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

Redfern Coalition to resist forcible acquisition of The Block

by ABC Radio AM - 20th December 2004
A coalition of Indigenous organisations [Aboriginal Unity] in Redfern met today and decided that there would be determined and unified resistance to any attempt by the Government to forcibly acquire land at Redfern owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company.

In a document sent to NSW Premier, Bob Carr and Redfern/Waterloo Minister, Frank Sartor, the Organisation of Aboriginal Unity, which represents the leaders of every Redfern Aboriginal organisation, said that any attempt to forcibly acquire Aboriginal land would be met with peaceful resistance.

Community representative, Shane Phillips said that local Aborigines would be joined by Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people from around Australia and the world to stop a Government land grab.

"We're appalled that the Government has refused to rule out the forcible acquisition of Aboriginal land," Mr Phillips said.

"If they were to try and take our land we’d do what any other reasonable people would do. We'd adopt the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King to try and stop them," he said.

Mr Phillips said that he hoped common sense would prevail and that the issue could be resolved by discussions between the community and Government.

"It's not just Aboriginal people who will be affected by these plans. Our concerns are shared by the residents group REDwatch [Redfern-Eveleigh-Darlington-Waterloo residents action group], the Redfern Chamber of Commerce and many other residents of Redfern and Waterloo of all cultures."

"We're committed to working with all these groups and the Government to achieve the best outcome for the local area, but this will only happen if the Government works in partnership with us," he said.

Mr Phillips said that Aboriginal people were not against the creation of the Authority or development in Redfern Waterloo.

"We want Redfern and Waterloo to become secure and prosperous, but Aboriginal people should be able to share in this, not be pushed out."

Mr Phillips said the Organisation of Aboriginal Unity was concerned about some aspects of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority Bill.

"We're worried that the Bill puts too much power in the hands of the Minister. We feel we c! an talk to Frank Sartor, but the Authority will be in power for 10 years. The Bill would give the power to a future Minister or Government to ride roughshod over our community and take our land," he said.

A copy of the statement to the NSW Premier from the Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity

Proposed Redfern Waterloo Redevelopment

Aboriginal people are appalled that detailed plans about the future of our community have been developed without any attempt to consult with the organizations that represent us.

We are concerned that a new all powerful Authority has been created that could ride roughshod over our needs and aspirations. We are worried that this Authority could undermine the work that is currently being carried out by our community controlled organizations.

We agree that the Government has to take a coordinated approach but this must occur in partnership with Aboriginal people.

We are particularly concerned about suggestions that the land currently owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company could be forcibly acquired by the Government. Aboriginal people would regard any forced acquisition as once again the dispossession of ! our people and occupation of our land. We would fiercely resist this in a unified, determined but peaceful manner.

We would be joined in this by Aboriginal and non Aboriginal families from throughout Australia and indigenous people from around the world.

However, we welcome the Government’s assurance that no decisions over the future of Redfern Waterloo have been made. We also welcome the Minister’s commitment to consultation.

We hope that the Minister’s understanding of consultation is the same as our own. Consultation in our sense of the word means sharing ideas with an open mind to come up with a joint agreement on the best way forward. It means listening as well as speaking. It does not mean telling our people what is happening after decisions have already been made.

If a genuine approach is adopted by all parties, we are confident that a plan for Redfern Waterloo could be agreed on that is in the best interests of Aboriginal people, the broader ! community and the state of NSW.

We want Redfern Waterloo to become secure and prosperous, but Aboriginal people have to share in that security and prosperity.

When new homes are built, Aboriginal families who currently suffer a housing crisis should have access to a fair share of these.

The Aboriginal Housing Company has produced a plan to redevelop the Block. This plan is based on five years of solid research and an award winning design. It has the support of our community and we urge government to embrace it.

If 20,000 new jobs are to be created in our community, Aboriginal people should be given the opportunity to participate in this growth.

We also want to ensure that a growing, multicultural Redfern Waterloo retains its Aboriginal identity. Redfern is the home of Aboriginal people in NSW and it has great historical significance to our people around Australia. It is recognized by many as the hearth of the Aboriginal struggle for land, justice, coexistence and recognition.

Aboriginal people won’t be forced out of Redfern Waterloo by governments, developers, or anyone. But we want to transform Redfern so that it is once again a site of Aboriginal hope and achievement.

We want to work with the government to ensure this occurs.

Source: Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity incorporating
Aboriginal Children’s Service
Aboriginal Housing Company
Aboriginal Medical Service
Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council
Mudgin-Gal (Women’s Service)
Murrawina Ltd (Childcare)
Sydney Regional Aboriginal Corporation Legal Service
Tribal Warrior Association
Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care