She was there when Queen Elizabeth opened the Matavai and Turanga towers, both 30 storeys, in 1977, and she remembers the Salvation Army coming to sing songs in the carpark on Sundays when the pubs were closed and residents would come out onto their balconies to listen. She says, “I was so happy.”
Her memories are of a safe haven in which she brought up her son. Nobody pinched the money left out for the bread and milk delivered to every floor and unit in the building. Her first rent was $16.90 a fortnight, her wages were $30 a week and her grocery bill $10 a week.
Then around 1985-1990 drug use became an issue and even with very good cleaners there were a lot of needles left lying around the area.
About 15 years ago Anna got a plot of land, one of 13 such plots near the Solander building, where she plants flowers along its border and herbs in the middle. She shares her produce, which includes shallots, kale, different types of basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, marjoram and sage, with other residents.
She is now the coordinator and treasurer of the Waterloo Resident Market Garden, which includes plots in Marten and Cooke Gardens and Poets Corner in Redfern. There are 75 members, all of whom live in public housing homes in the surrounding areas.
As part of the Waterloo redevelopment she would like to see the park between the high-rises retained because it is a place where people meet and have their celebrations. She is concerned that the density in the redevelopment will cause a decrease in the amount of green space and garden plots that are currently available to the residents.
As part of the redevelopment, she would also like to see a medical centre, a coffee shop and a children’s playground.
Anna is concerned by the lack of certainty that the project has engendered. She is 80 years old, and says: “Most of my life, 48 years, I live my life here. And now if they tell me to go to Parramatta or Mount Druitt or Campbelltown, I will be lost, I will die.”