I lived at Burnie Courts in the suburb of Lyons while finishing my first degree in Canberra during the late 1990s.
By then it was increasingly unoccupied. The block that I was in had tenants in half the apartments and then they weren’t replaced as people like my elderly neighbour Dave moved on.
Burnie Courts had a reputation for drugs and it was deserved. Even though there were no longer people openly dealing while I was living there, it still saw a lot of traffic from people hoping to score.
One night a young woman passed out in front of my door. I checked on her occasionally and could see she was still conscious enough to be wary of me. After a couple of hours she moved on after showing no interest in joining me for a cup of hot chocolate.
Things were relatively quiet there until after about a year, then I was burgled three times in six months and my insurer refused to continue covering my contents. There were also nights when you’d hear windows being broken, which was very unsettling.
Friends would visit for a meal and comment how it was hard to believe I lived at the Courts. It was one of those lessons for me about how much a living room remains a living room. I think I could furnish a room anywhere and be relatively happy because much of what sustains me takes place within my head.
Burnie Courts have since been demolished and replaced with housing that blends a better ratio of public, elderly and private tenants.