Relocation/dislocation: The catastrophic loss of community

The Millers Point community was built up over generations and withstood many attempts at dispersal over the years, before being ripped apart by public housing redevelopment. Could this be happening again in Waterloo?

A community consists of far more than just its physical location. It is made up of generations of families and neighbours living together and supporting each other.

The fabric of any strong community is woven around a supportive and inclusive culture. Public housing policy pays no regard to this culture: the value of real estate trumps the value of people. But bodies in homes do not a community make.

At Redfern Legal Centre, we’ve seen that even the most well-established communities cannot survive the catastrophic fracturing caused by relocation and redevelopment.

We saw visible signs of neglect occurring at Millers point in the lead up to the sell-off. We’re now seeing similar signs at Waterloo.

Waterloo tenants are coming forward with reports that properties are sliding into disrepair, despite requests for maintanance. We are hearing that general maintenance is not done; window sills no longer open or close; lawns are no longer mowed; and the odour of stray cat’s urine wafts through the properties.

Residents have the spectre of relocation hanging over them without the certainty of when, where or how they will be forced to go, let alone when or if they will ever return.

Even when this relocation is temporary, we know from experience that even the most robust community ties rarely withstand the upheaval.

The trauma of relocation plays out in a variety of ways. It strips away an individual’s sense of belonging, leaving even the most resilient person feeling isolated, unsupported and disconnected. It is not only about the loss of communities. It’s about the loss of people’s lives.

This fracturing has occurred across Sydney many times before. The Millers Point community was a proud and strong community who thought this would never happen to them. But it did. We must do everything we can to prevent this tragedy from being be repeated again.

RLC's Inner Sydney Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS) remains committed to representing and supporting the Waterloo community throughout the coming 'redevelopment'.

See also

Waterloo redevelopment: New RLC service to support tenants