‘The way we found out was breakfast news. That was the first we’d heard about it. An hour later we had a knock on the door from the WestConnex people with an information pack which was all about the compulsory acquisition. This is my life and I deserve to find out in a slightly more humane way than on breakfast news.

‘I was completely lost for words. It was just absolute shell shock. We were completely blown away. We’ve known the WestConnex was under discussion but we didn’t have any real idea of what that meant for this local area.

‘How do you explain it to your kids? This is home to them. To have to explain that night to a 7 year old and a 4 year old, we are going to have to move. I can’t tell you when. I can’t tell you where.

‘These are people’s homes. This is our lives. This is our community that we’re very invested in.

‘When we bought our home, we knew there was a compulsory purchase order on the house since 1951 and on houses down to Parramatta Road I think. This was the last piece of road that didn’t have those purchase orders taken off. When I spoke to people we were told the only reason that the reservation was still in place here was because the residents haven’t got together to petition to have it removed.

‘We live in a city where you put more roads in place, you get more cars. Where are all these cars going to go? Fundamentally we need public transport and I would think everybody in this area would probably agree.

‘It affects me directly yes, but it affects people who live 6 houses away from me. It affects people who live 6-10 roads away in Newtown and it will continue to flow. It’s not just about me and my house being purchased. It’s about everybody in the community standing up and saying this is not what we want and it’s not what’s best for the Inner West. Public transport, not roads.’

‘I work on an international project in the HIV sector.’

If you could communicate one point that would make people more aware about the issues associated with living with HIV, what would that be?

‘In Australia, having HIV is not a crime and it’s a stigma about HIV that’s the biggest issue that we have.’

‘The last time I saw my husband was on the 30th of September 2012. I miss everything about him – he is so interesting.I’m from Cameroon and have been in Australia for one year. I came here with nothing but the most important thing is I’ve got a place to sleep. I have no other family here.My husband got involved in a socialist group at home. My country is bilingual. We have the French and the English part of it. The French are more dominant because there is a larger population of them. My husband joined the English movement. It’s termed illegal by the President so anybody who is caught trying to fight for the rights for the English Cameroonians falls in to trouble with the President. We are treated like we are not part of the country.

During one of the meetings he got arrested but managed to get out of the country through the help of one of the senior members. I didn’t know where he was. The police were after me because of my husband’s involvement in the rights. He was a serious member of the movement.

It’s a government that nobody asks questions of. What happens happens. I have a Masters Degree in Communication but sometimes I am really scared to be a journalist because we know some of the things that happen. I was worried my husband would go to jail or be killed. Most of the members have been killed.

I didn’t know anything about Australia but when I came I had a warm welcome. The people have been very nice even though the whole visa process has been slow.

I’ve been training at Parliament on King for five weeks. I’m not a coffee person but now I get to make coffee and have been learning about all the different types. I am now in contact with my husband – he made his way to Austria. We speak every other day.’

‘My father died before I was born and there was a lot of arguing at home between me and my mum. It was just her and I so there was no mediator so it’s been very intense.

‘When I was in year 10, my mother and I had one of many very big fights and I ended up leaving and living with my friend for 3 months but then after that I came back. My mum left the next day to go to New Zealand for 6 weeks and so I was apparently a responsible teenager and could handle that. I had a job and all the rest so it wasn’t that bad.

‘After she got back we managed to live together for another 3 months but everything was getting worse and worse. There were definitely forms of abuse whether or not she realised it was a different thing.

‘I got in to crisis care and from there I have been living in a local refuge called Lillian’s for the past two years. Sadly though, the government has decided to cut funding to Lillian’s so it will close at the end of October.’

How do you feel about the refuge closing?

‘I find it’s helped me through so many things living there – through my depression and anxiety – as well as finish my HSC. My biggest fear when it closes is that I will end up with nowhere to go. That’s scary for me because it’s just a stable environment and it feels like home. There are so many other girls there as well and the bonds that you form with them are not like any others.’

What would have happened to you had you not been there?

‘I probably would have bounced from crisis refuge to crisis refuge which isn’t a good thing. That would have been difficult for me. There are people who have been through that and they’re ending up on the streets and I don’t think that’s a good thing.’

‘What we’re doing right now is complaining about the Abbott government.’

If you were to meet Abbott, what would you say to him?

‘Do not repeal the racial discrimination act because you’re not at the forefront of what the average person says to people who are not white and you don’t know how bad it is on the street.’

Have you been on the receiving end of racism yourself?

‘My whole life! There is an atmosphere in Australia of arrogance and belligerence towards people who look like immigrants. Not people who are immigrants as there are a lot of white people here who are immigrants but people who look like immigrants.’

If you were to address a large group of people, what would you say?

‘Don’t underestimate how important it is to have compassion. A lot of people think that life is all about getting what you need for yourself but actually, no, you hold yourself back when you cannot feel compassion for another person. The compassion you can feel for another person is exactly the amount you will feel for yourself.’