Lord Malcolm and the heartless bureaucrats…

26 Mar

It is no secret that Lord Malcolm is very seriously ill, though he has so far refused to succumb… He has in fact pulled off a number of near miracles, such as Saturday’s impossible trip to the Air Show in Victoria, from which he is now recovering, a process he says himself will take a while. He is at the moment in the Sacred Heart Hospice, and has been mostly in St Vincent’s Hospital or the hospice since April 2006. One by one many of his friends have dropped by the wayside when it comes to support and/or visiting, a phenomenon that is understandable if regrettable. Just a few of us are left. None of us knows how long the process will take. I for one was surprised Lord M made it into 2007, and some at the hospice, I am told, were surprised he was still alive when he returned to the hospice last week.


Lord Malcolm at work three years ago.


February 2005.

Two years later he is far frailer, except in will…

One thing Lord Malcolm is not is a freeloader. Even when that second picture was taken he was continuing to work in administration and IT-related areas for the local area health service in support of people with HIV-AIDS — ADAHPT (formerly the AIDS Dementia & HIV Psychiatry Team). In his earlier life he had made a substantial contribution to the country as a member of the RAN Fleet Air Arm and later as a pilot and flying instructor.

It is also no secret that Lord Malcolm lives in public housing, the famous Surry Hills estate The Northcott, in fact. And thereby comes this sorry tale.

Last week I took Malcolm his mail. In that mail was a letter threatening imminent eviction from the Department of Housing. This is not the first time such an event has happened. Sure, in his circumstances it has been hard for Lord Malcolm to always pay his rent on time, as this has involved physically going to a post office, and was further complicated by a constantly shifting set of conditions regarding the fact Lord Malcolm worked whenever he could and was on sickness benefits only when he really needed to be. This made it hard for him to know exactly how much was owing. He asked the relevant officers to fix this, but so far this has not really happened. One would think both Centrelink and the Department of Housing would have noted these circumstances on his file. The social worker at the Hospice is on the case as I write this, and has told Lord Malcolm the eviction notice is “just a form letter”, and I do hope it will be cleared up satisfactorily. Lord Malcolm, going on past experience, is less sanguine.

The point is though that the letter should not have been sent in the first place. Lord Malcolm (who has given me permission to write this entry) says he hopes they realise the distress they are causing to someone in his condition and placed where he is. He certainly hopes to return home when he can. He further hopes there will be a home to return to.

The letter says:

You are required by the landlord to give vacant possession by 8th April 2007…

I am referring, with some details of real names and addresses, this post to: Clover Moore, our state member of Parliament and also Lord Mayor of Sydney; the Minister for Housing NSW; The South Sydney Herald.

4.30 pm

The South Sydney Herald will run the story in the April edition unless some sign of resolution occurs in the next day or two.

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2 responses to “Lord Malcolm and the heartless bureaucrats…

  1. marcelproust

    March 26, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    The letter seems very tough, but I think the social worker is right: it’s just a form letter, and everything will be able to be cleared up in due course, and probably quite quickly, now that the social worker is on the case.

    By way of comfort, I might add that generally there is a long road to be trod via the Residential Tenancies Tribunal between an eviction notice and actual eviction.

    As to the question of whether the letter should have been sent in the first place, that is surely a more complex question. Bureaucracies can only operate on the information they have been provided, and ultimately, the onus has to be on the people dealing with the bureaucracy (or people who are assisting them) to give them the relevant information. And you can’t just ring some other bureaucracy (eg, Centrelink) and assume that they will join all the dots for you.

    I know that sounds harsh, in Lord M’s case, but you have to remember that even if he were to be evicted (which, once someone gets to work joining all the dots, is not likely to occur) it would be in order to make his place at Northcott available to one of the many deserving cases awaiting a place in public housing and probably languishing in the far less salubrious private rental market.

    Is it really the case, though, that the rent can only be paid at the post office? Surely the Dept of Housing has many housebound and intermittently hospitalized tenants. There ought to be some other means of payment for such people.

  2. ninglun

    March 26, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks, Marcel.

    Is it really the case, though, that the rent can only be paid at the post office? Surely the Dept of Housing has many housebound and intermittently hospitalized tenants. There ought to be some other means of payment for such people.

    Yes, that’s why I used present perfect tense. Until just recently this was the case, but it was during that period the outstanding debt occurred. There has been a problem because of the constantly shifting mix of pay and pension knowing what the rent and/or amount owing actually was.

    Tuesday: Malcolm has clarified this. Those who can work must pay at the post office. People on pensions normally have their rent taken directly. In his case the mix of status over the past six months complicated matters, as the amount of rent due also alters according to the tenant’s circumstances.

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