Redfern: it’s just a postcode
After a long day, I dropped by Andrew’s place on my way home from work. (I am very lucky; he usually cooks me dinner). Once there, realising we were both too tired to bother with the kitchen, I suggested we order a pizza. We hopped online and went to one of the major pizza delivery companies. Andrew entered his details and his address.
No computer, we do not live in Queensland.
We tried again. It listed many suburbs with his street name but Redfern was not among them. As he lives on the corner of two streets, we tried to other one. Nope. That didn’t work either. So we went the old fashioned route and rung them up.
Andrew explained that he was trying to order a pizza online but it didn’t seem to know his address. He told the girl his order, his name, his phone and his address.
‘We don’t deliver there. It’s not safe.’
Andrew got off the phone and told me what she had said. As a middle-class white girl I don’t think I’ve ever had someone say I can’t have something before based on where I live. It was a very strange feeling.
Andrew’s always telling me ‘it’s just a postcode.’ Clearly, the pizza company doesn’t agree.
For my overseas readers, Redfern is a suburb in Sydney with a high concentration of government subsidised housing (often just called D O H; and the residents ‘housos’.) It’s a suburb close to the city with a reputation (deserved or not) for poverty and crime.
Until a few years ago I didn’t have any friends who lived in Department of Housing. I worked for a time for a charity whose purpose it is to assist Australians who are homeless or disadvantaged. Yet even then, I went to work in an office where few of the people we helped ever visited; that was left to the client service centres. Then I met Andrew. His old unit was in an area of DOH which is surrounded by terrace houses, bought up and beautifully renovated by so-called ‘yuppies’. Over time I began to realise that all sorts of people live in ‘housing.’ People with disabilities and mental illnesses; people on parole, living with addictions (be it alcoholism, gambling or ‘harder’ drugs), old women, young parents; a real melting pot.
Moving to Redfern has just upped all that a notch. While there were plenty of police sirens near the old place and regular domestics, it took moving to Redfern to have Andrew tell me they’d found someone stabbed to death up the road and stuffed in a cupboard. I was on the lookout when I went to my car before; now Andrew walks me there. The old neighbour sat in an armchair with his beer; the new one has a bung leg from being mugged in Redfern while going to buy smokes. And in the old place, you could order a pizza and now, you have to go out to the car, drive all of 1 minute up the road and walk in and pick up the pizza yourself because it’s not safe.
Andrew hasn’t lost his sense of humour though. Upon returning with our pizzas he said to me:
Do you think we should ring the pizza place back and tell them we got home safe? No flak jackets required.