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We'll allow more Block houses: Debnam - 06.10.2005

In his first main policy announcement as NSW Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam has guaranteed a plan to build 62 homes for Aborigines at the Block as part of the redevelopment of Redfern and Waterloo under a Coalition government.

By Andrew Clennell - SMH October 6, 2005

Mr Debnam's announcement comes a year and a half after the previous Opposition leader, John Brogden, said he would "bulldoze" the Block. The Coalition's reversal aims to take advantage of the dispute between local Aborigines and the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, Frank Sartor.

Mr Sartor has said that, at best, the Aboriginal community could expect 19 homes on the Block.

The Aboriginal Housing Company has refused to talk to Mr Sartor since on Koori Radio last month he called for its chief executive, Mick Mundine, to bring his "black arse" in to see him.

Mr Debnam accused the Government of being intent on removing Aboriginal residents from the Block so that land in Redfern could "be sold for top dollar to property developers".

"We'd approve the project on the spot," Mr Debnam said after a visit to Redfern yesterday. "It's a really good proposal."

Mr Mundine welcomed Mr Debnam's support yesterday, saying "at least one party is interested" in his community.

"He [Mr Sartor] wanted to just refurbish the 19 houses we have got now," Mr Mundine said.

"We own the land. We should be able to build what we want to build … Peter's doing the right thing for us."

Mr Sartor said that the Opposition announcement was a stunt and that he was sceptical any entrepreneur would want to fund the Aboriginal Housing Company's proposal.