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Pride in Pemulwuy Project

The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) is hopeful its housing project will finally get off the ground, pending the outcome of a public exhibition showing nine years of hard work reports Lisa Moon in the South Sydney Herald of November 2008.

The Pemulwuy Project, a mixed-use development that includes an affordable housing plan for Aboriginal families in Redfern, has been on exhibition as a requirement of the Department of Planning (DoP) approval process.

The development application for Pemulwuy, lodged with the DoP, has been made public throughout October, both in Redfern and at the DoP. Residents were encouraged to visit and make submissions on the displays.

Recent financial support from the Redfern-Waterloo Authority and strong community interest in the exhibitions has given the AHC a new confidence that the project will finally be a success.

 “In my opinion, [the DoP] will come to the obvious conclusion that the only real solution to the problems of Redfern is the Pemulwuy Project and they will fast-track the rest of the planning process to allow us to deliver the project in a timely manner,” said Peter Valilis, Project Director at the AHC.

But despite widespread community and growing political support for the project, some residents are still apprehensive about the finer points of the plan.

Adam Combe has been living in Redfern for a year, and although he is not opposed to the Pemulwuy Project, he expressed concerns about the location of the development possibly pushing illegal activities into other areas. “I’m concerned about Caroline Lane turning into a shooting gallery again... It’s quite an infamous place,” said Mr Combe.

The AHC has tried to ease tension with residents by holding meetings, but the company is frustrated by criticism of the Pemulwuy plans, including complaints about the lack of underground parking which may lead to less street parking for existing residents.

“I would say, What’s the alternative? We can't just leave things as they are. We are proud of our work on Pemulwuy. We have done what even the NSW Government has not been able to do,” Mr Valilis said when asked how he feels about such criticism.

“The Pemulwuy Project is a well-researched, award-winning project that has been heavily influenced by a social planning agenda, not just a financial or political one,” Mr Valilis added.

The Pemulwuy Project has won a national award for its innovative social plan and an international award for its crime prevention strategies through environmental design.

In spite of this, Mr Combe, among others who wished not to be named, has said he found it difficult to find information on the plans.

“I hoped they could do a bit more advertising of the consultation process,” said Mr Combe. “I was disappointed that it took community action to get a meeting with Peter on the subject. However, once the meeting was arranged he was informative and helpful,” he added.

But Peter Valilis believes the AHC has done all it can in terms of consultation. “Unlike the way the NSW Government or private developers deliver projects of state significance, the AHC has been highly consultative and inclusive in its approach to planning and research. In nine years, I have never refused to meet with anyone,” he said.

The AHC expects a response from the DoP in the coming weeks.

Photo: Bill Sheridan - Mick Mundine and Frank Sartor back in 2002

Source: South Sydney Herald November 2008