ABC’S ELENI ON BA­BIES AND THE CITY’S WOES

Sunday Territorian - - FRONT PAGE - ELENI ROUS­SOS

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.”

Pic­ture: KERI MEGELUS

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

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