The threat of relocation can cause stress and hardship
By Carol Carter, Bankstown tenant
Carol Carter is an Aboriginal woman living in public housing in Bankstown in Sydney. In September 2014, Carol received a letter from the Department of Housing in relation to relocating her to another house because of redevelopment happening at the place she currently lives. Carol has lived at her current home for over 14 years. Carol has been receiving help from Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants Service (GSATS).
How did you feel when you received that letter?
It felt like my gut had been ripped out.
So you have some health issues, what are they?
I have a rare condition called Guillain Barre Syndrome. If I stress out my body freaks out and I can drop things. My peripheral nerves have been damaged where I have no motor nerves or sensory nerves. Everything feels like velvet to me. I can feel the difference between sharp and blunt and hot and cold but everything else is velvet. I can’t peel oranges or anything round but everything else I can cut up and peel but I have to be careful. That’s why this house has been modified for me, the oven is up and the bench tops are low and the doorways are wide to allow me to fit my wheelchair through. They have made it easy to get things from the bench top and eat at the table.
How has Lorelle Corderoy from the Greater Sydney Aboriginal Tenants Service been helping you?
Lorelle has been a big help in advocating for me. She has made sure that she attends meetings with Housing, the relocation officer and Occupational Therapists. They contact Lorelle before they contact me, and only Lorelle can allow them to call me.
Ok and does that take some stress off you?
Absolutely, yes, yes. It’s such a big help. I couldn’t eat or sleep because Tyson my companion cat of 17 years got renal failure and then passed away on Christmas day last year.
So that makes the relocation even harder?
Yes, they want to put 18 units in this street but the homeowners have gone against the idea because the sewage is already really bad in the street. I have already called the guy twice this year and they said it would take 24 hours. So I called Lorelle and said I can’t wait that long as I have to go to the toilet and its about to overflow and I cant go to a public toilet due to my condition. So that has been a big help as she rang housing and they had someone here within 4 hours. Also, the neighbours and I have a little vegie garden around the side and I like to feed the bird and that’s a big thing for me as it means I don’t stress as much. And the neighbours are like friends and family around here. They help you out when you need it. When Tyson passed away I couldn’t lift the body off the couch and the neighbours came over and helped and the neighbours have always said that if I ever need help to just ask. I don’t want to move, as you never know the people you are likely to get.
Just having that stress about where you are going to be moved is not good for your health?
Yeah well that’s it. When my sister came down because of Tyson’s death, the relocation officer called and I had her on speakerphone. And she said that if you decline the house you will have to move to the flats in Padstow. I said no so she said that she would just terminate the tenancy and I would be thrown out on the street. I put in a complaint letter and also with Lorelle’s assistance that relocation officer is not with us anymore and we have a new one.
Have you been treated better with the new one?
She has been OK, but I am wary with people who smile and are too kind as I don’t want to let my guard down. People have to understand that I’m 66 years old and it’s hard for me to move on because I have nothing at this point.
So you don’t have friends or family close by?
No family or friends, the only friends that I have live in this street. It’s like I have been taken and put in another country where I don’t know anyone. That’s how I feel about the relocation.
They just call themselves human services but it isn’t human. The old lady across the road she got moved after 25 years, I said that I would see her soon and she responded with if I’m still alive. She had given up because no one was fighting for her. It was only Lorelle and I who stand up for her. Why are they punishing us? I have worked for 30 years and it isn’t my fault I can’t work any longer, I was given the wrong medication.
With the modifications that you have in the house now, does that mean that you can do everything by yourself without assistance?
Yes without assistance yes, they re-did the kitchen so I could reach it. They re-did the oven and a lazy Susan and knocked a wall out so I could go from the lounge room to the kitchen. They put in a new colour bond fence.
Did they offer you a new property?
Yes they did and it was filthy, had no toilet seat and excrement everywhere. The place had cockroaches everywhere. They didn’t even clean it before they showed me. I couldn’t fit into the bathroom as the bath was small and on the wrong side. I’m too old to adapt my body to new changes and I’m scared.
Did they say that they were going to make modifications in the new property or what did they tell you about it?
They said that they were going to put the bedroom in the lounge room and change the door from the entrance and move the power box from the back to the front in case there was a blackout. They were going to change the small kitchen into a dining room but I can’t have the chair in there. The plumber said that he didn’t know about the plumbing but I need the assistant to be able to get behind me when I transfer to the bath.
At that point I put in a complaint as I felt they were treating me with contempt and as a proud Aboriginal women I’m not having my pride and my integrity belted around like that. I felt like because I’m an Aboriginal woman they thought I would just take it. But I don’t have to take it and they can’t treat me like a second-class citizen.
So do you feel like Lorelle has helped you to stand up for your rights?
Yes the support has been great and also Paddy Gibson and we have spoken to the Koori Mail and had posters made up. The Labor candidate Cameron Murphy said, “If I get in you wont be moving,” but the other candidate got in.
Which other services do you have helping you, like getting groceries?
I don’t have any other services. I have a relationship with the local butcher and fresh fruit and vegie place where I can call them and they will deliver the stuff and I pay when they get here. If they move me out of the area I would not be able to access those connections. I don’t like the fact that they just want to displace
me after all this time and just ship me off to a strange place.
So would you recommend Lorelle to other people who would need help?
Yes I would! But I also think that you should do all you can and then go and say, “this is what I have done so far.”
Are you going to keep fighting?
You better believe it. Don’t take my kindness for weakness because you wont get a second chance. I rang Linda Bernie and she wanted to come and see the environment. She said that she would send off a letter to the Minister of Housing and now we’re waiting for a response. You can’t just come and move people out of their homes. It’s not fair.