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Case Study 1 – The Legislation ‘Consultation’

The first opportunity for the community to assess the NSW Governments response to the "Inquiry into issues relating to Redfern and Waterloo" recomendations for improvements in the way the government related to the community came with the announcement to establish the RWA.

When the RWA was announced REDWatch, a residents’ watch group who were monitoring the RWPP requested time for the community to consider the legislation before it was introduced to Parliament[1]. The government did not do this and rushed the legislation into the lower house. While there was significant opposition from Independent NSW MP for Bligh Clover Moore, who is also the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, there was little change accepted by the government in the lower house.[2]

REDWatch, then joined with a large number of individuals and groups to campaign for changes to the legislation in the non-government controlled upper house.[3] Aboriginal groups came together under the banner of the Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity to oppose any suggestion of the NSW Government compulsorily acquiring The Block and to support the Aboriginal Housing Company’s Pemulwuy project[4]. This lobbying of the government, opposition and the cross benches managed to get some significant changes made to the Bill and there are numerous references to this lobbying in the Hansard record of the debates on the Bill.

After the Bill’s assent Minister Sartor described the changes in the following way:

In drafting the legislation, the Government was conscious of the need to consult widely with key stakeholders while preserving flexibility to be able to act quickly and adapt to challenges as they arise.

From these consultations, a number of amendments were proposed and accepted. These include:

·         Inserting Objects of the Bill to make it clear the Bill is designed to improve public amenity, quality of life and safety in Redfern-Waterloo;

·         The NSW Heritage Council must be consulted before altering any item listed on the State Heritage Register;

·         Clarifying the ability of the RWA to impose certain levies on State Significant development;

·         Limiting any future expansion of the operational area of the RWA;

·         Guaranteeing Aboriginal representation on the Advisory Committees; and

·         Consulting with the Aboriginal Housing Company and the Aboriginal community on the long term strategic vision for The Block.

These amendments clarify the Authority's role and ensure that consultation with occur with the local community.[5]

With in the space of a month the changes forced on the government were portrayed as resulting from government initiated consultation. The history of RWA consultation was already being rewritten.

(This case study is adapted from Actions Speak Louder than Words: Redfern-Waterloo’s Recent Experience of ‘Consultation’  by Geoffrey Turnbull which appeared in Indigenous Law Bulletin August September 2005 Volume 6 / Issue 13)

[1] ‘REDWatch Comments on RWA & RWP Anouncement’ REDWatch statement 3 November 2004.

[2] ‘WHO? WHAT? HOW? —BUT WE KNOW WHY!’ CLOVER'S eNEWS - Friday 19 November 2004 - No. 223

[3] ‘Action group wants law to ensure rights for residents’ Debra Jopson Sydney Morning Herald December 1, 2004

[4] Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity 2nd December 2004 as reported in ‘Aborigines plan protest over Redfern 'land grab'‘ AAP Sydney Morning Herald Internet Site December 2, 2004

[5] Minister Frank Sartor Correspondence to Mr Garry Moore, Director New South Wales Council for Social Services (‘NCOSS’) in response to correspondence from NCOSS and some other concerned agencies, undated (received late December 2004)