We were living in New York on 9/11, and my Australian partner said to me “I think it’s time we returned to Australia” and it’s fortunate that she owned a house in Surry Hills.
I’ve been in Surry Hills for 10 years. While it’s an old neighbourhood there’s new seeds being planted. There are so many young families and children. I get such joy seeing them in Shannon Park, seeing them run around. That’s all positive. These old buildings are getting second lives. People are renovating their homes. Buildings are getting rewired. There are start up businesses and digital businesses. On the other hand, there is a growing population so we’ve seen new transport being built which mean trees need to be chopped down. That’s just heartbreaking. I love the old trees in Surry Hills.
Gentrification has changed the price of entry. It’s more expensive to get in. We have lost a lot of the “mom and pop” shops. When we moved in 10 years ago there was a wonderful Lebanese shop run by a husband and wife on Crown Street. He’d sit out front and she’d work inside. But they’re gone now.
What worries me is that we may have an imbalance of people. I love council housing and the diversity of people, it brings challenges but it’s more real and reflective of life. I’m afraid we will become whitewashed and gentrified.
On our street we know most of the people. I make it a point to introduce myself when new people move in. We take care of each other’s pets and we come together on issues that affect us. We do quite a bit of work in responding to development proposals. We have written petitions about noise and garbage. We socialise too.
Unforeseen sense of community comes from owning a dog. We had just rescued Jack. I remember running into another poodle owner and I said hello. He said, “Is this Jack? We know all about Jack.” There was a sense of community there because we had a mutual neighbourhood friend who told him about Jack. There is a woman who lives on Riley Street who knits and she makes beautiful jumpers for dogs. She made one for Jack! I often know the dogs’ names but not the owners! There is an immediate reason to have a chat. People love talking about their dogs.
More recently I got involved with the community centre and started taking Tai Chi classes. I can meet new friends that way. That gets me out of my comfort zone.
In my late twenties I had to look at myself and had to be true to myself. And I came out. That was a big step because there were no role models on TV. This was before Ellen come out on her sitcom. I remember telling my parents and my mother crying. I asked her why she was crying and she said she didn’t want me to be alone. So it was her love and concern for me. I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t be alone. But I still had to go out in the world and find my way. I was lucky that 23 years ago in NYC a cute, sweet “backpacker who had lost her way” (an Aussie girl) smiled at me. We have been together ever since. It’s a life-long journey. Coming out is something you do but everyone around you has to do it too. My parents had to deal with it, my child, every new work situation. I don’t want to hide it. It’s really about your own journey. It’s a continuum. I admire people who are true to themselves because I think that’s how you find happiness. People know when you are not yourself. I worked in a business where I had a manager who said to me “I feel like you are a flower that’s waiting to bloom.” So he could see that. I was waiting to be true to myself.
The well being of my family is important. Being a parent is a hard job. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. When I think about children they are a reflection. You see things about yourself that you never knew. In some cases it’s not pretty and you have to own it and then choose to do something about it. I have grown and changed for the better because of that truthfulness. I have learned, with a teenager, what you don’t say is just as important as what you do say.
On a global level, I believe there is a growing collective consciousness. I do believe we are more connected. There is an awareness that we are reliant on each other. Understanding and having compassion for living things is important. We need each other to survive. We need to understand our differences. Love is important.
The other day I was coming down the street and a young girl in her twenties was throwing up. So I got her some water and a banana from my house, and asked “Are you ok? How are you going to get home?” I just think helping people is important. I hope someone would do the same for me or members of my family.
11th August 2017