A short documentary history of the Block in Redfern
Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Redfern riots a 'tragedy for all': Mick Mundine

Caldwell, Alison .
The World Today ABC Radio.
16th February 2004

MICHAEL VINCENT: Over the past three decades, the relationship between Aboriginal people and local police inRedfern has been troubled, to say the least.

A celebrated fly on the wall documentary filmed by the ABC some years ago and called Cop It Sweet, highlighted the tensions between Aborigines and police in the inner Sydney suburb.

But more recently, according to local Aboriginal elders, relations had settled down, thanks to improved communications and some mutual understanding.

Mick Mundine is the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company. He's also in charge of the housing redevelopment known as "The Block" in Redfern. A familiar face around Redfern for the past 20 years, Mick Mundine describes last night's events as a tragedy for all concerned.

Speaking to Alison Caldwell, Mick Mundine began by reflecting on how the situation had been improving over recent years.

MICK MUNDINE: Oh, I think it's getting a bit better, like, in the last couple of years because it all depends on which commander is really running the show up there and now that Dennis Smith, sort of, you know, is the new commander, it's been going pretty good. You know, it's been going pretty good lately, but as I'm saying it's just a vicious cycle in Redfern. As I said before, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

ALISON CALDWELL: What do you mean by that?

MICK MUNDINE: I suppose it's got a history you know. It's been very bad between our people and the police because they really gave our people a really hard time in the early '70s, '80s, they were really very vicious in them days and as the years kept going on, you know, we trying to get a better relationship between our people and the police and it started to come better towards, in say early 2000, but that's just the way it goes.

ALISON CALDWELL: What are some of the pressures that people are feeling at the moment by the way of say housing? You're the CEO of the Aboriginal Housing Company.

MICK MUNDINE: Well, as you know, the housing is just deteriorating to nothing and I suppose it's got a lot to do with drugs. There's no boundaries to drugs and drugs play a big part in what's happening in Redfern at the present moment. It's a very vicious cycle, it's pathetic and I mean to say that's the reason why we try to demolish all the houses, redevelop the block and try and build a good foundation so we can start getting that good respect in the community.

ALISON CALDWELL: What was your reaction when you heard about what had happened yesterday?

MICK MUNDINE: It's a very sad thing what happened with the young fella. Now I wasn't there because I didn't see it. They are saying the police were chasing him and then the police say they weren't chasing the young fella.

It's pretty bad with our young people at the present moment because of the drug situation. They do a lot of armed robberies and so it's just a very, very vicious cycle and it's very sad, it's a very sad affair.

I was in the early part, I was there just before dark and they were throwing bricks and bottle and I suppose, like, sometimes you've got to use the common sense, like when to go and when not to go in. But as I heard, they was getting a bit out of hand so I suppose the police had to come in.

I mean it's a catch-22 both sides.

ALISON CALDWELL: You talk about drugs in the community. This is affecting young people in the community?

MICK MUNDINE: Oh yeah, because I mean let's face reality a lot of them don't go to work, a lot of them don't get money so they go and they do thieving and do a lot of things around in the community and so this is what really happens. It boils down to drugs and this is a vicious cycle in every community at the present moment.

ALISON CALDWELL: Did you know TJ Hickey, Thomas, the boy?

MICK MUNDINE: I knew him. I knew him very well. I've seen the kid grow up you know. And I had a talk to him only about, say, two or three weeks ago about you know doing things wrong and I said what, you know, bag snatch and you know someone gets killed, you'll be up for murder. I said, what if you're running away from the police and something happened to you?

I said the same thing in front of his mother and another aunty and it's very sad that it happened you know.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: That was the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company in Redfern Mick Mundine. He was speaking to Alison Caldwell.