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REDWatch Song Tribute at Ross Smith's Celebration of Life

Over the last 12 years Ross Smith has been active in REDWatch keeping an eye on what Government bodies do in Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo – and trying to ensure that what happens works for our diverse communities and not just government. Ross’s encyclopaedic knowledge; his consistently taking it up to bureaucrats especially around public housing and redevelopment; and his desired to get them to play in our sandpit rather than us just play in their sandpit, found a natural fit in REDWatch.

REDWatch was set up in 2004 jointly by the Greens and the ALP and Ross has been one of the active ALP participants over this time. His passing leaves a significant hole in many places including in REDWatch.

Ross was very committed to people organising themselves and working together to protect their communities, especially public housing communities, not just in Waterloo but across the country. It was one of the reasons he liked the stories of communities standing up to Government and why one of Ross’s favourite films was Tom Zubrycki’s Waterloo – it showed that communities could take on Housing and win. Another documentary in this category was the Russ Hermann 2002 Saving Erko Estate in which Ross and the song we are about to hear both appear.

The song Across the Western Suburbs, or Concrete and Grass as it is sometimes known, was written by Seamus Gill and Denis Kevans in 1973 to highlight the plight of the evicted working class tenants of Victoria Street in Kings Cross.

The song is applicable to many resident battles across the inner city and it resonates today as people still get pushed out of the inner city by gentrification, new development and skyrocketing property prices and rents.

We need those, like Ross, who see the importance of challenging the bureaucrats and “checking the developers” least we, or those we care about, are banished from inner Sydney and “across the Western Suburbs must wander”.

Link to the song -