I usually come in through the front door. It has a single lock and another just for show. I have bars on the front of my house over the windows, and more upstairs, also just for show. The back door isn't for show. Unlike out front, the back door has no handle. It unlocks only from the inside. There's no handle, no key hole, and an eight foot high fence.
The back door leads to The Block. Leaving through the back is an unused park. There's broken "Caution Yellow" covered play equipment. I can't see how it's broken, so maybe they just don't want me to play out there.
The green grass is broken step by step nearing the Tent City backing onto the railway. This is their home as well. But how do people live like this? Unlike my steel and brick fortress, they have tarps and milk crates. Pallet box homes that appeal to the local cats. But if I need steel, how safe can you feel under a sheet? I'm white and I don't know if I can approach respectfully this part of the community. Rather than an active protest, this in now their home and I'm just a middle class cold caller. Am I curious about the tent cities message or am I invading homes? I take the goat paths that avoid the tents. We all do.
The gentrified community centre was built to fit in with the city, but jars against the disposable temporary homes. It seems people are comfortable discarding their unwanted glass, mattresses and frames on public land, but this isn't my public space, it's someone else's land, and the treatment just doesn't feel right.
There are white walls and black walls. The white wall are coloured in grey, they open their gates to show high culture wares of clothes and fixies. The black walls are coloured red and yellow. They carry the scars of disrepair and graffiti, and their gates have real purpose. 10 ft high steel gates, not just with bars but with mesh as well. Those without mesh have broken glass. A guy with rolled up jeans and a girl with a jacket sitting over her hips on her cell phone doing business, they drive clean Fords and drink piccolo's on their way. Inside a house I can see clothes hanging in what looks like a very different lifestyle.
Messages and slogans remind me that I'm apparently and intruder here. If I want to catch a train I have to also be reminded that white people have only been here 200 years, the blacks for 40,000. I'm don't feel any guilt, but a great deal of frustration.
I take back streets I've never taken and go between expense and poverty all the while. Not a block divides the two, but the tarmac. A dark cold line, with the right housing one type of person and the left another. I'm not following the train line and I've lost track of where it heads. All roads lead to UTS as it appears occasionally in the sky.
As I walk on it's the Chinese influence that stands out. I find myself at Central Park, Fifiland. Clean cut grass and sculpture. There's markets with street food and cheap wares, live music. I doubt the musicians have long hard whisky nights creating poetry, but they can recite it for the amusement of the locals in their lawn chairs. Clean bathrooms, and expensive coffee in styled cafes made to look industrial. They cater to Chinese pallets with Taro and Green tea lattes, but make (Italian style) coffee using (African) single origin beans. Upstairs is the industrial aesthetic gallery with NZ artists carrying over from Ambush's roots in Zetland. Zetland as I remember it was an industrial site headed to Alexandria, but the addition of a Chinese school has changed the area dramatically.
What significance does the block still hold?
What is behind the tent city, and who are the people, what is their story?
What is on the other side of the train line on those streets I'm told to avoid at night?
What does it mean to hold onto land rights for a people who for thousands of years divided only by general territory, family and culture?
Are the Aboriginal people isolating themselves?
And what role do the white anarchists in the tent city play?
Are the drug and violence stories I hear from out west as true right in my backyard?
What are we doing to help our communities?
Have those who made it out of the poverty got a story to tell
Not just blacks but whites as well?
Why do we hold onto heritage?
Are we not just human, are we not just in it together?