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REDWatch 2010-11 Annual Report

Below is the text of the REDWatch 2010-11 Annual Report from the Convenor and the Spokesperson delivered to the 2011 AGM.

REDWatch 2010-11 Annual Report

 

REDWatch Convenor’s Report 2010-11

 

Over the past 25 years, the digital revolution has changed the way we work and play almost beyond recognition. Increasingly, smart devices — portable tools that connect to the internet —have left many of us feeling bombarded with change from every direction, feeling stressed, overworked, confused, and with too little time to appreciate and enjoy life. Our rapidly changing world is rapidly stressing us out and leaving our communities suffering from information overload.  Redfern and Waterloo is going through at time rapid change, (although some may say that in certain areas change is too slow) this indicates to me that REDWatch’s role within the community is even more important today than when it was born all those years back.

REDWatch’s role of obtaining information, sifting through the spin, and assisting in its dissemination in way that is relevant, appropriate and assists the community to debate the subjects that can impact on the future of our community is now even more essential.  We work hard to try to ensure the community has an independently informed influence over local policy and decision making as possible, whilst attempting to keep the Government honest and accountable. The task at hand with limited resources isn’t an easy one, but due to the passion and outstanding commitment of our members, volunteer coordination group, partners and supporters, we have had many successful moments over the year.

This year we have covered a diverse range of ‘hot potato’ subjects including:

  • understanding Planning Controls,
  • exploring and responding to the draft BE2 framework
  • exploring the future of housing policy and the local preliminary master plan
  • heritage
  • dialogue with our federal member of the redevelopment of housing estates
  • an election candidates forum
  • community transport forum
  • assisting in the birth of the Groundswell residents /NGO coalition
  • supporting the formation of Alexandria Residents Action Group
  • holding meetings with the highest levels of Government
  • presenting formal and informal submissions based on the views of our membership
  • raising funds to sustain our website
  • participating in the Roll Up Redfern project
  • facilitating wider community engagement within Redfern/ Waterloo social housing structures
  • continuing to be represented at the local ministerial advisory groups.

We hope by this action focused agenda our members and the community are better informed about the issues that matter and that we have been able to influence Government in a positive and constructive manner where possible.

The year was not without its challenges when our good friend Trevor Davies died. He was a previous convenor and one of our founding members and his passing left us with a legacy of inspirational passion and wisdom. The sudden loss of a key individual like Trevor I believe means that we need to reflect as a group, and as a community, how we must consider our future and how we ensure that our work continues. If REDWatch influence is to be sustained in the years to come we must expand our membership and our volunteer pool. We need to grow our capacity and use the evolving new technology to connect with the community, as we continue to aim to fulfil our mission statement.

With this in mind, I want congratulate the membership on their collective achievements to date and to thank the Coord group for their hard work behind the scenes.  The various speakers who attending and briefed our membership, and those in Government and the non-government sector who have worked with us in a constructive manner we also thank.   I thank you for the opportunity of being your convenor for the past year, I know that without a shadow of doubt, our group’s ability to make a difference in this community does not go unnoticed, and our influence is probably far greater than you know.  It is a privilege to work with each and every one of you, and I look forward to continuing to support the group as it grows in the future.

Congratulation to you all with best wishes for the future,

Mike Shreenan (Convenor 2010-11)


REDWatch Spokesperson’s Report 2010-11

2010-11 has been a hectic year for REDWatch. With the RWA preparing for the Built Environment Plan 2 (BEP2) and HNSW preparing for what became its Preliminary Master Plan, REDWatch’s main focus this year moved to the proposed redevelopment of the Redfern and Waterloo Public Housing Estates.

Over the last year REDWatch has played an important role in raising questions about what is proposed both with government agencies and in the community. A discussion paper on public housing redevelopment in August 2010 was sparked by HNSW “Cuppa with a Designa” and put many key issues into the public domain.

As with previous campaigns REDWatch set up a section of its website to capture information relevant to the housing redevelopment and to make it available. One of the early issues to arise was about the benefits or otherwise of changing the area’s social mix. REDWatch held a forum on the issue and pulled together many articles and papers on this topic so that the community had access to various perspectives on this policy direction which was being pushed by HNSW and the RWA.

Following problems with the BEP1 exhibition, REDWatch had argued strongly for a non-statutory exhibition on BEP2 and we were pleased that the Government decided on this action even though we were less than impressed with the length of time allocated for the exhibition and many parts of the exhibition process. REDWatch played an important role in analysing the BEP2 documents and in preparing a briefing document about the issues which we managed to make publically available before the close of the exhibition so that the community had access to our concerns before making their own submissions. This discussion paper, along with the clarifications obtained from the RWA, enabled REDWatch to prepare a detailed submission on BEP2.

With HNSW starting work on a Preliminary Master Plan before the BEP2 planning controls are finalised, REDWatch has been busy both trying to get key concerns with the BEP2 addressed as well as trying to ensure the Master Plan comprehensively deals with public housing issues without pre-empting the BEP2 discussions. This has seen REDWatch representatives have meetings with the RWA, HNSW and the Planning Minister about these issues as part of our ongoing push to ensure a transparent inclusive process.

As part of our response to the redevelopment REDWatch encouraged the establishment of the Groundswell Coalition to bring together non-government agencies to help facilitate greater community understanding and engagement around the proposed redevelopment. REDWatch participates in the Groundswell meetings and REDWatch members are also involved in the Redfern Waterloo Community Learning and Research Group.

REDWatch’s work on Heritage Issues continued over the year but with the work of the Redfern Waterloo Heritage Task Force (RWHT) and the Eveleigh Heritage Steering committee the discussions were only held ‘within the tent’ rather than through the media as they had been in the previous years. The final RWHT report proposes a RWHT type mechanism continues but there have been no meetings of these Eveleigh Heritage groups now for 6 months and REDWatch will need to carefully monitor what happens here. With the winding up of the RWA it is doubtful the Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority (SMDA) can easily plan for heritage across the entire Eveleigh site and there is a danger that responses may become more ATP centric. We are yet to see the final Eveleigh Heritage Interpretation Plan for the entire site, the Draft ATP Conservation Management Plan or recommendations on how heritage co-ordination can be effectively continued. REDWatch has made a substantial contribution to shifting the Government thinking about the value of the Eveleigh Heritage but much more remains to be done.

REDWatch continued to work on a wide range of issues across the area as required. We encouraged people facing ongoing issues to form new groups. In the last year have seen the formation of the Alexandria Residents Action Group taking some of the ATP impact issues off REDWatch’s plate as well as the formation of Residents Acting In Defence of Darlington (RAIDD) who are picking up on some of the issues connected to Sydney University’s redevelopments. REDWatch has been supportive of these new groups and provides assistance and a broader perspective as needed.

One of the major changes throughout the year has been the establishment of the SMDA and the movement of many RWA functions into the new SMDA in preparation for the winding up of the RWA. REDWatch was formed nine months before the RWA came into existence and has monitored the RWA’s activities for the last seven years. With the movement of some functions to the SMDA our role monitoring continues. We will need to become familiar with the Growth Centre’s Act and the Redfern Waterloo Precinct Brief. We will also need to keep an eye on what happens to the functions divested by the RWA such as Human Services and Employment and Enterprise to ensure the issues identified and are adequately addressed (e.g. Human Services Plan Evaluations) are followed up by Government in some other way.

Two members of REDWatch sit on the RWA Human Services Ministerial Advisory Committee (HSMAC) as individuals and I sit on the Built Environment Ministerial Advisory Committee (BEMAC). These committees will cease with the winding up of the RWA but the SMDA is looking at some form of continuation of these MACs. The MACs continued to provide little opportunity for input into the RWA’s plans with the BEMAC being shown the BEP2 two days before it went on public exhibition. Similarly no details about the options for Redfern Station have yet been shown to the BEMAC.

Ironically while the RWA does not consult the community about its plans prior to exhibition the Department of Planning encourages developers in the area to discuss their project proposals with local community groups before they go to the Department. As a result REDWatch has had the opportunity to be briefed early on some projects and to make comments early on about these developments.

The REDWatch website continues to be an important part of REDWatch’s activities. It fills the role of a virtual resource centre where people can access information about the area and this certainly helps handle some of the enquiries received over the phone. As an indication of the importance of the website in October 2011 the REDWatch website averaged 894 visits / 2716 pages and 5990 hits per day.

The REDWatch website was originally set up by David Tickle and Nicholas Lam. Nicholas acted as our systems administrator and has personally covered the hosting costs for the website since early 2005. We are very grateful for Nicholas’s practical support of REDWatch over many years which made a key aspect of our work possible. Jose Perez has now taken over as our systems administrator and the site now is now commercially hosted necessitating income to cover these costs. We acknowledge the assistance of the RWA which contributed $1800 to REDWatch in July 2011 towards the costs associated with our website.

The website plays a crucial role not only in making news available but also in REDWatch’s lobbying and campaigns. The Heritage Section set up to campaign over the Blacksmith Shop, the Large Erecting Shop and Eveleigh heritage more broadly, has been important to those campaigns and now provides a significant public repository of Eveleigh heritage information. The new section on Public Housing similarly aims to provide a resource for the community in its discussion with HNSW as we have previously for people in Darlington during the North Eveleigh Concept Plan. The importance of the section dealing with public housing is underlined by the fact that HNSW is not placing its consultation material on the internet and so the only place that material can be accessed now and in the future is on the REDWatch website.

The website has not been updated as frequently as in previous years. This is partly because more is happening and it hence requires more time and partly because I have had less time to do the work. This has been compounded in the last few months as Lyn has taken on greater responsibility on the South Sydney Herald and has not had the time to post material on the website. We are looking for people who are interested in learning how to post material to keep the news and events sections of the site up to date.

While the Redfern Waterloo Issue Updates were not put out by REDWatch their existence did drive traffic to the website and spread the word widely about what was happening. This was in part because the information referred to was put on the REDWatch website and because people received a monthly or more frequent update. I have tried to make the monthly emails to REDWatch supporters a little more comprehensive to cover the gap left by the RWIUs. We have managed to get a few RWIUs out this year and still have the intention on keeping these going but they require a lot of time which is in short supply.

As spokesperson I continue to be the public contact point for REDWatch. My office phone and mailbox have been given as the contact points for REDWatch, and I deal with a range of inquiries from the media, students, agencies, residents and the general public looking for information about REDWatch or issues connected to the area. Where possible I refer these inquires to others to provide the assistance sought.

One of the important responsibilities for the spokesperson is dealing with many media inquiries, providing background briefings on issues, doing interviews and making referrals to people who could be spoken to for a story. This helps to raise the issues of concern to REDWatch but not necessarily with it always being associated with REDWatch’s name. I have continued to submit material to the South Sydney Herald especially since Trevor Davies’ death and the ceasing of his Fast News column in that paper. I have also spoken on behalf of REDWatch at a range of public and consultation meetings, liaised with local agencies and addressed student classes and conferences.

In the last year I have continued to represent REDWatch on the Roll Up Redfern Committee with Sydney Council, RWA, Chamber of Commerce and Souths Football Club. While Roll Up Redfern’s brief is aimed at getting rid of the shutters and looking at ways of reinvigorating Redfern Waterloo, the focus for much of the year has been on the Redfern Brand smile logo brand about which there have been differing views within REDWatch. REDWatch decided to defer adoption of the Brand to see if the promotion’s strategy generated community acceptance.

I also attend Police Community Safety Precinct Committee Meetings in addition to meetings of the Redfern Waterloo Heritage Taskforce, Eveleigh Steering Committee (alternate with Bruce Lay) and RWA BEMAC meetings.

REDWatch still continues to be like a second full time job even though I have had to cut back on some REDWatch activities over the last year. My ability to attend daytime meetings and respond to the demands of the spokesperson’s role continues to be dependent on the flexibility offered by my business. This business continues to contract and at some point I will be unable to continue with the flexibility of the last 6-7 years. This change has implications for REDWatch. It has been pleasing this year that Michael Shreenan as Convenor, and other Coord Group members, have taken an active role in chairing meetings and lightening the Spokesperson’s load.

There have been changes to the Coordinating Group during the year. At the AGM Michael Shreenan was elected Convenor, Geoffrey Turnbull Spokesperson, Jose Perez Secretary and Ross Smith Treasurer with committee members Irene Doutney, Michael Chapman, Wendie McCaffley and Trevor Davies being elected and Desley Hass subsequently also co-opted. Sadly, Trevor Davies who was our public officer, long time convenor and a founding member of REDWatch passed away in June 2011. The Coord Group has met monthly to discuss issues, arrange events and help guide REDWatch and me as spokesperson. I wish to express my gratitude to the Coord Group and members for their work over the year. I wish to especially place on record my appreciation for the work of Trevor Davies especially in the setting up of REDWatch, working on our campaigns and in helping it develop into what it is today.

It continues to delight me that REDWatch represents such a wide range of people with an interest in Redfern Waterloo, Eveleigh and Darlington. The mixture of housing tenures, political affiliations, people who work in the area and the diverse networks that people belong to enables REDWatch to hold together a broad range of perspectives, to tap into the knowledge of a diverse community and hence provide a credible community voice in our dealings with Government.

With the change of Government we thought it would again be good to find someone with a commitment to the local community from the Liberal Party that might take the place left by Ian Thompson (our founding Liberal Party member). It was encouraging in our recent meeting with Brad Hazzard that when we raised our desire to find a Liberal Party replacement we were assured that REDWatch’s track record and credibility were both good and that we did not need to have as a member anyone associated with the Liberal Party to be taken seriously by the Minister.

The Minister also indicated how he had read many things from REDWatch and had enjoyed our commentary as a shadow minister. If REDWatch does its job in raising issues Government prefer to avoid, it will be interesting to see if the Minister holds the same view a few years down the track!

I look forward to working with everyone in the year ahead.

                                               - Geoffrey Turnbull REDWatch Spokesperson 2010-11

 

REDWatch is a group of community residents and friends from Redfern, Waterloo, Eveleigh and Darlington who support the existing diversity in these areas and wish to promote sustainable, responsible economic and social development.

REDWatch recognises the importance of the Aboriginal community to the area.

REDWatch has been formed to:

  1. Monitor the activities of the Government (local, state and federal), the Redfern Waterloo Authority, and any other government instrumentality with responsibility for the Redfern, Waterloo, Darlington and Eveleigh area, to ensure that:

(a)     The strategy benefits a diverse community

(b)     Communication and consultation is comprehensive and responsive

(c)     Pressure is maintained on authorities

  1. Provide a mechanism for discussion and action on community issues.
  2. Enhance communication between community groups and encourage broad community participation.
More details can be found at www.redwatch.org.au.