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Outrage over closure of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern

Outraged staff and community members gathered at the centre in Redfern to protest it's closure. Photo: ncie.org

By ERIN MODARO

Outrage from the Redfern and First Nations communities has followed the announcement that the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) will be closing down, after negotiations from its governing bodies fell through.

A crowd of staff and community members gathered at the centre yesterday to express concern over the loss of an important space for First Nations people. The NCIE represents a hub of support and a significant gathering place for many people within the community, and has stood in its Redfern location for nearly two decades.

National Centre for Indigenous Excellence

Staff and locals gathered at the centre after closure announced. Photo: Facebook.

Local politicians  have expressed disappointment over the decision to close the centre’s doors, and are calling for an arrangement to be made so the non-for-profit can remain open.

Greens politicians, MP for Newtown Jenny Leong and City of Sydney Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore, said in a joint statement that the centre is “an invaluable community site in the heart of Redfern”.

“The Greens support the community’s calls for the federal and state governments to step in and provide interim financial support to ensure that the centre can keep its doors open and that much-needed services keep running while a longer-term sustainable solution is achieved” the statement said.

After attending the protest on Tuesday, Leong and Ellsmore said the demonstration was “an extraordinary show of force for a much loved, much used and invaluable community space”.

Closure of centre not “sudden”

First Nations Independent Councillor for Sydney Yvonne Weldon came out with a statement saying that the closure of the centre “has not happened suddenly”.

Weldon, who is a member of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, said that the NCIE has been “running at a deficit for many years”, and that no “sustainable model” for management had been established.

“It’s a real shame that it’s come to this. The centre is a significant employer within the local Aboriginal community. I am heartbroken for those who have been made redundant” she said.

Weldon said that negotiations between the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation and NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), who are responsible for funding the NCIE, have been ongoing with community groups who currently occupy the centre.

The NCIE’s ownership was passed from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC), who bought the property in 2006, to the NSWALC in June this year.

A statement from the NSWALC says that the organisations have “worked intensively” to keep the NCIE running.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach agreement on terms for ongoing support of the organisation and as a result it will close. We are disappointed by the outcome” the NSWALC and the ILSC said in a joint statement.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney tweeted that she has been in contact with the Chair of the ILSC as well as the Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek. Burney said that she “strongly encourage[s]” the two organisations to “work together to find a solution”.

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