By Thomas Williams
The sell-off of public housing around Millers Point and The Rocks is being etched into history by a new documentary currently in production. The film, which is the first feature-length project by 27-year-old Sydney filmmaker Blue Lucine, follows the lives of Millers Point residents, including some who are refusing to leave their homes.
Ms Lucine’s documentary, which currently has the working title ‘Forced Out’, came into being shortly after Pru Goward, former Minister for Family and Community Services, announced in March 2014 that the NSW Government would auction off 293 high-value public housing properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and The Rocks, relocating 590 residents. The Government says it intends to complete this sale by March 2016, and will put sale proceeds back into the public housing system.
Ms Lucine says she began her film with an open mind, but soon faced a stark reality. “I started with the opinion that maybe the Government’s plan was the best thing for Sydney but that changed once I was inside the houses and I saw the decay and just how badly everything has been left,” she says. “It just didn’t seem logical that the Government would think selling that amount of property in such a short amount of time was a good idea.”
Blue Lucine is an independent filmmaker. She doesn’t have a film crew — it’s just her and her camera. “I felt like no one else was going to tell this story, and this kind of story needs to be told relentlessly. You can’t just take a few months off and then check in and see what happened,” she says.
Having embedded herself in the tight-knit Millers Point community, Ms Lucine has grown close to many of the suburb’s elderly residents. “Two of the people I was filming passed away,” she says. “The deaths have been pretty hard to deal with.”
Produced by Tom Zubrycki and Helen Barrow, ‘Forced Out’ has similarities to Mr Zubrycki’s 1981 film, ‘Waterloo’, which documented the efforts of Waterloo residents who fought against public housing redevelopments in the 1970s.
“‘Waterloo’ touched on exactly the same things: the planning process, community involvement, no bureaucratic accountability,” says Mr Zubrycki, who believes ‘Forced Out’ will bolster the cause of Millers Point residents.
“‘Forced Out’ will help residents by reassuring them that there are people who are with them,” he says. “The film will mean that whatever they do individually will be recorded in history, regardless of whether they’re successful or not, and I think that’s important.”
A 12-minute preview of ‘Forced Out’ was screened at Sydney’s Parliament House exactly one year since Minister Goward’s announcement. Millers Point residents, media, members of the public and local Labor, Greens and Independent members attended the screening. No Liberal party representatives were present, despite having been invited.
“My goal is to present a balanced argument, but it’s becoming more challenging because the Liberal Government won’t engage, and they won’t discuss and they won’t be honest,” Ms Lucine says. “I’m trying to show what they’re doing, and even giving them a chance to explain why, but they won’t.”
The previewed section of ‘Forced Out’, which focuses on economic, political and heritage issues, drew strong reactions from locals. Millers Point resident Eddy Hughes said such issues are increasingly important to the suburb’s fight. “The emotional side of the argument isn’t working anymore,” she said. “No one cares.”
Barney Gardener, lifelong Millers Point resident and convener of the Millers Point, Dawes Point & The Rocks Public Housing Tenants Group, said, “This sell-off is going to affect everyone, so what we need to do is band together and stop this ridiculous sell-off of our public assets.”
Ms Lucine says she doesn’t know how the Millers Point sell-off will end, but promises to be there until then, sharing residents’ stories. “For me, the film is about awareness,” she says. “My biggest fear right now is that we’re so insular, and that leads to really bad things in society when everyone ignores what’s going on.”