City News

Aborigines in court for living on the land allocated to them

Jenny Munro stands defiant at the Refern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Photo: Alexander Lewis

BY ALEXANDER LEWIS

A company initially established to provide Aboriginal housing has taken an Aboriginal protest camp to court for occupying vacant land in Redfern.

The Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), which was responsible for the demolition of the affordable Aboriginal housing known as The Block, launched legal action last Friday to have the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) forcibly removed from the former housing site.

The AHC, chaired by Mick Mundine, intends to redevelop the site into a $70 million mixture of shops, student accommodation and affordable housing exclusively for Indigenous Australians.

While the AHC has secured funding for the commercial elements of the development, banks and governments have shied away from the $30 million required to build dwellings for 62 Indigenous families, citing the lack of return on affordable housing investment.

This has left RATE doubtful that any Aboriginal housing would be built at all.

RATE founder and Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro said she did not think housing for Redfern’s Indigenous community was a priority for Mr Mundine, following weeks of mediation.

“After last week, knocking back the federal government’s offer of five million dollars, I don’t know where they sit,” she told City Hub.

“Housing’s not a priority if you go by their actions.”

Ms Munro, who has held the canvas fort for a year and endured ongoing assault from both the weather and people, described the demolition of the previous housing and plans to commercialise The Block as “pure evil”.

“This place was purchased for housing for our people, that was the original vision, and I have problems going away from that. This commercial development and student accommodation, I don’t think it’s fair or right that the universities are imposing their housing needs on people who are already in crisis in relation to housing,” she said.

“All the advances that we fought for in the 70s have been gradually widdled away. We’re back to where we were in the 70s. No recognition, no rights. The organisations that were created have been gutted by the federal government right around the country.”

“There’s an old statute in English law that’s much older than this country that says there’s no defence to trespass, and if that was the case and they obeyed their own law, they would have turned their fucking ships around a long time ago and went back to where the fuck they came from — if they believed and followed their own law. But they don’t. They’re completely lawless within their own system so how do you think they’re gonna be to us?”

The NSW Supreme Court will hear the matter this Friday, August 21.

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