Myra Demetriou passed away on 23 October 2021 at the age of 94. She is remembered not only as the face of the Sirius campaign but also as the last public housing tenant forced out of Sirius.
Inside Myra’s apartment on the tenth floor of Sirius, every night from November 2014, a set of lights flashed a message across Sydney Harbour and The Rocks: SOS, Save Our Sirius.
SOS is the international distress signal and in late 2014 the residents of Sirius were in distress. A few months earlier the NSW Government had told them they would be moving to ‘new homes’ along with all other public housing tenants in The Rocks, Millers Point and Dawes Point. Some had lived in the area all their lives. Others had family ties going back generations.
Residents in the Sirius Apartments, and many others throughout Millers Point, knew they could turn to Myra for comfort and advice following the March 2014 announcement of the planned displacement of all public housing tenants. When a community picnic to celebrate the community was held in September 2014, Myra responded by baking eight dozen scones. Before Christmas 2016 Myra bought 48 kilograms of dried fruit and nuts to bake Christmas cakes for friends, family and many of the people suffering from the stress of the displacement process. These were the two things Myra could do for people: she could listen to them and she could cook for them.
The design of Sirius and its adaptations for disabled living, plus the support of her community, allowed Myra to live independently despite her advancing years, limited mobility and blindness. During the Save Our Sirius campaign, Myra welcomed more than 1500 visitors to her home so that they would have first-hand experience of Sirius.
Between 1959 and 1970 Myra lived in Erskine Street with only a fuel stove for cooking and a copper for hot water. When her home was demolished to build the Western Distributor, she moved to 18 Trinity Avenue behind the Garrison Church. Myra began caring for her next-door neighbour Billy who suffered from scoliosis, but due to her poor eyesight, she was refused the small carer’s allowance usually provided by the government.
Eventually, Myra had to escape the steep and dangerous stairs of her Trinity Avenue house. In 2008 she agreed to move around the corner to Sirius. From there Myra regularly travelled by bus on her own to attend lectures at the Mechanics Institute and State Library, and to shop for groceries, and regularly she walked to the local community centre and to church.
For thirty years Myra was the volunteer curator of the Military and Historical Museum attached to the Church of the Holy Trinity, known as The Garrison Church for its close connection with the armed forces. The Church of the Holy Trinity has been a preeminent venue for remembrance services for regiments associated with World War 2 and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Military and Historical Museum was an important addition to these services. During the period Myra ran the museum she also enlisted and organised a team of volunteers drawn from people attending these services. Myra was an active member of the Holy Trinity congregation for more than fifty years, has been a deaconess, and was Secretary to Bishop Donald Cameron for seven years.
Myra was a member of the Labor Party for more than 30 years, and as recently as 2017 she was the Senior Vice President of the Darling Harbour Branch. She was an active member of Labor committees and was the final speaker at the 2017 NSW Labor Party Conference where she received a standing ovation for calling on the government to retain diversity and social housing in the centre of Sydney.
Although elderly, frail, in poor health and almost totally blind, Myra was inspiring in her support for others, in her unwillingness to accept limitations due to her disabilities, and in her determination to defend Sirius. At every opportunity, Myra would ask reporters, ‘Are we to live in the only major city in the world without social housing?’
Shaun Carter described Myra’s role in the Save Our Sirius campaign:
Myra reminded us that being good and decent and community-minded makes a wonderful and meaningful life – too often we forget these simple but necessary building blocks of society that hold and bind us together.
Myra also reminded us that great people live in all our communities. She reached across divides with her wit and warm smile, disarming as she went. This also gave her the strength to stare down a limited and narrow government consumed by money and little else. Without Myra SaveOurSirius would not have been as potent and as successful. She was the face of our campaign and the heart of Sirius.
Myra was a great Sydneysider, a much-loved member of her many communities and a fearless soul. We all loved Myra, and Myra loved us all. Vale Myra – we will certainly miss you.
20 thoughts on “Myra Demetriou”
Myra was a legend! I feel so lucky to have met her and spent time with her. She was so generous – especially to the people who came to visit during the campaign to save Sirius. Vale Myra.
A sad day for all who personally knew Myra and those who only knew her through the Save Our Sirius campaign. She fought the good fight and inspired many. RIP
Very sad news. I was privileged to have met Myra during the Save Our Sirius campaign. Vale.
Me too. A great lady and a good life lived.
Myra will be fondly remembered and admired for continuing to wave the flag along with others to preserve Sirius.
Her memory will also enliven those of all from the vibrant local community who had lived in The Rocks / Millers Point.
The end of an era.
David Crocker – former resident and GP of The Rocks.
What an amazing role model. Thank you for letting us into your home that very last time. You were by yourself surrounded by security guards but you went on with life. So good natured about what was happening to you. I am very sad that you have passed but feel probables to have met you. Fly high Myra. ❤️🌈
Vale Myra. With the passing of time may she be remembered as a symbol of a time when our society was kinder and more socially inclusive, a time when the city was far more than just a place for the wealthy.
Gone but not forgotten – her legend will live on…!
Very sad news. I was privileged to meet Myra during the Save Our Sirius campaign. Vale.
Sorry to hear that Myra has passed away. I never met Myra but she sounded like an amazing and remarkable lady. My condolences to her friends and family. Megan in New Zealand
Condolences. Never met Myra but her story and her courage are the ones that touched me personally, the symbol of the bygone era. Vale Myra Dementriou, your memory will lives on
I only met Myra when she invited people up to her place in the Sirius building… escorted up in the elevator by the security guards. I thought it took a great deal of courage to be the last tenant. There must have been enormous pressure on her to move on, but she stuck to her principles. This is what heroes do… and Myra was a hero.
I didn’t know Myra, but she was always an inspiration and somebody I would like to model my own life on. I followed the campaign and had a deep admiration for her. Community-minded, a champion of diversity and social justice who gave so much to the community. Vale to a remarkable lady.
I remember when my very old mother was still alive and in her nursing home at Altona, Waverley (which no longer exists), how Myra turned up after having had a fall and fractured a couple of bones. Myra was there for respite until she recovered well enough to return to her home. It was a delight to have someone so switched on with whom to talk. Mum had dementia so sitting there with mum, was quite boring. I am very active in the Labor Party so we had a lot to talk about and that’s when I learnt all about her campaign to save Sirius. I so looked forward to seeing her whenever I visited my mother. I also sat with her for a short while at the Sydney Town Hall, when she attended the NSW Labor Conference and gave her speech. She was feisty and her fighting spirit right up to the end was such an inspiration to others. Generous of heart and principled – that was the Myra I knew. She will be sorely missed and a great loss to us all. Vale Myra.
Myra was the face and heart of Sirius, particularly during our attempt to save from the barbarians, Now with gone, there is an emptiness at the heart of Sirius that neither money or political justification can fill.
Vale Myra. A fighter whose spirit inspired a community then a city. In 2008 I interviewed Myra for a collaborative public art project with Ruark Lewis called ‘Homelessness’. We installed a frieze on the parapet of the National Trust headquarters spelling out HOMELESSNESS and 5 large billboards in Millers Point (on Abraham Mott Hall and the Older Women’s Network centre) to recall the patterning of maritime pilot markers. Ruark rendered my interviews as a kind of pattern poetry. Myra spoke about her shoe shop in Erskine Street. The artwork was a marker: the sneaky sell-off of the former Maritime Services Board houses had begun. Behind the Garrison Church is a tiny fountain erected by Myra as a memorial to her dear partner. The valiant Millers Point ALP branch met in the Garrison Church Hall (former museum maintained by the branch). Myra is pictured here – https://www.greenbans.net.au/now
An amazing and inspirational person who enlightened me from afar to an understanding of Social Housing, and to it’s inherent basis in, and it’s important links and benefits to all Community. Myra gave me a true understanding of the meaning of Community. Respect.
Myra certainly was inspiring – an incredibly positive disposition, charming, a lovely sense of humour and courageous. That she was forced to move from her beloved Sirius was a criminal act.
I feel honoured to have met such an amazing lady and humbled by her warmth and generosity to welcome complete strangers like me into her home in the Sirius. When I think of the beautiful Sirius I will always think of Myra also because she represents the heart of unique places like the Sirius and what is important in Life. What a caring and wonderful person she was, and a true Sydneysider.
Eternally grateful to Myra for standing up for the Millers Point residents who passed away and calling out the NSW government (in the documentary “The Eviction”). Inspiring and courageous, a truly remarkable lady.
Vale Myra Demetriou.