Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy declares victory

Issue 
Jenny Munro at the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy released this statement on August 27.

The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has claimed an important victory in its fight for Aboriginal housing on the Block, ahead of a Supreme Court decision today on a timeline for forced eviction of the Embassy camp.

After more than a year of struggle from the Embassy, demanding Aboriginal housing, the federal government has been pulled to the table, committing a $5 million grant and helping to organise a bank loan in which all 62 dwellings earmarked in the Pemulwuy project would be built for Aboriginal families.

This is a huge turn around from 15 months ago, when the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) was making preparations to begin construction of the commercial aspects of the major Pemulwuy project.

The AHC had no finance to build the community housing that was supposed to be central to the Pemulwuy project.

There was a real threat the housing would never get built and the land would remain vulnerable to acquisition by developers.

The federal government grant has been made conditional on the Embassy’s central demand that construction of this housing must take place before, or at the same time, as the commercial aspects of the development. RATE is calling on the AHC to confirm agreement of these terms immediately.

This is a major breakthrough which highlights the importance of struggle to secure Aboriginal rights. Many Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal supporters have lived in tents for the last 15 months to ensure that Aboriginal families will have a secure roof over their head into the future.

The Embassy maintains its strong concerns, however, about the governance of the AHC, particularly in light of AHC representatives reneging on aspects of an initial agreement hammered out between the parties and the government.

Under this initial deal, RATE would have a representative on the board of the AHC to provide some community oversight and accountability through the Pemulwuy development. The AHC walked away from this after pressure from development partners. The AHC now refuse to agree to any oversight that would provide the broader community with access to commercial in confidence documentation. The question remains — what is it in these contracts that they are hiding from the Aboriginal community?

Jenny Munro, founder of RATE said:

“I’m old school. My teachers taught me the principles of our resistance — we never ceded our land to anyone. The Embassy has demonstrated that, for our people, resistance is the only way to go. For all the communities around the country facing closure — don’t talk sovereignty, assert your sovereignty. Put up an embassy and demand the funding for your basic rights. We will fight with you every step of the way.”

“We still have major concerns about the AHC and it’s lack of transparency. People seem to forget that we have been the targets of threats, assaults and intimidation from the family of the office manager since we started. These criminal matters are still before the courts. But we were unmoved. It will take more than thugs to stop our fight. We will always be watching”.

“I live for the day when the system treats us all as equals, regardless of colour and our long, proud history and traditions are recognised as the bedrock of this country”.

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