Supporters of the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy, set up on the Block directly under the windows of the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) are mobilising at the site in peaceful protest after they were served eviction notices on Friday.
The AHC CEO Mick Mundine warned he would evict residents of the site through the media two weeks ago.
His comments mobilised many supporters, some of which immediately packed up and travelled from the Canberra Aboriginal Tent Embassy following a week of protests to mark the opening of Parliament.
Mr Mundine made good on his promise on Friday when he served eviction notices to Wiradjuri elder Jenny Munro, and 10 others who have been residing at the embassy, accusing them of trespassing and ordering them to move with their equipment by today.
Mr Mundine was unavailable for comment this morning but the AHC released a short statement to media. It said while the AHC “respected the right of people to protest legally and peacefully… these protestors are on AHC land”.
The statement said the Pemulwuy Project – a redevelopment of AHC land which includes commercial units and housing for Sydney university students – was a way “to ensure an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled future”.
While the eviction notices call on the protestors to abandon the site by today, it is understood there has been no movement as yet, and Mr Mundine was tight-lipped about his plans to move the Embassy on when questioned by NITV News earlier this morning.
The tent embassy was built last May after plans were released for the proposed re-development.
Since then it has grown into a symbol of Aboriginal resistance against the backdrop of the increasingly gentrified Redfern, a suburb seen as the heart of modern-day Aboriginal protest.
The embassy has become a safe space for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal visitors alike and a meeting place only a short walk from the Redfern train station. It hosts a vegetable garden and several tents in the space in front of the famous Aboriginal flag mural.
It also exists under the direct gaze of the structure it is protesting – the AHC, originally set up in the 70s to provide housing to destitute and homeless Aboriginal people caught trespassing in abandoned houses, largely because they had no where else to go.
The original purpose of the AHC clashes with the Pemulwuy project, protestors say. The development, spearheaded by Mr Mundine, is split into stages.
Stage One is the development of a commercial precinct, which is being developed with student accommodation, a retail and commercial space and a childcare centre.
Stage two will build 62 affordable houses for Aboriginal people as well as a new Tony Mundine gym.
There have been long-running tensions between the AHC and some members of the Redfern community, but the Pemulwuy Project has only heightened the division, with protestors outraged that the organisation is giving commercial development precedence over urgently needed social housing.
While the AHC says it needs to look at commercial development first in order to fund Aboriginal housing, protestors say it goes against the principles of why the AHC was set up in the first place.
Concerns were raised last year when it was revealed in the Australian newspaper that Deicorp – the private company engaged by the AHC to advance the Pemulwuy project – had bragged that blackfellas had moved out of Redfern as part of its marketing strategy for the complex.
“Die Cota has a 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,” the Great Fortune Investments’ website said.
But the warriors of the Redfern Tent Embassy beg to differ and are standing strong in the face of eviction threats. New Matilda will keep readers updated as the stand-off progresses.
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