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HomeOpinionCommentA sneak peek into Waterloo South – the neighbourhood effect

A sneak peek into Waterloo South – the neighbourhood effect

So, I sit outside my Waterloo South unit in a common area and contemplate that in the neighbourhood almost exclusively public housing units, low-rise, single-bedroom or bed-sits predominate. The units are in sufficient proximity that it’s not difficult for the perceptive to get to know their neighbour and others adjacent or across the courtyard.

I’m awaiting a visit from my tizzed-up sister from her mansion in Woollahra, the expensive mortgage belt of inner-city Sydney. (She married well. I manifest a mental health disorder.) She dares only venture to this lower-class “common” area of public housing once a year to deliver me birthday cake.

Her name is Eileen but, as she skis on the slopes at the Snowy, I’ve taken to calling her “Eileen Gu”.

Middle-aged “beardy” across the courtyard from me is home from long-stay in the inpatient psychiatric ward, and still in full voice, yelling to the world about his recent extraneous treatment.

Good thing his immediate neighbours keep their doors closed and know now not to approach him when he’s in this kinda mood.

“Keep your filthy hands off me, or I’ll have your guts for garters, idiot.”

I know from a previous exchange with the nurse co-ordinator from the local health centre, that, should we judge “beardy” to become agitated enough that he may be a threat to himself or another, then we should ring the dedicated number for outreach support, or else police on 000.

I recall that in some inner-city suburbs, neighbours would not be so considerate, or neighbourly. But here, at least, as public housing tenants in common, we tend to each other’s disability needs, as a considerate community.

“How can you put up with that racket?” she asks. It doesn’t fit with her “rabbit mum” parenting style.

“It’s not all the sound of sand and waves, here, sis.”

“There’s no way in hell I could live next to that all day. Why can’t us new immigrants who buy-in to a new estate expect you and your social housing types to emulate us, and espouse the behaviours and cultural attitudes of the new ideological yuppie immigrants, who want in to these down-town areas?”

“There goes the neighbourhood.”

Another neighbour walks up to his front door and greets me in his habitual way.

“Happy birthday. Hello, happy birthday.”

“Hi there. Good to see you, too. Thanks,” I respond.

“How does he know it’s your birthday? Is he a close friend now?”

“No, he doesn’t. He’s Polish and he’s deaf. But that’s his regular daily salutation. Every time. Every day. Doesn’t understand different. It’s kinda esoteric.”

“Strange, your neighbours. I couldn’t tolerate that changeability.”

“Oh, it works OK. We’re all tolerant and understanding of each other and our limitations. The academics call it the ‘neighbourhood effect’. We’re all in here in common, trying to maintain our struggle, and that of our neighbour, for the next one living adjacent.”

My sister identifies: “Gees. That attitude wouldn’t last five minutes on the High Street in my classy neighbourhood. There it’s more likely they’d just dob in your neighbour if he digressed.”

“Oh, well then.”

“But you said they were planning to somehow integrate 30 per cent of your class with almost twice as many of my type. How is that going to work, like, socially? Who’s gonna live next to who, then?”

The old man with a limp, who lives on the other side of me, approaches with an arm full of what looks like my laundry off the clothes line.

“I thought I’d collect it up and bring it in to you, personally. It looks like it might start raining.”

“Oh thanks, man, you did not have to do that for me.”

“No, I didn’t. Just returning the favour from the other day, my friend.”

“Oh, good then.”

My sister passes comment: “Gees, what a difference in neighbourliness to ’round my place. There, they are more likely to steal my expensive clothes and run off with them.”

“Well, it’s progressive to criticise that neighbourhood social mix would just create concentrated local societies in which enclaves of people do not interact with or tolerate each other. Now that requires class de-alignment and neighbourhood social mix as a goal of housing policy.”

“Beardy” reappears at his door.

“What’s that noise going on. Keep it down will ya?” he shouts across at us.

“Gawd. I’d never tolerate that shouting from him, every day”. Obviously not a tiger mum.


Larry Billington is a local resident of Waterloo South, NSW.



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