ABC’S ELENI ON BABIES AND THE CITY’S WOES
SHE’S been b off ff our screens for f three h months but although she misses it, Eleni Roussos is loving life as a new mother-of-three.
The ABC News anchor finished up in June so she could have baby Xenia.
“She was a very active baby when I was presenting the news, she was quiet during the day but when we’d go live li at 7pm 7 she h was kicking ki ki about,” b ”M Ms Roussos said. "Now she likes watching from the other side.”
While she is enjoying having some family time, Ms Roussos said the time off work had made her realise how much Darwin had changed. ”Darwin has been so great to our family and I couldn't think of a better place to raise a young family,” f il ” she h said. id “But “B we need to find a way to keep local families here.
“I’ve seen more local families leave in recent years than I have in my lifetime growing up here and it’s really alarming and really sad to see.”
THERE’S nothing like being housebound with a baby in the build-up to make you realise just how hard things have become in my hometown and why it’s no surprise families are leaving.
Away from the comforts of an airconditioned office, my days now revolve around caring for a baby in testing conditions and navigating when’s the best time of day to hang the laundry to avoid a head spin or a drenching.
I should be well equipped to deal with the elements by now. I live in an elevated home and with floor-to-ceiling louvres I am the beneficiary of cross ventilation. However I still find myself placing bets with the clock to see how long I can last before turning the aircon on.
Yet it’s not just the heat that’s wearing me down. It’s the deteriorating state of Darwin itself that has me for the first time questioning what the future will be for my three children here.
In recent weeks, two of our favourite cafes where we’d hang out as a family have closed and my boys are asking why. It may seem trivial but when little amenities that we take for granted go it’s hard to shrug off.
Now the Darwin Cinema on Mitchell Street is next in line to shut and, to steal my cousin’s words, it’s another ‘nail in the coffin’. For decades it was the only cinema in town and a popular meeting place for so many. Its closure is a reminder to locals that places and spaces where collective memories have been forged are dangerously numbered.
The economic crisis plaguing Darwin isn’t anything new, with local business struggling for years.
This has had a significant impact on my large and extended family and there have been far too many farewells in recent years than I’m comfortable with. You quickly get used to saying goodbye to people passing through this transient town, but when it is local families packing up and leaving you know the situation is grim.
During my maternity leave, I’ve made an effort to get out of the house and engage with my community outdoors, but the climate and the few amenities on offer hasn’t made it easy.
It’s no surprise so many of my friends have retired elsewhere, taking with them their memories and their capital.
As a teenager growing up here, I enjoyed spending time in my city and hitting my grandfather up for a ride in his taxi back home to Stuart Park.
Now with children of my own, I’m reluctant to haul a pram through a city that’s architecturally at odds with the climate. It’s meant my children really don’t know their city and my connection to urban space is more fragmented than ever.
For decades Darwin has punched above its weight with its charm and generosity, and many like me have prospered from this city’s spoils. My hometown has given me a work-life balance that I wouldn’t get elsewhere, yet I still find the city’s decline confronting. Darwin looks and feels tired and I can’t help but link the children’s picture book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to the city’s woes.
Perhaps this town, like the apple tree in the book, has grown tired of always giving and people always taking. Maybe this city is telling us it has nothing more to give.
It’s time that we face some hard truths that Darwin is a hard place to live and people will stay if they can make a good life here.
We need to figure out how to make this place more liveable and affordable. Issues such as employment, Darwin’s heat, sustainable and thoughtful urban planning, reducing the cost of living and looking after our diverse local cohort in meaningful ways is more important than ever.
It is also recognising that our Territorian tolerance, diversity and the opportunity that this city has provided to all and sundry will again help us to rebuild.
Earlier this week, as I drove down an eerily quiet Bagot Road, I found myself mesmer- ised by a public bus donned in purple and decorated in slogans for the Government’s Boundless Possible campaign,
I couldn’t help but think how awkward the bus looked in a town that’s struggling to keep the people it has left and how far we still have to go before we think we have any hope of attracting and keeping new arrivals.
Eleni Roussos is a longterm Territorian and newsreader for ABC
“It’s not just the heat that’s wearing me down. It’s the deteriorating state of Darwin itself that has me for the first time questioning what the future will be for my three children here.”
ABC presenter and journalist Eleni Roussos with her daughter Xenia at their home in Nakara
The old Ducks Nuts bar and restaurant, next to the Darwin city BCC cinema which is closing down