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New Indigenous centre for Redfern School

But what will happen to the services already at the site? Alice Mulheron in the South Sydney Herald December 2005 reports The site of the former Redfern Public School is to be developed into a centre for Aboriginal sporting, cultural and social excellence. The centre was approved after the Redfern Waterloo Authority negotiated for the Indigenous Land Council to buy the property.

The process of the sale has been criticised because community organisations currently occupying the site were not consulted about the decision to sell the school, which closed in 2002.

The National Aboriginal Youth Development Centre is expected to open at the site in mid-2006. It will include sports clinics, education programs, leadership courses and projects for Indigenous women and girls. The Uniting Church's Exodus Foundation will operate a tutorial school from the centre, to assist children with literacy.

Minister for Redfern Waterloo Frank Sailor announced the $25 million project on October 30th. Jan Leach, coordinator of South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Community Centre, said community organisations heard of the sale after it was announced to the media.

Ms Leach said the site had been sold with vacant possession and all the organisations would have to leave before the sale takes place. She predicted the site would be cleared within four to six months.

The community centre has operated from the school grounds for six years. Its services include health and safety programs, English classes, interpretation services, and probation and parole programs.

Ms Leach said that her community organisation applauds the establishment of the centre of excellence as "a wonderful idea" but added, "We're just concerned that current community organisations weren't taken into account. We're concerned about where we'll be located - we need to stay local.

"We can't afford rent in the private market. We're dependent on the Redfern Waterloo Authority to find us appropriate accommodation so we can continue to offer services".

Ms Leach said that, since the announcement of the sale, organisations occupying the site have met with RWA Chief Executive Officer, Robert Domm, and have accepted an offer of assistance with relocation. This offer has been confirmed by a spokesperson for Minister Sailor.

The spokesperson said she understood that consultation with the organisations had taken place. "They were short term tenants - they occupied the site on that basis", she said.

The site, currently owned by the Department of Education, will be purchased by the Indigenous Land Council (ILC), a government body set up to purchase land for Indigenous people in places where native title no longer exists

"The ILC believes this is a significant opportunity to create a national hub for Indigenous sport and culture by refurbishing the school and the adjacent oval-, ILC Chairperson Shirley McPherson said in a statement. The ILC declined to comment further.

Reverend Bill Crews from the Exodus Foundation said that its tutoring program would take 50 local children per year at the Redfern site. "We take [children] who are in real trouble at school and at home and are in danger of being alienated from both. We concentrate on literacy, because if you can't read you can't do anything", he said.

Reverend Crews said that the Exodus Foundation had not been involved in the politics of the sale, and that his organisation was willing to work with other organisations in Redfern.