Protesters scale buildings to stop bulldozing of The Block
|July 7, 2014|
By James Robertson
'Hands off our block'
Over a hundred people gathered at The Block in Redfern on Monday to protest against the start of the site's redevelopment into a residential and commercial complex.
About 200 protesters gathered at The Block in Redfern on Monday as tensions flared over the fear that the site will be bulldozed for redevelopment.
Police first arrived at 5am, witnesses said, when protesters began scaling buildings to unfurl banners such as: "Sovereignty never ceded".
No arrests were made but the police came twice more before 9am and were encircled by the crowds.
Members of the indigenous community camp in protest at Tony Mundine's gym at The Block. Photo: James Alcock
The large, undeveloped site opposite Redfern train station is marked for development by its owner, the Aboriginal Housing Company.
Tensions flared this morning between Aboriginal protesters and Mick Mundine, the AHC head, whom they accuse of giving the site over to commercial interests when it should be used for indigenous housing.
Jenny Munro, a community elder, said she had been told that the site's developer, Deicorp, had some weeks ago announced plans to bulldoze the site today and protesters were gathered in anticipation.
Protestors scale one of the buildings set to be redeveloped in Redfern at 'The Block'. Photo: AAP
"If today's not the time, we're not going to stop. There will be more of us here tomorrow," she said.
But Mick Mundine said on Monday afternoon that he did not expect development to start until next year.
"We haven't got the money for the commercial or the affordable housing [development yet]," he said. "[Building commercial premises] may be the only way we can achieve our long-term goal of providing affordable housing for Aboriginal people in [the inner city]."
About 11am, organisers addressed the crowd and said they no longer expected bulldozers today.
In the Whitlam era, the site was home to widespread Aboriginal housing projects. The last tenants started to be moved out a decade ago.
Today, about 20 tents stand on the long-cleared site. They were erected in May to oppose the development.
Also in the path of development is boxer Tony Mundine's gym with its famous Aboriginal flag mural.
Mrs Munro and others oppose the $70 million plans.
"It should be used for what it's always been used for: Aboriginal housing.
"There's 110 lots here."
The Pemulwuy development, named after an Aboriginal warrior, will be turned firstly into a residential and commercial complex with student housing.
There are plans too for a second-stage affordable housing development of 62 homes, but funding for stage two is not yet secured.
Deicorp declined to comment.
Several dozen protesters engaged in a shouting match about 10am with Mr Mundine.
"This is Aboriginal land," protesters shouted.
A policeman stood between the groups.