Redfern tent embassy under attack

May 7, 2015
The Tent Embassy in August last year. Photo: Mat Ward

Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy (RATE) has come under increasing attack at the same time as DeiCorp developers are advertising their proposed development with the tag line “"The Aboriginals have already moved out, now Redfern is the last virgin suburb close to city".

RATE was established by Redfern residents as a protest against the proposed development on what is legally Aboriginal land of a block of commercial shops and student housing, by the Aboriginal Housing Company and developer DeiCorp.

Wiradjuri elders Auntie Jenny Munro, Lorna Munro and Raymond Munro have all been assaulted while at the Block. Jenny Munro and Tepora Stevens, another activist on site, were assaulted by a man carrying a piece of wood at the Block in August last year. During the incident, a woman’s arm was broken. Saoisi Tonga, was charged with intimidation shortly afterwards.

The police had already received numerous complaints from RATE residents about Tonga but had not acted on them. One of the complaints, lodged a week before the assault, said Raymond Munro and another activist at RATE, James Miles, had received death threats from Tonga.

Jenny Munro has filed numerous requests for a Personal Violence Order against Tonga — none of which were followed up by police.

In December, Lorna Munro called the police about an incident in which a woman had entered RATE and threatened her with a brick. With no prior criminal record, the police charged Lorna Munro with intimidation for swearing. The other woman was not charged.

The police took Munro and her lawyer Lisa Delpeoples to the station at the time of the incident. Delpeoples was removed from the station by police after she questioned Munro’s bail conditions. It is illegal under the NSW Crimes Act to leave Aboriginal prisoners without a support person or lawyer while they are in custody.

Both Jenny Munro and Lorna Munro were given bail conditions that prevented them from entering RATE. These bail conditions were later challenged in court and lifted. Delpeoples said that this “is the first that this has happened to me in my 25 years as a lawyer”.

In further escalation, Raymond Munro and Miles were allegedly assaulted by four men who entered RATE. Only two of the men who entered RATE were charged and Munro and Miles were charged with affray.

More recently, Delpeoples was allegedly assaulted by a man in broad daylight at RATE. She says the assaulter was an Islander male. Immediately after the assault, DelPeoples filed numerous verbal and written requests for police to obtain the footage from Redfern Community Centre CCTV to identify the man.

But the police did not request the footage and, as is the Community Centre’s standard procedure for keeping CCTV footage, it was wiped 22 days later. Police have still not apprehended the assailant.

Legal aid for Aboriginal people is being gutted in the federal budget and at an Aboriginal activist site which demands land rights — land which was already legally handed over to Aboriginal people by the Whitlam Government — their demands are being ignored.

Jenny Munro has been calling for an independent audit of the Aboriginal Housing Company’s continued sell-off of public assets, which are furthering the gentrification of Redfern. Since this demand was made assaults against the embassy have been more frequent.

Munro is calling for more people to come to the site and drop in whenever possible and continue to support RATE in the face of these ongoing attacks.

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