By any measure, Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens in Melbourne's leafy east are among the best aged care facilities in the country.
“We're just one big happy family. We all help each other, we go out, we really enjoy our life here”, said Von Tait.
Every resident and every family will tell you the same thing.
So, with our ageing population, why on earth would the Monash City Council even contemplate selling them out from under the feet of these vulnerable Australians? “Well they're not going to kick me out. I'm staying here til the rest of my life”, Von said.
85-year-old Von and 89-year-old Bob Tait are original residents of the independent living units at Monash Gardens. “It's not their money, they have no right to do this”, Bob said.
81-year-old Frank Jennings has volunteered here for years. After a fall late last year, wife Bron moved in. “There are other ways to get money without sacrificing elderly citizens. Let them have their last few years in peace. Leave us alone”, Frank said.
What really stinks about this is the sneaky way the Council went about announcing it was thinking of selling -- at the end of a council meeting, they closed the doors and agreed to take expressions of interest. A sale would net the council a fortune.
“There was no consultation, none at all before the event. Consultation after the event but not before”, said Jack Davis who heads Ratepayers Victoria.
Jack was once a Monash councillor. He thought he'd seen it all but he reckons this is a new low. “I mean that's disgusting but it's aged care and you must not sell aged care. It belongs to the people”, Jack said.
The Council, which includes inexperienced Mayor Michaela Drieburg and Geoff Lake, the man Kevin Rudd booted off the ALP ticket at the last election for his foul-mouthed abuse of a disabled woman, probably expected the oldies to just lie down and cop it. The last thing they expected was to go to war.
But war is exactly what they got and here's the first lesson these baby-faced councillors learnt the hard way – pick a fight with Australia's ‘grey army’ at your peril. “They've taken on a good army here. Oh yes, they'll be sorry. If they don't win today, there won't be a councillor survives the next election”, Jack said.
Speaking of elections, they had one last year. Des Olin heads the Local Ratepayers Association. “Elections were last October. There was no mandate that this was even thought about and if it was they would have been booted out in October”, Des said.
Before the latest council meeting, concerned residents, families, ratepayers, nurses and local business people gathered outside the Civic Centre. Each had a personal story about Monash Gardens or Elizabeth Gardens. After the protestors marched on the council chamber, emotion gave way to anger.
When the ratepayers invited us to the meeting one of the Mayor's minions tried to stop us filming. But people power won the day -- we stayed
This is democracy, Monash style: If you want to ask a question, you put it in writing, in advance, for approval.
Question after question was batted down. While some Councillors fiddled with their i-Pads rate payers were repeatedly ignored and fobbed off supposedly in the name of commercial confidence. Mayor Michaela ploughed on.
When a ratepayer moved a no-confidence motion the councillors upped and fled their own chamber scared off by the blue-rinse brigade.
Bron Jennings has this message: “Please give us a go and leave the place open so we can enjoy it”.
So, Monash City Council -- what's it to be; money or care; greed or common sense; honesty or secrecy? Perhaps a good place to start would be listening to the people who put you there.