Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has led a successful occupation of the Redfern Block for more than a year, calling for affordable Aboriginal housing to be built on the site. RATE has been fighting off attempts by the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC), led by Mick Mundine, to develop the site with a $70 million commercial and residential development.
In the 1960s and ’70s the Block became a focal point for the modern day urban land rights movement. Protests led to grassroots organisations such as the Aboriginal legal, medical cultural and housing services.
The Block has political and cultural significance for Aboriginal people, and Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro and RATE have led a courageous fight to resist attempts to gentrify and ethnically cleanse the area. “Aboriginal housing on the Block must come first and last,” said Munro.
RATE has survived two eviction notices in the past year, with community and union support mobilising people in the early hours of the morning to defend the site against acts of violence and intimidation and potential police acts to move protesters on.
Redfern Tent embassy solicitor Lisa De Luca said: “On Thursday, 18 June, RATE was served with a Statement of Claim seeking an Order for possession of land. If the AHC wins in court, they will have the power to enforce the Order for Possession, and they will be free to carry out the eviction of the protesters and remove their tents. Mr Mundine’s lawyers are arguing that as the Block is privately owned by the AHC, the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy is trespassing.”
Mundine says the AHC has no money, so it has to prioritise commercial development with stages 1 and 2 being offices and student accommodation. Yet there are no concrete assurances that the third stage, 62 Aboriginal houses, will ever be built.
The AHC claims it has no money at this point to fund Aboriginal houses on the Block, yet a simple search of the company’s returns shows the AHC owns nearly $47 million in assets.
In a Sydney Morning Herald article in April last year, Mundine said the development would not provide affordable housing for Aboriginal people at all.
However, since the development of huge rallies against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities and growing union and community support for the Tent Embassy, Mundine is now saying he “wants to build a commercial centre, a new gym, shops, accommodation for 154 university students and 62 affordable homes for Aboriginal people”.
RATE is still demanding affordable Aboriginal housing for the whole of the Block and calling on the state government to fund Aboriginal housing. NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge addressed a RATE rally on June 1, saying “we are calling on the state government to hand over some of its $60 billion budget to Aboriginal housing”. After the speeches, RATE led an occupation of Deicorp, the company that wants to commercially develop the site.
Rallies to stop the closure of Aboriginal communities in Sydney of 2000 and 3000 people respectively, have marched to the Redfern Tent Embassy and demanded Mundine, Sydney City Council and the state government end their attempt to close Redfern's Aboriginal community.
A mention in court for Mundine's latest eviction attempt, was held on June 19, and a rally outside had a lively showing of RATE supporters chanting “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. DeiCorp Deicorp, we wont stop, get your hands off the block.”
Jenny Munro told Green Left Weekly: “We will battle on regardless of where AHC take it. Supreme Court, High Court, World Court. We are fighting for the black community of Redfern’s right to survive.'
The next court hearing is on July 10 and RATE intends to rally again outside the court in a big show of support.
Keep up to date via RATE’s Facebook page
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