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Redfern-Waterloo tour, a thing of beauty

In this article from the April 2006 South Sydney Herald Mickie Quick talks about the latest of a series of Redfern Waterloo tours conducted by Squatspace.

On Sunday March 5, the fourth Redfern-Waterloo Tour of Beauty took a mini-bus full of punters and a swarm of cyclists to visit sites of significance throughout Redfern-Waterloo - that is, sites of local significance.

The Tour of Beauty stopped at six separate locations, and other sites were pointed to out the bus window. At each stop, a local told the story of that particular place to the Tour’s 20 passengers. Members of the art collective SquatSpace acted as Tour guides, and drove the mini-bus.

As we know, Redfern-Waterloo’s future is passionately contested.

Competing interests are engaged in complex, high-level power grabs and counter-moves. Development has already transformed pockets of Redfern-Waterloo, and the future of the Block is uncertain. But the Tour of Beauty was not just about the politics of place. It was not just about conflict, gentrification, government and community racism, or history. The Redfern-Waterloo Tour of Beauty was about the very particular meanings of place. It assumed that the ‘experts’ about any given place are the people who live there, and have a connection to it.

At The Settlement, Sydney’s oldest community centre, Lyn Turnbull showed us through a brightly painted hall, which is, she explained, really owned by the kids that use the space.

At The Block, we heard from Jenny Munro from the Redfern Legal Service. She spoke of her efforts to use the old courthouse for a local program of circle sentencing. She also spoke passionately about how The Block is the indigenous heart of the city and how it needs to be managed properly.

At Redfern Train Station, Trevor Davies spoke to us about developer interest in the station and how the RWA plans to sell off assets like the courthouse and the public school to fund all the developments.

Later in the afternoon, Ray Jackson gathered us in the park, near the fence where TJ Hickey was impaled. Jackson explained the community’s anger and its campaign for justice. Jackson disputes the Police’s account of events, and the Coroner’s report, which exonerated them. We sat facing a wall that was crammed with painted messages of love and grief. Faded plastic tulips had been jammed into its cracks.

Across the park, charismatic local activist Ross Smith talked about proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for public housing, Ross fears that these will fracture community cohesion, and undermine residents’ sense of belonging.

Finally, we spent some time in the new Waterloo, attracting the attention of security as we stood in the ‘public’ square by the fountain, outside a brand new, but deserted apartment block, which glistened in the last light of day.

For more info about joining our tours contact SquatSpace at