Rae Desmond Jones and the suburb that “found its groove”

Rae Desmond Jones leading a protest over the M4 East Tunnel at Haberfield in 2004 (Photo SMH)

An article in the Fairfax, sorry Nine Media, owned Domain Real Estate website site on 1 March sang the praises of the inner west Sydney suburb of Summer Hill. In an article entitled “‘It’s a come-to destination’: Summer Hill, the inner west suburb that found its groove”, Domain went on to say that one of the suburb’s great attractions was its diversity “both in housing styles and the mix of people it attracts. Buyers can find everything from handsome Victorian mansions to Californian bungalows, art deco blocks, 1960s apartments and chic new units”. It went on to say  that “the main shopping area is concentrated around Lackey Street, near the train station, where there’s a supermarket, fruit shop, butcher, doctor, restaurants, cafes and wine bars, including hot favourites The Temperance Society and one-time milk bar The Rio.” The article then quotes from a local resident who says“I know the people in the small shops …… I like the fact that I can have a chat in the fruit and veg shop or the butcher’s. And from where we are, it’s an easy walk to the station, bus or light rail. You really can’t do better than that.”

Being a real estate site Domain doesn’t examine the reasons why Summer Hill has maintained its “village feel,” but poets and local residents alike know that a lot of the credit must be given to poet, community activist and ex-Mayor Rae Desmond Jones. Concerned at proposed over-development at Summer Hill in the 1990s, Jones set up the Summer Hill Action Group (SHAG for short) and the effectiveness of the movement which he helped build is reflected both in the fact that he was elected to council and actually became Mayor of Ashfield from 2004 to 2006.

Rae Desmond Jones – poet, activist, politician – died in 2016 and Rochford Press recently launched his final collection of poetry, The End of the Line, at the Exodus Foundation in Ashfield. As poet Les Wicks said at the launch Rae’s poetry “talks about the environment, inequality, ignorance and genocide all in language accessible to a wider readership”.

Copies of The End of the Line can be purchased from https://rochfordpress.com/rochford-press-bookshop/the-end-of-the-line-by-rae-desmond-jones/

Rae Desmond Jones, Mayor of Ashfield, 2004 to 2006