housing in one of the worlds most expensive locations, to be complaining about having to move to a different publicly funded house without water views.

      Reminds me a little of a child who complains about the present they received not being exactly what they wanted.

      Maybe the tenants (they do appreciate that it is owned by the community right?) could spare a thought for those families who have a view of a steering wheel & dashboard before they go to sleep

      Commenter
      Confused
      Location
      Milsons Point
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 10:29AM
    • People have the right to housing if they meet the criteria – they DON’T have the right to expensive prime real estate that has become too expensive to maintain.

      Commenter
      QED
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 10:32AM
    • the critical point albo has missed here is that it wasn't his house, since his family didn't buy it, it belonged to the government. if they could afford to buy it, then they wouldn't have to be moved at the government's whim.

      it's exactly the same as a private rental, only even better, the public foots the bill.

      this then misses the other rather obvious point that people are living in government provided housing in very attractive areas on the public purse and then moaning about being relocated.

      i'd like to live in millers point too, especially if the public are paying my rent. but no, i have to live further away and pay a mortgage, which provides the security that these people cannot demand since they are not paying for it.

      they basically want their cake and to eat it too. talk about not living in the real world.

      Commenter
      simon
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 10:36AM
    • @astroboy - Nonsense. They do not have fewer rights as to where to live - they have more, because they have the options of public housing (subsidised by the taxpayer, including those living in privately rented accommodation) or private tenancies. They're being given well over a month to move out, which would be the standard for most private accommodation.

      My family was fairly poor as I grew up - both parents working full time at "working class" jobs. We moved several times, usually following where the work was, until we settled down in a house in the outer West where it takes an hour and a half to get to the CBD. Cut-rate housing for three generations a five minute walk from the CBD is NOT doing it tough.

      To some degree, that's my main criticism of the Miller's Point campaign. I have no real objection to subsidising the housing of the genuinely poor. If your familiy is poor enough to remain in public housing for three generations while having children well enough educated and placed to approach the prime ministership, you're either not as poor as you think you are or you're doing something wrong.

      I don't blame people for being unhappy at losing the opportunity to live close to the heart of the CBD for under a hundred dollars a week, but if each of those properties can be sold to purchase two properties elsewhere I can't say I'm stridently opposed to the idea. At those rental rates you get what you're given.

      Commenter
      Ronny
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 01, 2014, 11:56AM

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