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Residents protest Carr's Redfern-Waterloo plan - 15.12.2004

On December 6, 300 people rallied in the inner-city suburb of Redfern to protest against the sale of Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) land and the local public school under the NSW Labor government plan to extend the city's commercial business district out to Sydney Airport.

The protesters were addressed by local Aboriginal community leader Shane Phillips, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council Sylvia Hale, Democrats parliamentarian Arthur Chesterfield-Evans, Gary Moore from the NSW Council of Social Service, and Geoff Turnbull from REDwatch, the Redfern-Eveleigh-Darlington-Waterloo community action group that organised the rally.

Moore told the rally that the government's bill to establish a Redfern-Waterloo Authority to administer the redevelopment plan was ‘‘the worst bill I have ever seen in my 20 years as an elected representative.''

As Gary Highland from the Aboriginal Metropolitan Land Council explained to Green Left Weekly, the Redfern Block might become the first piece of land to be sold off by the new authority. The Block was the first land stolen from Aborigines to be handed back to them — by the Whitlam government in 1973.

This land is held under freehold title, only protected by the NSW Heritage Act. However, under the Redfern-Waterloo Authority legislation, passed by the NSW upper house on December 9, Frank Sartor, the new minister for Redfern-Waterloo, has draconian powers to override the heritage law.

The AHC wants to replace the 19 remaining houses of the Block with 62 new apartments under its $27 million Redfern Pemulwuy redevelopment project. Premier Bob Carr's government wants to have more businesses in the Redfern-Waterloo area, one of the poorest and most welfare-dependent areas in Sydney.

The December 9 National Indigenous Times reported that members of the local Aboriginal community vowed to fight any plans to reduce housing in the area. “They can say what they like out there in the government but we are not going to be moving, the people are not going to be leaving — it’s our Mecca, it’s our Gaza Strip”, said Richard Green, a youth liaison officer at the Alary-Tony Mundine Gym.

Tamara Pearson & Norman Brewer, Sydney

From Green Left Weekly, December 15, 2004.