Protests as Millers Point evictions begin

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Residents, unionists and supporters protested outside the NSW Department of Housing office in Redfern on May 10, following the first forcible eviction of a resident of Millers Point public housing.

Peter Muller, a 57-year-old electrician, was out working, when police broke into his home and removed a number of supporters who were defending the house.

About 50 protesters heard speeches condemning the actions of police and the sheriff, who were carrying out a court ruling. Almost 500, mostly elderly residents, have now been relocated from the historic Millers Point public housing estate to other suburbs, with a core of about two dozen residents determined to stay.

A spokesperson for the residents, Barney Gardner, told the protest: "After an all-day picket outside Peter's home yesterday, police forced their way in this morning, escorted the young people out and put Peter's belongings in a removalist van.

"Why are all these Millers Point homes now vacant? The government says it is selling our homes to build new public housing. But where are these additional public housing dwellings?

"There are 60,000 people on the NSW public housing waiting list. Yet, there are now 36 empty houses in this section of Millers Point.

"The government and department have told lies all through this process. We have suffered three years of stress, including suicides and multiple hospitalisations of elderly and vulnerable residents.

"It has been wonderful to see all the support we have been getting from unions and community groups. This is not over by a long shot."

Paul McAleer, Sydney branch secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), told the crowd: "Maritime workers have lived in Millers Point for well over a century. This is a unique community, officially recognised as a 'national treasure'.

"We are proud of those who have stood beside Peter and the other residents of Millers Point facing eviction. The second eviction won't be as easy for the authorities. We will stand alongside them, as long as it takes."

The rally followed an all-day blockade of Muller's house by about 100 protesters to prevent authorities entering the property. Members of the MUA and other unions, as well as residents and other supporters, stood outside Muller’s house and chanted: "Peter Muller, here to stay! To the sherriff, go away!"

Muller told News.com.au: “After me, all the remaining Millers Point tenants are aged pensioners.

“We are trying to get the Department of Housing and the Premier Gladys Berejiklian to review and ideally rescind the total social cleansing of Millers Point, of working people. Workers still need homes in this city. If we lose homes, it’s going to affect future generations of workers.

“We’d like them to consider leaving 120 homes on some sort of 99-year social housing lease and that would be all of Sirius and at least 40 of these 1-2 bedroom workers cottages.”

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