Image: Clover Cloud

Many politicians and civic leaders like to leave a legacy, often in the form of long lasting infrastructure or a unique visual addition to their domain. Clover Moore can claim many positive changes to the City Of Sydney over her decades as Lord Mayor and mercifully that does not include her ill-fated wiggly, wobbly golden arch over George Street. 

With an estimated cost blow out to $22 million it was a vanity project that reeked of the monumentalism of some of the world’s worst autocratic regimes.

Luckily, sanity prevailed over vanity and an eyesore that vaguely resembled an outline of Casper the Friendly Ghost was consigned to the scrapheap of bad ideas. If Clover is returned to power in September of this year maybe she will look at leaving a much different, but markedly less glamorous legacy – the revitalisation of a particular city precinct that’s been shamefully long overdue.

Clover Moore with 1988 campaign poster. Image Clover Moore on X

If you trawl through the hundreds of current videos on YouTube, many of them verging on so called ‘poverty porn’, recording the homeless in America’s big cities, you will appreciate how dire the situation is there. Exacerbated by the availability of cheap street drugs, laced with fentanyl, the homeless now occupy many of the downtown streets with their tents and sleeping bags.

In Sydney, to date the homeless are not as conspicuous, at least in the busy CBD streets and adjacent gentrified neighbourhoods. Yet take a stroll down to Cathedral Street, Woolloomooloo and at the public housing end you’ll find a corral of the city’s dispossessed. 

Disenfranchised people in Woolloomooloo.CREDIT- STEVE LUNAM – Sydney Morning Herald

It’s an area of the city that is conveniently out of sight, a bleak expanse of concrete in Walla Mulla Park and Tom Uren Place that hasn’t changed in over twenty years, apart from the increasing number of rough sleepers that now call it home.

In April of 2000, Clover, then an independent member of the NSW Legislative Assembly, wrote to the then premier Bob Carr expressing “concern at Government inaction in the face of a growing crisis in the inner city – the crisis of homelessness.” She specifically drew attention to the “crisis situation arising in Tom Uren Square” in Woolloomooloo, where up to forty people sleep rough every night. Twenty four years later and not much has changed, apart from an increasing number of homeless men and women.

Walla Mulla, Woolloomooloo. Image: supplied

When it comes to Tom Uren Square, it seems shameful that such a neglected and desolate public space is named after one of our most distinguished politicians, a prisoner of war with the Japanese from 1942 to 1945 and a one time deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party. It was Uren who brokered deals with state and local governments for the provision of the current public housing in Woolloomooloo  – a true champion of the working class.

Tom Uren, 1966. Image: National Library of Australia

Artwork for audio recording of Tom Uren on Dept of Veteran Affairs website.

Together with the adjacent Walla Mulla Park, some creative and sympathetic thinking is needed to transform the entire area to suit the needs of both the homeless and residents of the large housing estate. What it doesn’t need is another group of well intended, but ill advised urban planners and architects giving the area a cosmetic makeover, as was the case back in 2011 – and at considerable cost.

Clover Moore is obviously well acquainted with the area which as been a dilemma for the Council for decades now. If she is re-elected as Lord Mayor it could be a wonderful opportunity to do something really positive here in what could be her final term. With the current state of the economy, the homeless problem is only going to get worse. Maybe use the space to build another hostel to compliment the Matthew Talbot which has long been overtaxed in providing overnight accommodation. How about a council subsidised café/coffee shop that could service both the residents and the blow-ins? 

Clover Moore. Image: ABC Australia

And please —no more symbolic murals and designer park seating in the shape of boomerangs. They don’t keep you warm at night and provide little comfort during the day.

“City making takes time. It is about having a vision, doing the consultation and research and having tenacity and courage to see plans through, regardless of the shortsighted criticism from vested interests or tabloid media.” 

The words of Clover Moore in a recent edition of this publication. I’m hoping Clover will be re-elected and take up a challenge that she first highlighted some twenty four years ago. There’s still time!


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