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Indigenous sports centre under way

CONSTRUCTION has begun on Australia's first national academy for young indigenous athletes in Redfern, two years after it was announced reports Joel Gibson Indigenous Affairs Reporter in Sydney Morning Herald of August 19, 2008.

The Indigenous Land Corporation bought the former Redfern Public School site from the State Government for $14.8 million in 2006 with a plan to develop it into a training site for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportsmen and women from around the country.

Sport will be the focus of the new National Indigenous Development Centre, with an outdoor 25-metre pool, training oval and indoor sports and recreation centre.

Two indigenous sports organisations, the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team and the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Association, will base their Sydney camps there. The centre will run leadership, arts and literacy programs provided by Bill Crews's Exodus Foundation and others.

About 5000 children and young adults are expected to use the centre each year from next August, with up to 100 at a time staying on-site in hostel accommodation.

"We want it to be a centre of excellence," the land corporation's chairwoman, Shirley McPherson, said yesterday. She said she hoped it would produce the next Yvonne Goolagong, who will sit on the centre's board.

The centre would also service the entire Redfern community, Ms McPherson said, with the YMCA to run fitness and sport programs.

Yesterday the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the Government would contribute $24 million for the centre's construction, about $5 million more than earlier estimates.

The Indigenous Land Corporation, a federal government statutory body, has never undertaken a project of this scale before, Ms McPherson said, but it had gleaned some experience from a highly successful Australian rules academy in Clontarf in Western Australia.

The chief executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company, Mick Mundine, who is doing battle with the NSW Government over his proposal to redevelop The Block as Aboriginal-only housing, said the deal was a double standard in dealing with Aboriginal organisations.

While the NSW Government was dealing with the land corporation around the corner, it was trying to "get the blacks off the Block", he said.