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More Than Aboriginal Housing

While the AHC and the RWA go backwards and forwards over what might happen with housing on the Block, the AHC’s vision is about more than housing. This vision was set out in the Architecture Bulletin 3.05 in May / June 2005 and we have taken an extract below from this article to look at the non hopusing aspects including Red Square.

With or without housing, the area between the Block and Redfern Station will always be a meeting place, and is already known nationally and internationally as such. In the past it provided high ground for the Gadigals with a good view of the traditional fishing and trade routes along the Parramatta River.

We think there is common ground between the government and the AHC to foster its iconic status. Minister Sartor has encouraged the first two of the following important initiatives.

The NSW Aboriginal Cultural Centre will celebrate the considerable achievements of NSW Aboriginal artists. AHC has initiated discussions with the local Eora TAFF, Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-op at Leichhardt and the Australia Council, and supports galleries, workshops, artist-in-residence accommodation and the potential for commissioned public art and sculpture as a development dividend. AHC is prepared to make available a large site along Caroline Street, between Louis and Eveleigh Streets, with a dominant frontage to the proposed civic place.

The NSW Indigenous Bellear Business College will provide educational incentives for regional youth, accommodation for visiting students in Sydney for intensive block teaching, conference facilities and incubator business offices. AHC has initiated discussions with Tranby Co-operative College at Glebe and the School of Business at Sydney University towards targeted programs for Indigenous youth. AHC is prepared to make available a prominent site opposite Redfern Station capable of carrying an eight¬storey commercial building based on leasing commitments from interested parties.

The Charles Perkins Centre will accommodate retail space; the Eloura-Tony Mundine Gym and Fitness Centre; management, AHC and Tribal Warrior offices; and a student and visitor hostel with kitchen facilities and an indoor/outdoor cafe and meeting place. The spectre of public drunkenness, begging, bag-snatching and assaults has largely dissipated from the area. Crime rates are at an all time low and the illicit drug trade has gone elsewhere. Perpetrators of the odd street blue will be "encouraged" to

"have-it-out" at the gym and drinkers will have access to a new "wet" centre. Located on the former hotel site and current AHC offices,

the centre will enable Aboriginal visitors to Redfern to meet at the cafe in comfort, to rendezvous with family, to obtain medical/dental treatment or make funeral arrangements, etc.

Red Square - the first step

The key element for the public face of Aboriginal Redfern is the dedication of a major civic place tentatively called Red Square - the name comes from a meeting place at Eveleigh Railway Workshops with Aboriginal significance. The first steps towards achieving a civic place include commissioning a "reconciliation" bridge across the re-entrant corner over State Rail lines and lowering the Sydney Water main along Lawson Street.

More than anything, Red Square is intended to provide a welcome foreground for the three major buildings, and a place for meeting, markets and performance in a convivial setting. Key elements for management include a day-and-night shop and office for registering users of the space, e.g. buskers and stallholders. There would also be an outdoor cafe with a subsidised manager responsible for directing tourists and overnight visitors to the hostel, and maintaining law and order.

In recent discussions a large Sydney developer expressed confidence in the design ideas but stressed that plans and strategies alone would not necessarily encourage investment in the redevelopment of Redfern Station. These would help, but a commitment to build the reconciliation bridge and start Red Square would demonstrate that all levels of government could cooperate with the AHC (the major land owner and developer).


Marry thanks to: NSW Premier's Department, NSW Police Department, Council of the City of Sydney, University of Sydney, Tranby Aboriginal Co-operative College, Landcom, innovarchi Architects, Taylor Thornson Whittiog Engineers, Bruce Davies Quantity Surveyor, REDWatch, City West Housing Company, Redfern Chamber of Commerce, Merrima Design, Government Architects Office.

Architecture Bulletin 3.05 11