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RWA, AHC and the Block in Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage

There are many references to Redfern in the Standing Committee on Social Issues Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage in New South Wales Interim Report June 2008. Here we have extracted two sections about the RWA and Aboriginal Housing Company that deal with one of the ongoing issues in Redfern – Aboriginal Housing on the Block. The Committee has called for reconsideration of the proposed fee $60,000 lodgement fee for the Pemulwuy Project Concept plan.

Redfern Waterloo Authority

8.15 The Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) was established under the Redfern Waterloo Authority Act 2004. The Act sets out the aims and objectives of the RWA and contains provisions directed at overcoming Indigenous disadvantage in the RWA’s operational area.751 In 2006, the RWA entered into a formal partnership agreement with the Federal and New South Wales State Governments for cooperation ‘on enhancing the economic and social revitalisation of Redfern Waterloo in relation to the Indigenous community.’ According to the RWA submission this agreement states that the ‘two governments will work closely together on key areas including employment and enterprise, education, Indigenous housing and the Block and human services.’752 The Block is an area in Redfern bounded by Eveleigh, Caroline, Vine and Louis Streets.753

8.16 The RWA has allocated $35 million to be delivered over the next 10 years for affordable housing through the RWA’s Affordable Housing Contributions Plan, which includes $16 million specifically for affordable housing for Aboriginal people; the Minister for Planning approved the Affordable Housing Contributions Plan in May 2007.754 An additional $23 million over 10 years is allocated to the Affordable Housing Planning Agreement, resulting from the redevelopment of the former Carlton United Breweries site in Broadway.755 The RWA submission does not outline if part of this money was allocated to affordable housing for Aboriginal people.

8.17 It is not clear exactly how many additional houses will be made available under these projects, which form part of the Redfern-Waterloo Built Environment Plan. The Affordable Housing Contributions Plan was criticised by the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes of NSW (CLRI NSW) for failing to address the Pemulwuy Plan proposal for redevelopment of the Block area in Redfern. The CLRI NSW wrote in their submission that this failure indicated ‘…the intrusion of both commercial and political interests that shame the New South Wales Government and its professed lack of bias.’756

8.18 The Pemulwuy Plan is the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC)757 plan for the redevelopment of its properties in Redfern with an emphasis on strengthening Aboriginal cultural values, spirituality and employment through tourism.758 The Aboriginal Housing Company and its Pemulwuy Plan is discussed later in this chapter.

Report 40 – June 2008 Pages 202 - 203

The Aboriginal Housing Company

8.64 The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) has run the Block area in Redfern since the early seventies. It is an example of a community housing provider that has struggled with the quality of the housing it was provided with, combined with the broader social problems facing the Aboriginal community in that area.

8.65 The AHC has, in the past, been reliant on assistance from the AHO in order to remain in business. However, after the AHC was unable to meet requirements associated with the provision of funds, the AHO discontinued funding.808

8.66 Mr Peter Valilis, Project Officer, AHC, described the state of the housing after over 30 years of operation in the Redfern area:

At the present moment we have 16 [occupied] houses, and we have 16 tenants on the Block. As you know, the houses are in a derelict sort of situation. There is a lot of overcrowding at the moment too. The houses are in a very bad state of repair… On the other hand, we have 11 derelict houses that have been blocked up. The reason they have been blocked up is because of drug-related issues. As you know, in the past we had a vicious cycle of drugs being sold on the Block, and they get raided, and when they get raided they are classed as drug houses. The new legislation meant that the housing company itself had to block up the houses. We then relocate the tenants that have been selling drugs, barricade the houses up, and that is the reason for the number of derelict houses that we have on the Block.809

8.67 Mr Valilis noted that without government support the housing could not be re-built and that the AHC was struggling to survive:

At the present moment we have a concept development application with the Planning Authority … Even to look at our concept DA they want us to pay $60,000. As you know, we are a charitable organisation. We do not make a profit. I believe they should waive the fee. I think the biggest stumbling block at the moment is the $60,000 that we have got to pay for our concept development application. The most important thing is that [Minister] Frank Sartor is a guy who just does not want this new complex to go ahead.810

8.68 The AHC have, with the pro bono assistance of professionals and academics, produced a comprehensive and internationally well regarded plan for the redesign of the Block area to provide culturally appropriate housing for Indigenous people. Mr Valilis told the Committee that the Pemulwuy Plan has yet to be implemented, as the Development Application (DA) requires approval by the Minister for Planning. Attendant with the DA is a $60,000 lodgement fee, which the AHC cannot afford.811

8.69 Mr Mick Mundine explained that the Pemulwuy Plan required approval by the Minister for the AHC to be able to commence redesign:

We have fulfilled the guidelines under the SEPP. What more do you want us to do? I really think the reason Frank Sartor does not want to approve our project is because they want the land. People have to remember that we are a private organisation and this is private land. Anyway, why can't we be part of the vision of the State Government? We know they have a vision, and we are in the main corridor …We are all people who work together and live together. Everybody knows we have Aboriginal Housing Company housing, but why can't we live together as people? It is very sad if Frank Sartor stops this Pemulwuy project going ahead.812

8.70 The Committee believes that the AHC cannot continue in its current state of uncertainty. The Committee notes the burden of the Development Application fee on the AHC and believes that, given the nature of the AHC as a community-housing provider, these circumstances warrant re-consideration.

Report 40 – June 2008 Pages 214-215


751 Submission 11, Redfern Waterloo Authority, p 3
752 Submission 11, p 9
753 Aboriginal Housing Company, <www.ahc.org.au>
754 Submission 11, p 6
755 Submission 11, p 6
808 Standing Committee on Social Issues, Interim Report into issues relating to Redfern and Waterloo, Report 32, pp 39-40
809 Mr Peter Valilis, Evidence, 30 April 2008, p 3
810 Mr Valilis, Evidence, 30 April 2008, p 3
811 Mr Valilis, Evidence, 30 April 2008, p 7
812 Mr Mick Mundine, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Housing Company, 30 April 2008, p 5

Source: Standing Committee on Social Issues Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage in New South Wales Interim Report June 2008 which can be downloaded from Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage in New South Wales (Interim Report) (1682 Kb PDF)