back to top

Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Fight For Redfern's Block

The fight for "The Block" gets ugly as protestors are told to leave.

Posted on

Last week the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE), a group of Aboriginal community activists opposed to current plans to develop The Block, were served with an eviction notice by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC).

Supplied.

The AHC, who manages The Block with a mandate to provide affordable housing for the Indigenous community, has given the embassy 14 days to leave.

RATE set up their tents almost a year ago, refusing to go without a guarantee that affordable housing for the community would be built before any commercial development.

If the eviction goes ahead it could prove to be an explosive end to a year-long tug-of-war over Australia's most recognisable urban Aboriginal community.

Redfern has been long associated with the Koori (Indigenous people from NSW) community.

Greg Wood / Getty Images

In the 1920's Aboriginal people left their rural homes to work in the Eveleigh Rail Yards near Redfern in inner-city Sydney. In the 1970's, after vigorous lobbying efforts by the Aboriginal community to the federal government, the then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam granted the AHC funds to purchase houses and land. The houses were purchased on what what is know known as The Block.

It was a bold initiative to create an affordable source of low-cost housing for disadvantaged Aboriginal people.

During the 1980's and 1990's The Block become synonymous with violence, crime and drug use, in particular the proliferation of heroin use that tore through the community.

In 2011, the final Aboriginal people living on The Block were relocated and their houses demolished to make way for the Pemulwuy Plan, an ambitious redevelopment of the area.

The project has torn the community apart. Opponents say it will push Koori people out to make way for commercial enterprises and private development in the newly-gentrified area.

The Pemulwuy Project is a $70 million, three-stage development to turn The Block into a modern Indigenous community.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The development application has been approved, and includes plans for a commercial and retail space, a gallery, student accommodation, a childcare centre, gymnasium and affordable homes for 62 units and townhouses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families.

So who is fighting whom?

On one side is the AHC, whose mandate is to gain approval to start the Pemulwuy project, a redevelopment of The Block. AHC Chief Executive Officer Mick Mundine told Fairfax last week that, "we have DA approval and it's going to happen." Mr Mundine added that, "They're [the protestors] on Aboriginal Housing Company Land. It is private land and they're trespassing."

RATE want a commitment that affordable housing be built as a priority. They say that if affordable housing isn't built straight away, the Aboriginal community will be pushed out and the area will become a haven for private development.

RATE refused to leave in February after being served with a eviction notice. They say they are committed to staying, even if they have to be forcibly removed. Elder Jenny Munro told Fairfax, "We will peacefully exercise our right to remain here. We will not move."

RATE have been given until the end of the week by Ashurst, the law firm representing AHC, to leave the area.