July 13, 1987

Article at The Sydney Morning Herald

NEWS | Hut dwellers reflect during their last week


“I didn’t come down here to squat, I came down here to live,” said Quentin Gandy, one of the hut dwellers at Dobroyd Head, in the Sydney Harbour National Park. But a week from today, they will not be allowed to live or squat there anymore.

As they look out at the magnificent view of Sydney Heads that they will lose, they sip beer and talk quietly about their options. 

“I can’t compromise this place or myself by resisting the law,” said self-employed handyman Simon Flynn, by far the longest resident after 18 years, in his modest but comfortable “fisherman’s hut”. “I don’t want to break the law,” he said, “but I also don’t want to leave here.”

The residents are appealing to the public for the survival of their community, and say that at the very least, they hope to save the seven huts, even if they have to leave.

“But the things will get vandalised,” said a local historian, one of about 60 people who attended an open day at the area yesterday. “Inside a year, they’ll be gone - burnt to the ground or totally wrecked. It happened before with other huts they’ve tried to preserve. It’ll happen again here.”

The residents of Dobroyd Head have built up a good following of friends from all walks of life, ranging from archaeologists to professional photographers.

Margaret Heggie, a friend of one of the residents, said: “They didn’t take an interest in the people here until recently. I think it’s a case of sour grapes. They wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for the shortage of housing. People say: ‘Why should these people live in such a great place, rent-free?’“

On the one hand, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been instructed to remove what is, in reality, an illegal community. On the other are people who have come to regard living in a secluded section of public land as a right.

They put forward arguments of preserving what are the only examples of Sydney squatters’ huts from the 1920s and 30s. They say that plans by the NSW Minister for the Environment, Mr Carr, to save one of the huts because of its historical significance, are pointless when the living example of that historical lifestyle is already there.

But the huts are not the same as they might have been in the early days.

Simon Flynn runs fluorescent lighting, a large tape deck and a CB radio from a solar collector on the roof. However, not all the huts are as comfortable.

“We’re on the front door of Sydney, Australia,” said Quentin Gandy. “The Bicentenary is coming up. They don’t want tourists coming in through the Heads and seeing squatters’ huts.”

There is disagreement among local and environment groups about the plan to clear the huts and return the area to natural vegetation.

The Total Environment Centre, which residents say carries weight with Mr Carr, is all for it, as is most of the National Parks Association.

However, Manly aldermen have approached the Heritage Council to save residences, a move it is expected to support.

But the Heritage Council is not due to meet until August 6, three weeks beyond the residents’ deadline.

Either way, Mr Carr has stated that he will not revoke his decision.