Anthony Albanese is one of Australia’s most popular politicians. He was elected to Parliament in 1996 and became the Deputy Prime Minister in 2013. A life-long South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter, Anthony has had a beer named after him by Sydney brewer Willie the Boatman and performs as a DJ on a semi-regular basis.
“My most vivid memory of growing up in public housing in Camperdown is the strong sense of community that we had. Part of that was due to the fact that where we were in Camperdown was an island, surrounded by the Children’s Hospital, factories and warehouses. Therefore everyone you knew lived in that block.
It was just me and Mum at home. There were times when Mum was in hospital for extended periods, and the neighbours would take it in turns to have me over for dinner. So as a young person the sense of community was very real.
I started work at 13 selling newspapers after school and at 15 I got part-time jobs at Grace Brothers and at McDonalds. When I was a little bit older it was announced that the Camperdown estate would be sold off. Mavis and Jimmy Johns from the flats organised a campaign to oppose it and I was a part of that as my first political campaign.
People were proud of their homes, they had put a lot of work into them, and they thought it was disrespectful to sell out from underneath them. We were a tight group with a strong sense of solidarity and identity and the campaign succeeded.
Unfortunately we are seeing sell-offs now at Millers Point. Some politicians don’t understand the connection that people have with their communities. I met a fellow at Millers Point who had been in his home for 80 years. He got a letter under the door telling him his house would be sold and he would be forced to move, again a complete lack of respect.
It is patronising for politicians to say that public housing tenants should be aspirational not generational. Public housing families want their children to have more opportunities than they enjoyed themselves, same as parents everywhere. My Mum was passionate about me getting the best education I could.
Throughout my political career I have been keen to talk about these issues. It’s important that we have people in Parliament who know what it is like to live in public housing. Our Parliaments should be as diverse as our communities.
I hope that young people who live in public housing today are proud of who they are. They should know that they are as valued as other people growing up in wealthier circumstances. I think they should also remember the positive parts of public housing. You are a part of a real community, so embrace that.”