Stalemate on The Block in Redfern as protesters defy trespass notice

The Aboriginal Housing Company posted the trespass signs in February, giving the protesters 72 hours to vacate the property, bordered by Eveleigh, Vine, Louis and Caroline Streets. The protesters rallied to bolster their ranks and were still in their 'tent embassy' more than a week after the deadline passed.

Trespass notice on The Block
Trespass notice on The Block
(ABC: John Donegan)

John Donegan 702 ABC Sydney 2 March 2015

The stand-off between the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) and protesters occupying Redfern's infamous Block is continuing despite trespass notices being erected around the property.

The Aboriginal Housing Company posted the trespass signs in February, giving the protesters 72 hours to vacate the property, bordered by Eveleigh, Vine, Louis and Caroline Streets.

The protesters were still in their 'tent embassy' more than a week after the deadline passed.

I think it needs to be resolved at a community level and the community still haven't had a chance to have a say.

New peace talks are scheduled for March 9 after an earlier attempt collapsed amid rancour last week.

The protesters insist they will not move until the Aboriginal Housing Company prioritises affordable housing for Indigenous people.

"The 62 affordable housing units need to be stage one of the project for us to leave," protest spokesperson Lisa de Luca told 702 ABC Sydney.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy has been occupying The Block for more than nine months, delaying work on the $70 million retail and housing development known as the Pemulwuy Project which was due to begin last year.

Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro has been camping at the site since May 26 last year, to demand more affordable Aboriginal housing on the land which was purchased by the Aboriginal Housing Company with a federal government grant in the 1970s.

"This is about black housing on black land," Ms Munro said.

"We have a right to [a] peaceful protest."

At the camp site on Eveleigh Street up to a dozen protesters are sleeping in the tents each night.

Development 'key' to revitalise area

Mick Mundine
Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Mick Mundine says protesters will be moved, if necessary.

(ABC: John Donegan)

The development is intended to revitalise the 20,000 square metre vacant plot while maintaining a connection to the area's Indigenous history.

AHC boss Mick Mundine did not return calls, but recently told 702 ABC Sydney that the protesters' demands were being met.

"As part of the approval we are building 62 affordable housing units," he said.

Mr Mundine said the commercial development was needed to fund the affordable housing, but no funding had been found for the low-income housing solutions.

The development, including plans for the 62 affordable housing units, received government approval in June 2009.

Aboriginals have 'moved out'

Developer DeiCorp has partnered with the Aboriginal Housing Corporation to deliver stage one of the Pemulwuy project.

DeiCorp was recently involved in controversy when an advertisement for the company's DeiCota apartments claimed Indigenous people had "moved out" of Redfern.

"DeiCota has good rental return and convenient location. The Aboriginals have already moved out, now Redfern is the last virgin suburb close to city, it will have great potential for the capital growth in the near future," stated the blurb on the Great Fortune Investments website.

DeiCorp, a private company owned by developer Fouad Deiri, did not return calls for comment on the Pemulwuy Project.

Resolution lies with community talks: protesters

According to the Aboriginal Housing Company website, the vision of the corporation "is to ensure that Aboriginal people enjoy the same standard of living as all other Australians".

That statement is contentious in the eyes of the protesters.

The Tent Embassy on The Block
The "tent embassy" has been occupying The Block in Redfern for more than nine months.
(ABC: John Donegan)

"This is [the] Aboriginal Housing Company, not Micky Mundine's Housing Company," Ms Munro said.

"Our needs, the housing needs, are put last."

She said she wanted a peaceful resolution.

"I think it needs to be resolved at a community level and the community still haven't had a chance to have a say," Ms Munro said.

Mr Mundine agreed there was a need for community housing for Indigenous Australians, but said he saw no need to talk to the protesters.

He said construction would start mid year and timing was "crucial" to the project.

"The land belongs to the Aboriginal Housing Company, all the title deeds are in the company name," he said.

"This year is time for us to get on with our priorities; there is a deadline."

Mr Mundine also said action would be taken to remove the protesters, if necessary.

"We will get the law of the land in to evict them," he said.

"They are trespassing on the land, and we're just going to move them."