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Redfern tour - 06.10.2005

THE Aboriginal Housing Company wants to put decades of violence and drug abuse behind it and turn The Block at Redfern into Sydney's next tourist destination reports Gemma Jones in the Daily Telegraph.

Aborigines want to build a cultural precinct to attract tourists. An artists' market would take up the grassy area inside The Block and a cultural centre is planned for the old Eveleigh train yards.

But the locals don't want to hear from NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor.

Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine yesterday welcomed a visit from Opposition Leader Peter Debnam but said Mr Sartor could "keep his hands off The Block".

A battle over the redevelopment of The Block came to a head when Mr Sartor told Koori Radio last month that Mr Mundine should get his "black arse" in to see him.

Mr Mundine initially accepted an apology from Mr Sartor but has since changed his mind and believes the Minister's comment implied Aborigines were lazy.

Project manager Peter Valilis yesterday revealed the plan to attract tourists to The Block.

He said the company had held preliminary talks with Tourism NSW.

"Sydney does not have an Aboriginal cultural area and Redfern is the most obvious place," Mr Valilis said.

"It would be a great way to showcase Aboriginal people, real Aboriginal people, to show we have cultural pride."

Aborigines have called for a extra 43 houses to be built on The Block to house the local community, bringing the total number to 62. The cultural precinct and a museum would be part of that development.

The State Government has refused to build any more houses and has committed only to refurbishing the 19 dwellings already there.

Mr Debnam accused the Government of greed, claiming it wanted Aborigines out so developers could build apartments.