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Sydney's Top 100

The Sydney Morning Herald's the (sydney) magazine produced a list of Sydney's most influential people for their January 2008 Issue #57. Included in the list were a few identities well known around Redfern including - Dr Naomi Mayers from the AMS; Col James - Architect with long association with the Block; Anthony Mundine boxer and Clover Moore the Lord mayor of Sydney. The extracts on each of these people is provided below:

Dr Naomi Mayers, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative Ltd, Redfern

In the 1960s, Naomi Mayers was on the stage, sporting big hair and singing the hits of The Supremes alongside her sister Beverley Briggs and cousin Laurel Robinson. They called themselves The Sapphires, after the engagement ring Mayers had just received.

But while Robinson and her sister, Lois Peeler, toured Vietnam in 1968 as back-up singers, Mayers - a Yorta Yorta woman from Cummeragunja on the NSW side of the Murray River - stayed home with her new baby.

The story of The Sapphires was immortalised on the Belvoir Street Theatre stage in a 2005 play and is now in the works to become a movie. But Mayers's own story is just as worthy of a film script - after her parents separated, her childhood was split between St Aidan's Orphanage in the central Victorian town of Bendigo, Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne and her grandmother's home in Shepparton.

Serving her people was in Mayers's blood so it surprised no one when she moved to Sydney in 1972 to take up the family's long and proud history of several generations fighting for land rights and legal services. °I'm a fighter," says Mayers. "Some people say, 'She'll fight; be careful."

Mayers, now 66, became the secretary-organiser of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, which was then less than a year old and housed in a tiny shopfront in Botany Road. It was the first of 139 Aboriginal medical services around Australia and today, after 35 years with the service, Mayers is CEO and company secretary.

In 1976, she fought to get the service into bigger premises, finally convincing the Catholic Sisters of Mercy of the Sacred Heart to give over the title deeds to the Turner Street building, where the service now stands. And she went on to become the co-ordinator of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, where she is currently deputy chairman. The Redfern example was crucial to the rolling out of community-run Aboriginal health services around the country.

Mayers has overseen a big reduction in childhood malnutrition in the area, although drugs and alcohol remain a major problem. Still, she says, white bureaucrats never listen to Aboriginal recommendations. "They want to take control of Aboriginal services," she says, stabbing her finger into the desk. "They might take control of the others but Redfern, nuh!"

Col James, architect

According to Col James, persistence has been his greatest strength. "Persistence with the Block and persistence with the Redfern mob, who I've got great respect for."

In the early 70s, James was an architect on the board of South Sydney Community Aid when Aboriginal elder Shirley Smith asked him to assist in the battle to acquire land in Redfern by drawing up plans for low-cost housing. He advised the Whitlam government on the acquisition of a dozen

houses that would come to be known as "the Block" – effectively our first urban land rights claim. He has continued to play a key role, helping student planners develop social policies to rid the Block of drugs and crime.

James's work on the Block has always been pro bono. It's impossible, he says, to add up the hours he has put in every week for 30 years. And although he's now 71, the architect isn't interested in retiring. He still lectures at the University of Sydney and is heavily involved in community issues. Each semester, he conducts student tours of the

Block to connect the two communities. 'I live locally and I've got this notion of country and people. In the last 200 years we've really done some damage."

As well as converting abandoned buildings into homes for squatters, he is working with Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine on plans for a $40 million redevelopment of the Block. "He's been around forever and he's still there doing good things," says panellist Marcelle Hoff. "He's made a long-term commitment, whereas other people tend to drift in and out."

But the new plans have brought him into conflict with Sydney's "minister for everything", Frank Sartor. James and the community want planning approval for 62 houses – the number of Aboriginal families in the Gadigal clan. Sartor is refusing to budge from 42, at the same time pushing through plans to gentrify Redfern with new apartments for 4000 people. "The fact that I was there at the beginning means it's not the sort of thing you can ever walk away from," says James. "There's nothing like a good fight to keep your spirits up."

Anthony Mundine, boxer

His detractors consider him a sideshow who thrives on his own press. His supporters adore him for stirring the pot and playing the maverick. Regardless of which way you swing, there's no doubt that Anthony Mundine has become an intrinsic part of the sporting landscape. Throughout his career - first as a rugby league player for St George Illawarra and then as a two-time world champion boxer - few sports stars have made talkback crackle so much. Sydney is either with him or against him.

Mundine has shaken things up since he first burst onto the rugby league scene in 1993 for the Dragons, his shimmering displays on the field matched only by his comments, such as branding representative selectors racist for not choosing him in NSW and Australian teams. When he left the game to follow in the footsteps of his father, Tony, and become a boxer, it was done in typical understated Mundine style - as front-page news.

The 32-year-old is more than a human headline, though. Few will forget his victory against arch rival Danny Green in the middle of the Sydney Football Stadium in 2006. And his ninth-round knockout of Sam Soliman at the Entertainment Centre last March saw him claim the WBA super-middleweight title.

But Mundine knows he has a higher purpose than dancing on the canvas. From the age of five until his early teens, his father would drive him through the streets of Kings Cross, pointing out drug addicts to highlight the pitfalls of life. Now Mundine sets his own example. "I'm Aboriginal and a Muslim and a lot of kids look up to me. I don't drink. I don't smoke.

I don't do drugs. I'd like to think I'm a strong influence on them."

Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney

From small acorns, large oaks grow. And so it was with Clover Moore, spurred into politics by the sad state of community facilities and parkland in her home suburb of Redfern. She narrowly won a South Sydney council seat in 1980 and trounced a Labor veteran four years later.

The phenomenon had arrived. In 1988, she unseated Liberal heavyweight Michael Yabsley in the state seat of Bligh and, in 1992 force Nick Greiner from the premiership after she and other independent MPs were left with the balance of power.

She has been unmovable ever since. Such is her reputation that her storming return to Town Hall as Lord mayor more than three years ago was a certainty.

The big challenge for Moore has been the conflict inherent between her vision for the city and those in state planning and  vested corporate interests - from developers to publicans. Depending on the issue, she has been accused or trying to bold back change or trying to force it through. Her successful advocacy of a new boutique drinking culture is an example of the latter.

By 2030," she says, “I’d hope Sydney is known worldwide for its environmental achievements, a beautiful public domain and a unique, diverse and creative cultural life."

At the city's core would be a mosaic of residential villages linked by pedestrian and cycle paths and an integrated pubic transport system. "Strong Partnerships between federal, state and local government - and with business and the community - will be essential.