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Mum Shirl the real bright light at Redfern launch

WHILE celebrations were meant to centre on improvements to Redfern’s streetscape, the launch night really belonged to one woman – Aboriginal activist Mum Shirl writes MICK ROBERTS in The City News of March 8 2008.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, was at Redfern Town Hall last month to turn on the new decorative lights designed to highlight historical buildings in the troubled suburb. However, the official unveiling of the Mum Shirl Memorial replacement plaque was what the crowd really came along to see.

A row erupted over the fate of the original memorial seat to the Aboriginal activist in 2006.

Outraged church and Aboriginal community leaders slammed City of Sydney’s plan for a street upgrade that meant the removal of the commemorative bench outside the St Vincent de Paul church.

Plans to widen footpaths in Redfern and Regents Streets, place powerlines underground and instal new lighting, street furniture and trees, meant the seat – erected to the late Mum Shirl’s memory in 1999 – would be removed. Some church parishioners claimed their local Catholic church supported the seat’s removal.

Those feelings were still simmering when the Lord Mayor unveiled the replacement plaque with Aboriginal leaders and Mum Shirl’s family on a rainy February 27.

During the course of her 73 years Colleen Shirley Perry, better known as Mum Shirl, cared tirelessly for the Aboriginal community. She worked with prisoners and opened her home and heart to those with no family or friends. She assisted in establishing the Aboriginal Medical Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service and is remembered fondly, particularly by the Redfern community.

The local Aboriginal community turned up in large numbers for the re-dedication.

Mum Shirl’s grand niece Ann Weldon spoke passionately about a woman so respected in the community.

Mrs Weldon told The City News that the plaque proved that positive outcomes could be achieved when government and the Aboriginal community worked together.

“I feel very proud tonight,” she said.

“It’s right that Mum Shirl is honoured in a dignified way, because her life was not that dignified,” she said. “She was great woman.”

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said she was privileged to honour Mum Shirl, one of Redfern’s “most generous volunteers”.

Ms Moore said that both projects – the memorial and street lighting – are part of the City’s $50 million commitment to revitalise the Redfern area and create more vibrant, active and safe public spaces.

“With streetscape works finished in 2007, this stage of the project will decorate and commemorate Redfern Street using art and cultural initiatives,” she said.

“The Mum Shirl Memorial has now been restored and historical buildings and memorials along Redfern Street will be highlighted with environmentally sustainable lighting.”

The decorative lighting will illuminate the Redfern Park Gates, the Redfern Court House, the St Vincent de Paul Church, and the Redfern Post Office.

Mum Shirl’s memorial will be placed near the gates of Redfern Park.

Photo: Ann Weldon speaks at the rededication of her grand aunty, Mum Shirl’s memorial at the

Redfern Town Hall, as Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Looks on.

Source: The City News March 8 2008