Last month the lights were finally switched off for Myra Demetriou, the last remaining resident of inner-city Sydney’s Sirius building.
Sirius was once home to more than 100 residents in 79 units, but now the last remnants of affordable public housing in the city are to be sold to developers.
In 2014, then premier Mike Baird announced the impending closure of the building – an iconic brutalist complex perched on the doorstep of Sydney Harbour.
An additional 465 residents from 206 properties across Millers Point were told they had less than two years before they would be evicted from their homes. In some cases, the same families had been living in them for generations.
Despite widespread public outcry from the local community and the Maritime Union of Australia – the terraces at Millers Point have housed the families of wharfies for more than a century – Baird and his successor Gladys Berejiklian pushed ahead with the sell-offs, which had begun under the previous Labor government.
Angry residents have described this as “social cleansing”. They have been kicked out of their homes and communities to make way for the mega-wealthy of Sydney; in December 2017, seven properties in Millers Point sold at auction for a whopping $22.7 million. The Sirius building could bring in as much as $100 million.
While these homes are transformed into luxury apartments, the waiting list for public housing in NSW is soaring past 60,000. With an impenetrable housing market, stagnating wages and political parties offering a helping hand only to their property developer mates, the future is looking bleak.
Myra has become the most familiar face of the fight to save Sirius. The 91-year-old is a staunch advocate for affordable and accessible housing, and was honoured by the community with a morning tea on her final day in the building. She also puts a human face to the depravity of the NSW government, which has ripped apart a historic community to create a new playground for the rich.