Below is the text of a letter that I sent to NSW Housing Minister David Borger today about a suicide that occurred at the Joanna O’Dea public housing building in Camperdown. Let’s hope that this tragic event will spur the Minister to finally take action to improve the situation at Joanna O’Dea and other public housing estates in need of improvements.
Dear Minister Borger
I’m sure you will be as saddened as I to hear that last week a person jumped to their death from the Joanna O’Dea building in Camperdown, owned and managed by Housing NSW (HNSW). As you will be aware, I have had a significant amount of ongoing correspondence with the residents of this building since the adjacent block of land was announced as the site for the “Common Ground” Camperdown Project last year. The residents tell me that this case is at least the 11th time someone has jumped from the 10 storey building in the last decade.
Joanna O’Dea Court has a large number of residents with mental illness or substance abuse issues. For at least 20 years the residents have been pleading with successive state governments to have security features put in the building to help curb the shockingly high rate of violence, indecency and drug use that goes on in the building. This, along with the lack of proper support from mental health services contributes to the vulnerable residents feeling afraid, helpless and depressed and sadly leading some to take their own lives. It is tragically ironic that the latest suicide occurred just hours after myself and the Project Director of the Camperdown Project met with residents and HNSW finally promised to carry out a safety audit on the building.
I am writing now to ask you, in the light of this tragedy, to publically commit to implementing the findings of the safety audit as a matter of priority. Compared to the $12 million that has been committed to upgrading safety at the Waterloo Green housing estate and the $28 million that is planned to be spent building the Camperdown Project the cost of improving safety and security in Joanna O’Dea is a drop in the ocean.
I would also request that you commit to allowing the residents of Joanna O’Dea in need of mental health or other support services to access those being provided as part of the Camperdown Project. The tragic number of suicides that have occurred are strong evidence to show that many of the residents of Joanna O’Dea are as much in need of support as the formerly homeless residents to be housed by the Camperdown Project.
Thank you for listening to my requests. If you agree to these measures I think we will see a big improvement in the quality of life for the residents of Joanna O’Dea and some small amount of good may be able to come out of this latest tragedy.
Councillor Irene Doutney
City of Sydney Council