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Cr Firth calls on Sartor to rethink Pemulwuy decision

Labor Deputy Lord Mayor, Verity Firth, has expressed grave concern at the State Government’s apparent abandonment of the Pemulwuy Project. “[The] decision by Minister Sartor is regrettable and should be reversed. It has made the realisation of the project impossible,” said Cr Firth recently reports The South Sydney Herald in its March 2006 Issue.

The Draft Built Environment Plan rezones the block so that only 30 homes can be built rather than the 62 provided in the Pemulwuy Project.

“The Pemulwuy Project promotes mixed use of the block and includes plans for affordable family homes, a public civic space and commercial area, artist markets, a student hostel, a sports facility and an Indigenous business college. For six years a distinguished coalition of Indigenous leaders, community activists and internationally respected urban and social planners has worked hard to develop the initiative. State Government bureaucrats even attended project workshops.”

“With one stroke of a pen this innovative development has seemingly been abandoned. I call upon the community to use the upcoming consultation period to urge the Minister to re-think his position and give Pemulwuy the consideration it deserves.” said Cr. Firth.

The local churches are supporting the Pemulwuy Project. “We are impressed by the fact that the Pemulwuy Project has, as an intrinsic part of its design, a built-in system of support for people. This support is less likely to be there if Aboriginal people are spread around the area,” commented Rev. Dorothy McRae McMahon.

She went on to say that the New South Wales Ecumenical Council, through its Social Justice Committee, is also concerned for the well-being of the Aboriginal people related to The Block. After discussions by the Committee with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, it has become clear that the Aboriginal issues associated with The Block have been taken out of his jurisdiction and handed over to the Redfern Waterloo Authority. The Ecumenical Council hopes to initiate discussions with the Authority shortly, in an effort to promote a creative solution to any impasse, which may lie between the Aboriginal Housing Company and the Government.

Rev. McRae McMahon suggested that, “Given that the Leader of the Opposition has already done so, the Premier should come and talk to the Housing Company and have a look at The Block for himself.”

The member for Heffron Kristina Keneally responded to Cr. Firth’s statement by saying, “There are many views in the Indigenous community about the future of The Block. The government is committed to a sustainable future for Redfern and Waterloo by providing jobs and opportunities for local people. That is what the built environment plan seeks to deliver.”

A spokesperson for Minister Sartor said, “the Minister has made his position clear; that is that 62 units are not sustainable.” Having said that, this report has been approved by cabinet for community consultation. It’s not set in concrete. The Minister is open to being convinced.