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Kings Cross: Life on the Strip


Following nothing but the wind and her heart, Grace Heers found herself living in Kings Cross in 2010, observing the daily dramas being played out by the dysfunctional, the desperate and the dystopian, all fodder for her as a developing writer. Now, she has written a book, Darling Humans, about her experiences.

by Judy Fredriksen


Finding herself at a crossroad in her life – with an empty nest and a tenuous job – Grace decided to throw caution to the wind and head to Kings Cross, Sydney, a place that she describes as being “the human condition on speed”.


“I used to go and visit Kings Cross because I loved it; it was so diverse and crazy. I used to sometimes fly down for a weekend and just absorb all this drama and pathos. I just loved it,” she explains.


She found a job doing marketing for a printer on Sydney’s affluent North Shore, but her living quarters were in the heart of seedy Kings Cross. It was a lifestyle full of excitement and contrasts – a madcap departure from the tranquillity of her former home in Maleny.


“I’d leave this underworld of the homeless, drug addicts, the sex workers and tourists from all over the world … and mental illness was chronic … I’d leave this mad little world, go over the sparkling, beautiful harbour, and into this rich, palatial suburb ... it was so weird, and back again in the afternoon.


“It was this really amazing time. I guess I got to know a lot of the people; I became part of the community, these were my neighbours. They showed me a lot of care, really.”

By becoming part of The Cross community, Grace saw it all: the good, as well as the bad and the ugly of the notorious red light strip and junkies’ nest.


Grace describes several times when she saw the crusty and crumbling veneers of the locals scraped back to reveal a kind heart.


There was the time she accidentally locked herself out of her flat with no wallet and no keys, leaving her with the prospect of spending an unsavoury, cold night on the streets. An acquaintance, a lady of the night, came to her rescue by lending her enough money to find some accommodation for the night.


Then there was a street alcoholic who checked in on her to make sure she made it home safely after an injury.


In further breaking down stereotypes and dispelling racist myths, Grace speaks fondly of a homeless Indigenous woman who not only looked out for Grace, but loved books so much, she could be found sitting on the step of a shop at night reading a book, because it gave her light to read by.


But of course, there was the flip side. Grace was heartbroken to see the terrible life that many young women faced, how they had become trapped in the sex trade, controlled by deviants.


“It was a really rich human experience, that’s why I think I went there. I wanted to be a writer and there was so much to write about. I’d get up every morning and go down, and there’s drama everywhere … drug addicts and sex workers, sirens …”


Mesmerised by what she saw on a daily basis, she began to write a blog – Kings Cross: Life on the Strip. Describing her experiences in one of her first blogs, she wrote:


“It’s early and I’m walking along the strip at Kings Cross towards the park beside El Alamein Fountain. As always the human parade is stunning in its diversity – the mad; the drunk; the spaced out drugged out; the artistic; the greedy; the lost; the adventurous; the hordes of young international backpackers; the sleazy spruikers delivering their arm-twisting ‘invitations’ into even sleazier strip clubs through their broken and blackened teeth and crooked smiles; and then there’s the glamorous – for the Cross has become a trendy nightspot for the young, the up and coming, the beautiful.”


With plenty to write about, Grace quickly developed a large following, including readers from overseas. Friends suggested she should write a book, but Grace felt the time wasn’t right.


After a year, she returned to Maleny, but the horrors of the sex trade and treatment of the girls who struggled to exist under its sleazy demands had deeply moved Grace. She wanted to help those who were enslaved and in 2013, with her appetite for adventure previously whetted by her time in The Cross, she embarked on a journey to Thailand to work on a project with Destiny Rescue.


The international Destiny Rescue program helps to free those people, mostly young girls from poor villages, who are caught up in the sex trade, lured by human traffickers. The experience broadened Grace’s insights into the devious ways in which the young girls and their families are tricked into giving them up for prostitution and trafficking.


Returning to Australia from Thailand and armed with much more wisdom, Grace finally plucked up the courage to write that book.


Darling Humans is a memoir that blazes bright with humanity and heart,” says Grace.

“It shows we are all frail and resilient, but amazing as well, and that kindness is so important.”


Darling Humans is still in the editing phase, but those who are interested in buying the book can register their interest on Grace’s web page: graceheers.com


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