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Residents Of Redfern's 'The Block' Could Be Forcibly Removed Within Days

The fight for The Block may end in police intervention.

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Residents of Redfern's famous Block face being forcibly removed from their campsite as early as this week.

Jenny Munro (R) speaks with her legal counsel (Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed)

The Supreme Court will decide on Thursday whether to issue an order to have members of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) removed from the The Block.

The ongoing fight between two Aboriginal groups for control of the area looks increasingly as though it will end with police intervention after a judgement by Justice Hulme in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Monday found that the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) has legal possession of The Block.

The AHC plans to develop The Block, turning it into student housing and retail space, but local Aboriginal activists have refused to budge until guarantees are made that any future developments will include affordable housing.

Elder Jenny Munro, the defendant representing RATE, was issued with an eviction notice in February.

While Justice Hulme found that the AHC had rightful possession of the land he failed to deliver a writ which would give the sheriff and police the authority to forcibly evict protestors at the site, setting a hearing for Thursday.

"There could have been an opportunity for the Aboriginal Housing Company to work with the community over 12 months ago and they chose not to and they still choose not to be transparent with our community," Munro said outside court.

The Block has been occupied for the past 15 months by protesters who refuse to leave until the AHC commits to building affordable Aboriginal housing before allowing commercial enterprises to be built there.

Today's hearing marks another chapter in the fractured and acrimonious struggle for The Block.

Jenny Munro speaks with the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion (Allan Clarke / BuzzFeed)

Last week it was revealed that the federal government had been working with both groups to mediate. Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion had committed five million dollars in seed funding to ensure Aboriginal housing was built alongside any commercial developments.

A six-hour meeting between both groups and Scullion failed to break the impasse, with members of the AHC refusing to sign an agreement and baulking at a stipulation to allow a member of RATE to sit on the board.

Senator Scullion told BuzzFeed News at the last court hearing that forcibly removing people was unfathomable.

"The notion that somehow on some morning in the future that police, security or whoever would visit upon the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and forcibly remove them is something that is unconscionable and I think we should do everything to avoid it. So I am doing everything in my power."

Munro believes that hopes of future mediation are unlikely, saying that any relationship between the two parties is beyond repair.

"Under any terms they just want us off the land and to proceed with their plans and they don’t want to be interrupted by anyone or anything. That plan (The Pemulwuy Project) doesn’t give Aboriginal people any guarantee of housing and that’s a problem," Munro said.

In the 1970's the then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam granted funds to the AHC to purchase houses and land for the Aboriginal community.

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (Cole Bennetts / Getty)

In 2011 houses on The Block were demolished to make way for the Pemulwuy Project, a multi-million dollar redevelopment.

The AHC says in order to build affordable Aboriginal houses it needs money from private development. RATE moved onto the block demanding Aboriginal homes were built first. Since then the project has remained stagnant.

Michael Mundine, Chief Executive Officer of the AHC, declined to comment on the legal proceedings outside the court.

If a writ is issued on Thursday for the eviction to go ahead, Munro's legal team has requested that the court allow 28 days for RATE to leave.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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