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Aborigines plan protest over Redfern 'land grab' - 02.12.2004

Aborigines today pledged to adopt the tactics of human rights campaigners Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr to stop a plan to redevelop some of Sydney's most troubled areas.

The Aboriginal community will protest next week against the NSW government's proposal for a major overhaul of inner-city suburbs Redfern and Waterloo, which contain large numbers of indigenous people and public housing tenants.

The plan, revealed this week, involves selling government land, redeveloping public housing and attempting to attract jobs to the area.

The government will establish the Redfern-Waterloo Authority to guide the redevelopment, which it has been claimed will have the power to override Sydney City Council planning regulations.

Indigenous groups, coming together under the name Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity, today labelled the plan a "land grab" and attacked the Carr government for failing to consult them.

The organisation warned there would be "determined and unified resistance" to any government attempt to forcibly acquire land at Redfern owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company.

But it stressed any protests would be peaceful.

Indigenous leaders have planned a rally on Monday at Waterloo Green, adjacent to two public housing towers slated for redevelopment.

"We're appalled that the government has refused to rule out the forcible acquisition of Aboriginal land," indigenous representative Shane Phillips said.

"If they were to try and take our land we'd do what any other reasonable people would do. We'd adopt the tactics of Gandhi and Martin Luther King to try and stop them."

Mr Phillips said Aboriginal people were not against the Redfern-Waterloo Authority or development.

"We want Redfern and Waterloo to become secure and prosperous, but Aboriginal people should be able to share in this, not be pushed out.

Redfern was the site of a race riot this year sparked by the death of Aboriginal teenager Thomas "TJ" Hickey.

The NSW government said it would not compulsorily acquire land or force out public housing tenants.

A spokeswoman for Redfern-Waterloo Minister Frank Sartor said there would be no reduction in public housing in the area.

"There's no intention to push out any indigenous residents or public housing tenants," she said.

"There's no intention to use compulsory acquisition powers to resume the Block, and that seems to be one of the main concerns (of Aboriginal groups)."

She said Redfern-Waterloo was an "unusual" area with "unique problems" and the government believed "something's got to be done down there".

Mr Sartor had not made up his mind about how the redevelopment would proceed and wanted to consult widely to come up with the best plan.


December 2, 2004 SMH - AAP