"We'll win this, because we'll stick together", Barney Gardner, a long-time resident of the Millers Point public housing area in inner-city Sydney, told a rally of several hundred at Argyle Place on March 25.
The rally heard a variety of speakers condemn the Barry O'Farrell NSW government for its decision to sell-off 293 public properties in the historic heartland of Sydney, following a march organised by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) from the Kent Street Fire Station.
"Some of us have been here for decades," Gardner said. "You deserve as much right to live here as these rich people they want to put in our homes. We will win, because we are the heart and soul of this place."
The rally was chaired by Paul McAlear, Sydney secretary of the MUA, who stressed the strong historic links of the waterfront unions with the area, and pledged the full support of the MUA, and other unions, for the residents of Millers Point. Other speakers included Irene Doutney, Greens city councillor and Alex Greenwich, independent MP for the area.
The rally and march followed a public meeting of 500 people at the Abraham Mott Hall on March 21, who slammed the proposed forced eviction of several hundred public housing residents from Millers Point. Alex Greenwich described the government decision as "cruel and heartless."
Sydney Mayor Clover Moore told the meeting that the state government "has no housing policy, and thinks the inner city is just for the rich". A representative from the housing organisation Shelter NSW described Millers Point as "probably the most important community in the whole of Australia".
She added that there was no guarantee that the housing stock planned to be lost at Millers Point would be replaced elsewhere in the city. "It is a land grab, which massively accelerates the process of dividing Sydney into rich and poor areas.”
Speakers at the meeting warned residents not to speak to housing department officials about being relocated, without legal and community advice. Some speakers from the floor declared they would not move, and would totally refuse to allow housing representatives into their homes.
The campaign to stop the sell-offs is being coordinated by the Millers Point Community Defence Group, a coalition of three local residents’ groups. Further actions are being planned for coming weeks.