The NSW government has refused to grant heritage protection to the iconic Sirius public housing building next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is despite the NSW Heritage Council’s submissions affirming its architectural and cultural significance, and hundreds of protestors rallying to demand its heritage listing.
Instead, the government is moving to relocate the tenants, breaking a 40-year lease to proceed with the $100 million sale and demolition of the building, in order to make way for the development of 250 luxury private units.
The construction of the Sirius complex was originally the result of a community and trade union campaign, which included Green Bans. The campaign opposed the redevelopment of The Rocks precinct during the 1970’s, which makes Sirius a symbol of social welfare triumph for many people.
Designed by Tao Gofers for the NSW Housing Commission, Sirius is a great example of Brutalist architecture built to a high standard. It incorporates residents’ original suggestions, and features combined aged and family living accommodation.
The ‘Save our Sirius Group’ have commenced legal action against the government with $35,000 already raised via a crowdfunding campaign. Reminiscent of the past, the campaign has also been strengthened by the announcement that the construction unions will once again ban work on the site.
Questions are now being asked about the NSW government’s real agenda. Already, $180 million has been raised in the past two years from the sales of other public housing properties in the harbour-side precinct.
A disturbing trend is clearly emerging with the state government selling off public housing in collaboration with big business developers. While it is imperative that community campaigns fight to stop these sell offs, there is also a need to broaden the struggle and take aim at the profit motive that lies behind all of Australia’s housing related problems.
By Robyn Trott