This house'll suit me fine

We were given the keys to the place on the 8th August 1979. This was about two or three months after I'd put my name down on the list and I'd been told that I'd have to wait for eight months or a year and a half, so I thought there was something a little unusual about it. When I came and looked at the place I could see why because it was kind of old and shabby and it wasn't the kind of place that a lot of people would like but I thought it would be great because we like to decorate the walls. I've lived in new houses and with small children in new houses you've got be constantly on their backs about keeping this and that clean and not bumping this and that. I'd rather live in an older house and let them be a bit more creative and free. So I said, 'Yes, this house'll suit me fine'.

My youngest child was one year old when we moved in. The others were from ten and a half up. There were seven of us all together. We came over the night I got the key - the husband of one of the teachers at Middle School, which was between the Co-ooperative School at O'Connor and the School Without Walls, brought us all over - and we looked around it with candles because the electricity wasn't on. I remember we put the candles in the place and then, because we were musicians, we sat down and played music.

I remember sitting on the front porch and thinking very sadly about the garden where we'd been because it was beautiful, but I suddenly thought 'Hey, this is a great opportunity'. I was interested in permaculture and my family had been organic gardeners all along, so I just thought , 'Right, this isn't a sad thing to come here, this is an opportunity'. Whenever I had a few spare dollars I'd buy another tree and plant it and I moved around the things that were here. It took years before it really looked that good but I made those planting beds so that it wasn't all grass and planted stawberries as a ground cover and planted fruit trees and nut trees. We've got a big garden in the back as well.

The personnel in this household changes all the time. People move away and move back again. We've got family all over the country really. That's been one thing that is really good, as a reasonably poor parent, to at least be able to say, 'Well, if you need a place to go you are welcome to come back here'. And there've been times when we've had children of friends staying here over a period of time. At the moment it's only Vandy, my oldest daughter and her four year old daughter and myself.

Now they're selling off all the government housing in the area which is pretty worrying given the fact that the housing list is so long. It just seems they auction off every house. And it's becoming very trendy here and we're not particularly trendy people. We're people who get head over heels involved with the Peace Movement and the Environment Movement and the Social Justice Movement and staying poor for years but doing a lot of what we consider really worthwhile work in the community. An area like this becomes popular because there are interesting people here doing things to make it an interesting and varied place to live. But then if you sell all the houses and make sure that nobody can live here unless they've got lots of money, it just turns into another dull suburb where people are worried about anyone that looks different.

Bobbie and Vandy, Finn Street, 1979 - (oral history interview1996)



•  This house'll suit me fine

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