The demolition of the Port Kembla stack may spark a shift in public perceptions and allow the area to carve out a new identity, according to members of Wentworth Street’s new creative community.
Dulcie Dal Molin, president of the Red Point Artists’ Association, will be 72 next week and has lived in Port Kembla all her life.
Born in Reservoir Street, and now living in Military Road – just two houses outside the exclusion zone that will be established around the stack on Thursday’s demolition day – she has few fond memories of the towering edifice.
“I remember the fumes from the old stack, the yellow sulphur fog so thick you couldn’t see through it,” she said.
“It is hard to love something that affected residents’ health for so many years. I can see why it is viewed as an icon, but there is nothing to love about it.’’
Ms Dal Molin spent years photographing the stack for library records and local studies. She said the tower was a prominent feature in artistic depictions of Port Kembla, but said she would not miss the stack – in fact, she welcomed the demolition, saying it could lead to a new era.
“We are trying to revitalise the main street here. We have three beautiful beaches in Port Kembla. Maybe with the stack coming down, people will think of Port Kembla as something other than industry,” she said.
Caroline Pontello, of neighbouring Red Kitchen cafe, echoed these sentiments.
“I think it will represent a big change for the area, psychologically, for a lot of people,” she said.
“People tend to have a negative view of Port Kembla. With the stack gone, that connection to pollution, maybe people might have a different view.”
Ms Pontello said revitalisation efforts – including a blossoming bridal shop industry, new cafes, the Red Point collective, public art and the popular billy cart derby – might now be brought to the fore, and people would recognise the efforts being made to renew the suburb.
“It has been slowly changing for a few years, but people who don’t live here don’t see the change and don’t change their mind,” she said.
“The stack coming down might change their mind, as it represents the change.’’