Log in

Forgot your password?

Locals praise plans to bring back The Block

ELEANOR HALL: Plans to redevelop the once-notorious Block in inner-Sydney are being welcomed by the people who live there. The Block in Redfern was once one of the nation's most feared addresses - an epicentre of crime and substance abuse. But it was also the heart of Sydney's Indigenous community and when authorities finally tore down the housing, its loss was mourned. The World Today's Adam Harvey went to The Block to ask locals what they thought of plans to build flats, a childcare centre and an art gallery. Alan Harvey Reports on the World Today on 24 January 2012.

ADAM HARVEY: In the 80s and 90s, the Block was a no-go area for outsiders.

For a place with such a big reputation, it's a very small area - about the size of a football pitch, centred on Eveleigh Street, it was handed over to the Aboriginal community by Gough Whitlam in the 1970s. But drugs and crime got so bad here that the entire Block was eventually torn down.

The drugs moved elsewhere years ago. The last terraces were demolished in October, but it's taken time to shed a hard-won reputation. 

Michael Texalaki is raising a family here. 

MICHAEL TEXALAKI: I can remember when we first moved here, there were times when taxi drivers wouldn't come here and council workers wouldn't come here and things like that. But there was also a really fluctuating behaviour on the streets. 

As I say, like I think it was a real habit for people to come into the area who knew that it was an area that was sort of a bit ungoverned. 

ADAM HARVEY: But for the people who live here it's always been a safe place.

Elizabeth Ramage has lived here on and off for decades. She's 81-years-old. 

ELIZABETH RAMAGE: I found it a very welcoming and exciting place to live. Mainly I think because I had a lot of Aboriginal friends so I felt safe among my friends. I find it more dicey now because my friends are not up the top of Eveleigh Street.

ADAM HARVEY: These days the block is just a patch of grass with views of the CBD and a couple of Redfern high-rises. There's a few private property signs planted in the middle of the grass. 

The patch is owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company, who've proposed to fill the space with a $70 million complex of townhouses and apartments for students and Aboriginal people.

Elizabeth Ramage's son Ian grew up here. He says it's important that The Block isn't just turned into just another expensive Sydney real estate development.

IAN RAMAGE: It would be another, you know, trendy inner city suburb. We have lots of those. You know, Newtown's fun but we don't need Newtown everywhere.

ADAM HARVEY: Dixie Link-Gordon raised six children in The Block.

DIXIE LINK-GORDON: No it was a good place, there was friends, we had a wonderful pre-school that was right there on Eveleigh Street and the old Murawina, you know, it was a learning place for not only children but it was for parents to do outreach TAFE courses. It was pretty buzzing.

ADAM HARVEY: Why did it get the reputation that it got as a dangerous place?

DIXIE LINK-GORDON: I don't know, what can I say. There's a lot of outside influence who see an investment on people who are maybe struggling with challenges like addiction, you know, drug addiction. You see there's someone out there who's prepared to put their hand up and say yeah I'll sell to the addict. 

ADAM HARVEY: And she's got great hopes for the redevelopment.

DIXIE LINK-GORDON: To tell you the truth I'm not one for sitting around talking about what's getting us down. If you do that, you get caught up in it and I like to think - have a positive attitude for us here in this inner city community and if you know, we think positively, put it out there, you know I'm just one to believe that it will happen for us. 

ELEANOR HALL: That's Dixie Link-Gordon from Redfern, ending that report from Adam Harvey. 

Adam Harvey reported this story on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 12:50:00