New doco highlights how residents fought to save public housing

Protest in 2014 to save Millers Point. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Eviction: (FKA On the Rocks)
Directed by Blue Lucine

“Millers Point is now an AirBNB ghost town,” director Blue Lucine told the audience of several hundred at the Chauvel Cinema, Paddington, at the world premiere of her powerful documentary, The Eviction (FKA On the Rocks), on October 13.

The Eviction is the story of the NSW Coalition government’s assault on the public housing community in the inner-Sydney suburb of Millers Point.

“I hoped the film would be an account of a community winning its struggle to survive,” Lucine told the Q&A session, following premiere showing. “This is a cautionary tale, a tragedy, of the ‘social cleansing’ of a whole community. But it also shows people not giving up, sticking together, and fighting to the end.

“The film also shows that big business really runs everything, especially in Sydney. We need a different kind of government, one based on compassion and concern for community, not money and greed.”

The Eviction is a moving account of the residents and supporters struggle since 2014 to stop the ruthless drive to sell off the 393 public housing properties in Millers Point and The Rocks. As the film notes, despite claims by government ministers that the multi-million dollar proceeds would be used to build new social housing in other areas of the city, there is no evidence this has occurred.

The film features residents who led the long campaign to halt the government’s ideological vendetta against public housing, as part of its neoliberal drive to privatise the bulk of public assets and services in the state. We see the emotional toll taken on mostly elderly residents as they are forced to move to other properties in the city, separated from friends and their supportive community in Millers Point.

Barney Gardner and Bob Flood are childhood best friends whose families have lived in the area for three generations. Millers Point had been a working-class neighbourhood for more than a century, since it was the centre of Sydney’s historic dockland area in the 19th century.

They became leaders in the fight to save Millers Point. Together they campaigned through many public meetings, rallies, marches and other means as they sought to win public support for the cause. Despite significant community opposition, the government succeeded in gradually pushing the residents out.

Meanwhile, a parallel struggle is being fought to stop the sale and demolition for private apartment development of the nearby iconic Sirius building. It was built in the late 1970s as a result of the Green Bans movement spearheaded by the NSW Builders Labourers Federation. The Sirius housed mainly elderly and infirm residents, and represented a community of public tenants, who have now all been removed.

The Eviction shows the campaign, led by the Save Our Sirius group, to stop the sell-off of the famous Brutalist-style building. The film highlights the story of Myra Demetriou, blind and in her 90s, the last of the residents to be cruelly evicted.

The film, while depicting the loss of a valuable community in Millers Point, ends with a note of hope. The campaign to save the Sirius is not yet lost. The chance of preserving the Heritage-listed building is still alive.

Lucine notes: “The reason I made this film is so that people think of living in a different way. Change can happen.”

She explained that a special screening of the film was being planned for November at state parliament, to be accompanied by a discussion on an alternative, pro-community housing policy. Options for future distribution of the film are in process.

[For more information, visit “The Eviction documentary” Facebook page.]

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