Jim Piotrowski

Some strong language

Jim Piotrowski and his partner moved to Erskineville in 1990. Already being an activist, he found the socio-political nature of the community suited him and his work life. He reflects on the make up of the neighbourhood and being involved in the local politics.

Around July 1992 two parks on the corner of Erskineville Road and Albert St went up for sale and this prompted Jim to get involved with saving the parks as green spaces for a suburb desperately lacking in open space.

Jim talks about the initial ‘save the park’ campaigners Jack Carnegie and Susan Kennett and some of Jack’s activism antics. He describes the core group of people involved in the campaign and the various strategies they used to save the parks over the four year campaign. Jim also talked about the various media stunts used to get exposure and how the green bans were implemented by the CFMEU.

During the campaign two busses arrived and camped in the larger of the two parks and became part of the campaign. Jim talks about the ‘bus’ people and other campers who showed up to provide support and how several of the local community offered them access to amenities. He reflected on the Nichols family who ended up fostering one of the kids from the bus.

26:28  JP:     In the lead up to the auction, there was a bunch of people camped in the park. Firstly, two buses, big buses just turned up and parked themselves in the…

JP:      They were just travellers, they were hippies, they were people who just kind of lived off the land, I guess. Anyway, they were nice people, there was this fascinating story. Two buses just rocked up and sat in the park there, and then a bunch of local people started pitching tents in the smaller park and there’s about 20 people living in the park for a couple of weeks there. There’s a couple of things, interesting things with that, there’s a really lovely photo, you see it in part of the blue friezes there of the Nichols kids. There’s like three or four kids there, and one of the kids is not a Nichols kid. Well, he wasn’t at that time, he was one of the kids from the bus people, but the bus people, they needed to go to the toilet, they needed to have showers and whatever, and the Nichols lived next door to the big park and there was other people as well, just allowed people to use the toilets and the showers. So people got to know each other, and the Nichols ended up fostering one of those kids, who I think lived with them the rest of his life, the rest of his childhood, and I think considered himself part of their family.

SA:     That’s so strange and it’s so interesting that they were so welcomed by the community.

28:44  JP:     Yeah. Well, they said we are supporting you and I think we thought, that’s probably not a bad idea. Who knows, what are you going to do? You say, “No, we don’t want your help.” But anyway, that wasn’t the attitude, that was like, yeah, the more the merrier. There’s interesting things, people ask, “Was there many people opposing?” We had very widespread community support, especially when you pointed out, we have less open space than anyone else, and they want to get rid of it. There’s that whole kind of issue, anger, hope, action, and that got people angry.

Sue Andersen