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Redfern-Waterloo campaign calls for commitment to affordable Aboriginal social housing

Rachael Knowles -

New developments in Redfern and Waterloo are threatening the Indigenous community. The Redfern-Waterloo Aboriginal Affordable Housing Campaign aims to support the community's place in area.

Launched on Monday, the campaign is advocating for ten per cent Aboriginal affordable housing in all government redevelopments in the Redfern/Waterloo area, as well as an increase in Aboriginal social housing led by an Aboriginal-owned or managed community housing provider or led in partnership with an Aboriginal organisation.

The campaign is also advocating for Aboriginal jobs.

Driven by Thunghutti and Bundjalung man and founder of YARN Australia, Warren Roberts, the campaign has many Aboriginal community organisations in support of the campaign, including the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative Limited Redfern, Weave Youth and Community Services, Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation and more.

Political supporters include Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong, Greens Senator, Mehreen Faruqui, Labor Member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek and David Harris, NSW Labor Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty.

Whilst the NSW Government has made the commitment to five per cent affordable social housing in SEPP 70 Affordable Housing Revised Scheme, Roberts said the number should be increased to ten per cent with consideration for Aboriginal-specific housing.

"We want to continue a presence of First Nations people around the Waterloo and Redfern area, and how we continue that is through a commitment of housing, both affordable and social," Roberts said.

"We're not interested in murals and street names ... what we are interested in is a policy commitment."

Siobhan Bryson, CEO of Weave Youth and Community Services, noted current issues with housing.

"That basic human right ... isn't afforded to those young people in their community. They are at times sleeping in a carpark or a park or have been couch-surfing," she said.

"The demographics now, they aren't [as] accurate as they'll be [for] those on leases or registered as living in that affordable or social housing ... but pretty much every household is overcrowded as people are flat out trying to survive, they can't afford to pay the rent or access affordable housing."

Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative has a 50-year history in Redfern and serves 6,000 patients. CEO LaVerne Bellear said the lack of consultation denies the local Aboriginal community the ability to self-determine.

"It comes back to self-determination, that is what this whole community was built upon and based upon," she said.

"We have to be deal with the outcome that has already been decided. We are very intelligent people; we can think for ourselves and we need to be heard."

City of Sydney stands behind the campaign, with a motion of support proposed by Councillor Professor Phillip Thalis passed on Monday.

The campaign is advocating for policy commitment from the NSW Government on their demands and for purposeful consultation around developments.

NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC), who are responsible for the NSW Government's social housing portfolio, provided NIT with a statement:

"LAHC is developing an Aboriginal Housing and Cultural Needs Study. It is being prepared by PriceWaterHouseCooper Indigenous Consultancy (PIC) to identify and report in a culturally appropriate way, the specific cultural and housing needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island residents," said an LAHC spokesperson.

"The Aboriginal community's views are vital to the success of the Waterloo and Redfern renewal projects. Currently, about 16 per cent of homes at Waterloo South are occupied by Aboriginal people and families. All of these residents have the option of returning once the new homes are ready."

Learn more about the Redfern Waterloo Aboriginal Affordable Housing Campaign here: https://www.aboriginalaffordablehousingcampaign.com.

By Rachael Knowles

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