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Sacred land and official secrets 15.07.2005

In the early 1970s, many Aboriginal people living in Sydney were homeless and there was a serious overcrowding of what housing did exist. With no permanent housing they constantly faced eviction and racial discrimination in the private rent market. As a result of this lack of affordable housing, a group of Aboriginal people squatted in empty terraces on Louis Street in Redfern, in December 1972.

These terrace houses were more than 80 years old and were shabby, crowded and in bad repair. Under a ‘blind-eye’ squatting agreement with the owner, the squatters organised themselves and formed a non-profit company - the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC), the first housing collective in Australia, was formed in July 1973.


An initial grant of $530,000 from the then Labor Whitlam federal government allowed the AHC to purchase and restore the first 29 terrace houses. The housing cluster became known as The Block.


This initial acquisition in Redfern was the first urban land-rights grant in Australia.


The Aboriginal population of Redfern increased dramatically between 1976 and 1981, mostly as a result of this housing project.


Now, 30 years later what looked like a secure land rights grant is threatened. Another fight over The Block is raging - this time between the Labor Government of NSW and the Aboriginal Housing Company.


The AHC has a plan to redevelop The Block.


The State Government has a grand plan to redevelop Redfern Waterloo.


It set up an authority and appointed a Minister, Frank Sartor, to implement that plan.


Documents sighted by Southside News show the government sees control of AHC land as crucial to the redevelopment - so crucial that a ‘worst case’ scenario where Aboriginal land in Redfern could be compulsorily acquired has been examined.


Southside News had an in-depth look at what is going on in Redfern. See Pages 10 to 15 inside.



Southside News Issue 3/2005 page 1

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