Dr Birch is a renowned academic, author and educator. His fiction and nonfiction has been published widely, but he is most famous for his books Shadowboxing (2006), Blood (2011) and Ghost River (2015). He is currently the inaugural Bruce McGuinness Research Fellow within the Moondani Balluk Centre at Victoria University.
“My family first moved into public housing when our home in Fitzroy was cleared to make way for the construction of the Atherton Gardens Estate. We got a place in the walk-up flats in Elizabeth Street Richmond.
I loved it. We went from living in a narrow street in Fitzroy to being on a big estate with heaps of kids around. When I was a teenager we used to hang out on the roof of the flats.
During the day the laundries belonged to the women, but at night we lay up there listening to the radio and looking at the stars. It was pretty romantic.
The friendships I made back then have stayed with me. We have that shared identity and history. I think growing up like that taught me was how to negotiate difference. We were all living together and sharing space so it meant you had to find a way to get along with people.
It annoys me that estates like Richmond are demonised. The truth is if you are growing up in Richmond public housing now then you have a great opportunity. There is so much culture and activity right on your doorstep.”