An advocate for public housing rights, mother of four boys, long term crossing supervisor, and active community member, Sandra has lived life to the fullest through speaking her mind, standing up for what’s right, and getting things done!
In 1985, Sandra moved from Frankston with her boys into Kensington. Moving from Frankston she expressed that she felt scared, it was a totally new place and she didn’t know anyone in the city or surrounding. When she and her boys had moved into their 8th floor walk-up apartment block (with no lifts either!) she remembers thinking ‘What is this? How do people live like this?’. It was a big life change for Sandra, but after a while she found herself getting used to the living situations and settling into a new life.
1998 saw the beginning of her involvement in the Tenants Association Committee, they helped the community residing in the Kensington estate apartments with matters relating to public housing issues and their rights as tenants among other things. It was an active committee and involved a lot of work. The committee was relied upon by the Office of Housing as a group who understood the resident’s needs. “We were doing a lot of the work that the Office of Housing should have been doing”.
Sandra has never been one to shy away from telling it how it is, always willing to stand up on behalf of residents and found herself often in meetings with councilors, developers, and politicians. On reflecting about that time Sandra said: ‘that’s just not me, to not speak the truth and stand up for people’. Sandra’s advocacy work also achieved accessibility changes in the estate, making retro-fit changes such as toilet accessibility accessories in apartments, widening doors, and installing ramps and rails. Sandra and the Kensington estate’s work led other estates like Carlton to follow suit.
With new developers coming onto the scene, this meant more fighting for change. Sandra was heavily involved in the Kensington Estate’s redevelopment into the public and private split housing that stands today. The proposed size of some of these apartments were majority 1-2 bedroom places, however, for larger families and growing families this wasn’t going to work. Sandra recognised the need for larger apartments, and spent time advocating for this need to the developers and eventually came through with a win for public tenant families. Sandra also advocated for the park that now sits outside 50 Clifford Terrace.
Sandra was invited to Canberra as the Kensington Redevelopment publication was nominated for a prestigious award. The Kensington Redevelopment book is a collection of photographs and stories from residents at the Kensington estate. In meeting the organising committee, the first thing one women said was, “are you really a public housing tenant?’ Sandra thought to herself, well what were you expecting!
Sandra has been an active member with Kensington Neighborhood House since its early days, she recalls it being a great place and had helped in the process to fund the second story extension of the house to accommodate the growing Kensington community. Throughout the years and around Christmas time especially, the Neighborhood House, Kensington Community School, the Tenants Association, Doutta Galla Community Health (now cohealth), Sandra and others would put together plays at the Kensington YMCA. For many years as Sandra was Chair of the YMCA committee. They performed plays called, Through the Looking Glass, and Kensington Strikes Back, a play about the community and the new land developers coming into Kensington at that time. Sandra recalls fun memories from that period with acting debuts from herself and even the nurses and doctors from Doutta Galla getting involved.
Most people in Kensington would remember the Kensington CommUNITY Festival that ran right up until 2019. Sandra was heavily involved in establishing and running the festival that was a great success. The festival aimed to celebrate, engage and showcase the local community and to strengthen relationships and connections between the Kensington redevelopment and the wider community.
Sandra reflected on many fond memories during our conversation, she recalled the day when the popcorn factory exploded in Kensington, ‘lots if kids went missing that day’ she says, collecting the spilt popcorn with buckets.
Volunteering as a crossing supervisor for 22 years, she has won well deserved awards, including school crossing supervisor winner five times over, and a number of other awards for her work advocating for tenants including the Centenary medal. Sandra is an inspiring community member, she has no sight of stopping anytime soon and wants to keep doing her bit within the community.
(Sandra was interviewed by Payton Frost and Esther Sadek - October 2022)