Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel chronicles the final years of the Gatwick Private Hotel, a boarding house that over the years became a local and then national icon.
Shot over 4 years this intimate documentary reveals the day to day lives of proprietors Rose Banks and Yvette ‘Etty’ Kelly, twin sisters who worked at the hotel from the age of 14. Featuring residents and regular visitors of the hotel we meet fascinating characters that live on the fringes of a community undergoing gentrification.
Before a forced closure and sale in 2017 the building was halfway home to a few, home to many. Gatwick Private Hotel housed a rag tag menagerie of characters who either lived in, frequented or volunteered their time, all under the caring eyes of Rose and Etty, known locally as ‘The Saints of St Kilda’.
Bought by Vittoria and René Carbone in 1972, the Gatwick Private Hotel was run as a boarding house where Vittoria become loved and cherished, known fondly as ‘Queen Vicky’. Remembered for her compassion and motherly nature she passed away in 1998 and the family estate put the property up for sale. Wanting to continue their mother's legacy, Rose and Yvette bought the Gatwick back and continued running it like a family home for the less fortunate members of the community.
Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly had started working at the Gatwick when they were only 14 years old and dedicated their lives to it ever since. Always at peril of being shut down due to the inherent consequences of catering to the marginalised section of Melbourne’s community they continued to provide a home and beds to those who had nowhere else to go, up until 2017.
The feature documentary Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel opens the doors to this historical building, allowing the viewer a unique look into the lives and love that made this institution what it was. We are given unrestricted access to the sisters who became mothers to hundreds, selflessly opening their hearts and home to the disadvantaged for over 40 years.
“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” – Nelson Mandela
Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel is an intimate, powerful and moving documentary that reveals the complex, surprising and fascinating characters behind the walls of what from the outside looks like a beaten-down building that is well past it’s golden years. Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly offered their tenants much more than a roof over their heads, and Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel is as much a loving tribute to the sisters as it is a contemplation of dignity and the challenges faced by modern society to deal with a rising epidemic: Homelessness and mental health.
If you ask a Melburnian about the Gatwick Private Hotel, you will most likely get a variation on the same reaction: it’s a bad place that brings trouble, it’s haunted, sinister, filthy, replete with murder and crime. The boarding house has picked up a barrage of negative publicity over the years and has even been referred to as ‘The Hotel of Horrors’. A number of people wanted it shut down.
But look deeper, ask around locally in St. Kilda and you come across a lot of people with a different story. Those with fond memories of the building, of the friends and family they made there, or most likely of all, someone with heartfelt praise and adoration for Queen Vicky and Aunties Rose and Etty. These strong women leave behind a legacy of compassion that is so sorely missed in Australian society that it is hard to believe until you have spent 4 years inside these walls as we had the privilege of doing.
The sisters sold the Gatwick in 2017 to an undisclosed buyer. In 2018 the new owners were revealed to be the Nine Network, producers of popular renovation series The Block.
The Banks and Kelly family’s legacy of compassion is engrained in this building and when all of it (except for the exterior façade) was torn down and rebuilt by The Block the twins mourned the loss of the building like any other family member.
Walking down Fitzroy Street with her grandchildren months after the sale and hand over, Yvette was compelled to buy a piece of the family’s legacy back after one of the children pointed at the closed building and asked, ‘There’s Nanny’s house, can we pop in?’
When The Block apartments went under the hammer on October 28th, 2018, the sisters bid and won one of the five that were up for aution.
The sisters intend to retire in the apartment and spend their last years in the building that brought so much love, laughter and joy to their lives for over fifty years. ‘Every window has a story’, said Rose.
The Saints of St. Kilda
Rose and Yvette see the residents of the Gatwick as their children, or, in their own words: “They’re all somebody’s children, and they’re our children now”.
The place was both a fortress and a community. Once you crossed the front steps, you were in a completely different time and space: an outpost from yesteryear, a quirky village, a microcosm of poets, lovers, revellers and dreamers. Nobody is outcast. Everybody belongs.
Once offered over seven million dollars for the Gatwick, the sisters turned it down in order to continue doing what they loved. For decades the building had provided shelter, community and a home in which every single person was welcome and accepted. They housed over 80 residents and unsurprisingly, the rooms (and hallways) were always full.
Then & Now
The private hotel had seen its share of death and violence, but Rose and Yvette insist that nobody ever crossed a line with them or made them feel threatened in any way. They were respected and admired by the residents and many other members of the community. This documentary, filmed over four years, gives a glimpse into what made them so loved but at the same time a target for gentrification.
The sisters would like to do something similar to the Gatwick in the future and are actively looking for suitable real estate and support that could provide a large number of beds for the disenfranchised. Their family has always invested in property and made it available at below-market rent to the marginalised who can’t get housing through the government channels.
When the hotel closed its doors, the sisters moved and provided housing for over 20% of the original Gatwick residents who either weren’t eligible for government housing or just wouldn’t leave the building until the very last minute. As of the conclusion of this documentary they still rented to 15 of the original residents spread over 6 properties around Melbourne.
Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel is a non-for-profit film. Proceeds and donations will be forwarded to our charity partner on the project – Launch Housing. Please follow the link to donate.
Launch Housing has been selected as the official charity partner of Gatwick: Last Chance Hotel. While we were not involved in its making, we welcome the attention this documentary brings to a crucial issue.
Launch Housing is an independent, Melbourne-based community organisation whose mission is to end homelessness. We provide housing and support services to thousands of people each year, including crisis accommodation. From helping someone to find and keep a safe home in Melbourne, to advocating for social and policy change all over Australia, everything we do is a step toward ending homelessness.
We believe housing is a basic human right that affords people dignity. Everyone has a right to a home and it is our job to make this happen. We know solutions to the housing crisis must come from the whole community—non-profits, government, and you.
In addition to our official charity partner Launch Housing, we will be making a significant donation to STREAT.
They provide wrap-around support including individual case management, linkages to other specialist service providers as needed (drug and alcohol, mental health, housing services), group Work Readiness programs, and creative and social activities.
Also they provide a range hospitality programs including accredited certificate courses, work experience programs, and short courses. We also provide workplace training and mentoring for each young person across STREAT’s inner Melbourne cafés and production kitchen. As a social enterprise, STREAT reinvests 100% of its profits back into supporting and training youth.
They work towards our young people having a safe and long-term place to live through partnerships with a wide range of Melbourne housing services.
Since starting in Federation Square in March 2010 with two small food carts we’ve had....Over 1,100 young people in our programs. Who’ve worked across our now 7 businesses and helped serve over 2 million meals and coffees to our customers, whilst gaining over 65,000 hours of life-skills support, hospitality training and work experience.
Since starting in Federation Square in March 2010 with two small food carts STREAT has had...
- Over 1,100 young people in their programs
- Who’ve worked across their now 7 businesses
- And helped serve over 2 million meals and coffees to customers
- Whilst gaining over 65,000 hours of life-skills support, hospitality training and work experience.
Jason has produced the feature films Brothers’ Nest, Sucker, Rats and Cats (with director Tony Rogers) and Little Deaths (winner of best feature film at SPAA, 2008). He co-produced the IF Award-winning feature film One Perfect Day and produced the tele-feature The Heart Break Tour and ABC documentaries Beyond the Backyard and feature-length Shadowplay.
Byrne has produced many internationally recognised TV commercials and award-winning short films with Directors Rachel Griffiths (Roundabout), Clayton Jacobson (I Love U), Eron Sheehan (Fish), Edwin McGill (Booth Story and Imprint) and Josh Whiteman (One Minute).
He is currently in production on feature films The Girls and No Prisoners, all of which received recent development funding. This will be Jason’s directing debut.
Julian Vincent Costanzo Co-Producer
A Screen Producer’s One’s to Watch Alumni, Tropfest 2015 Winner and 2018 AACTA AFI Award Nominee - Julian is a passionate storyteller whose mandate is to tell compelling human stories no matter the genre or medium. Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel is a career highlight, the most worthwhile story to date and has inspired him to follow the subject matter with the aim of continuing the societal discussion about homelessness and mental illness in future projects.
Sara Edwards Editor
With 25 years’ experience, Sara Edwards has edited across a wide variety of genres. In addition to over sixty music videos, numerous television commercials, television drama and animation series she has edited nine documentary feature films. Her work on the documentary feature Not Quite Hollywood earned her an AACTA award nomination. Crafting the story of the sisters in Gatwick: The Last Chance hotel has been one of her most rewarding experiences. They are truly beautiful and inspirational women whose story needs to be shared.
ABC & The Difference Engine in association with +ape and Guilty presents Gatwick: The Last Chance Hotel
A Documentary by JASON BYRNE
Editor Sara Edwards
Cinematographer Jaque Fisher
Additional Directing Luci Schroder
Original Score Dmitri Golovko
Original Idea Ange Schistan & Katie Graham
Colourist & Online Editor Thanassi Panagiotaras
Sound Design Paul Shanahan
Sound Producer Pip Wright
Additional Cinematography Michael Latham, Aaron Farrugia & David Guest
Executive Producers Julia Adams & Hugh Nairn
Executive Producer, ABC Leo Faber
Head of Factual, ABC Steve Bibb
Co-Producer Julian Vincent Costanzo
Producer Jason Byrne
This film would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors, thank you.
A very special thanks to Rose Banks, Yvette Kelly and their family (both the residents and kin) for letting us into their home and allowing us to tell their story.