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Government, developers threaten Redfern Block - 08.12.2004

The inner-city suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo, home to the Australian Heritage-listed Redfern Block, which has historically been a centre of Black empowerment and organising, faces a $5 billion state government “redevelopment”. The plan involves seizing control of the Block and letting private developers take over two-thirds of the area’s public housing estates.

Indigenous activists have pledged “peaceful” yet “determined and united resistance” to stop the theft of Indigenous land and the threats to public housing.

The Redfern Organisation of Aboriginal Unity and residents group REDwatch (Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington watch) have organised a protest on December 6 at the Waterloo Green, angered at the lack of consultation from Premier Bob Carr’s state Labor government.

While the state government is establishing the Redfern-Waterloo Authority to “guide the redevelopment”, it has refused to rule out overriding Sydney City Council planning regulations or taking over control of the Block.

The government has also claimed there will be no reduction in public housing in the area and that no Indigenous residents will be forced out. However, public housing towers in Waterloo are slated for demolition, and energy and utilities minister Frank Sartor has said that ‘‘whether we are able to finance the redevelopment ... is one of the challenges”.

According to the Socialist Alliance’s Susan Price: “Having public housing demolished, and then ‘discovering’ there isn’t enough money to build replacements, would not be the first disgraceful tactic used by this government to try to drive out Indigenous people and public housing tenants.

“The Block has been under threat for many years and ever since Redfern youth rose up against police involvement in the death of Gail Hickey’s 17-year-old son, the Carr government and the ‘opposition’ have stepped up their bipartisan support for the Block’s destruction. State Coalition leader John Brogden called for the Block’s ‘bulldozing’, while Carr countered that it had already mostly taken place, with 70 out of 90 houses demolished.”

Price argued for “massive support to Indigenous programs and Indigenous control — not a grubby grab for land”.

Paul Benedek, Sydney
From Green Left Weekly, December 8, 2004