(Transcript from World News Radio)
It’s a development that promises affordable housing for Aboriginal people but its critics say it’s never going to come to fruition.
The Aboriginal Housing Company in Sydney’s Redfern is trying to get finance for the $60 million Pemulwuy Project which would see the construction of a retail and housing development, including 62 affordable housing units for Indigenous people at the area known as The Block.
But as the financial negotiations continue so too does a stand off at the proposed construction site which members of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy continue to occupy.
They’ve been demanding that the project is re-designed to make the affordable housing component the first priority.
Greg Dyett reports.
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“So we want people to say oh, you’re going to Redfern, hey come to the place, The Block is the place and we know Aboriginal people live here, this is the main watering hole. It’s going to change history with the new development called Pemulwuy.”
That’s the Chief Executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company, Michael Mundine, talking up the Pemulwuy Project in a promotional video.
As you know, if you haven’t got a decent house, a roof over your head, how can you expect the parents to send their kids to school. Housing is so important for health, so the Aboriginal Housing Company is providing good, affordable housing.”
Protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy don’t believe the Aboriginal Housing Company will make good on that commitment.
Among them is Aunty Jenny Munro.
“I don’t think the housing company or the developer has any intention of building the 62 houses for our community. The fact that there are only 62 houses, the fact that the housing design is only three and four bedrooms, the fact that the CEO Mundine (Michael Mundine) has already said any Aboriginal people with a criminal record won’t be housed really rings the death knell on the black community there at Redfern.”
Jenny Munro says the project needs to be re-designed to prioritise the housing component.
“The Pemulwuy project as approved has got shops first, then student accommodation second and then houses for our people but no funding for houses so I really can’t see how anybody can describe that part of the project as viable when there’s no funds for houses.”
Aboriginal Housing Company chief executive Michael Mundine says it’s time for changes and time for Aboriginal people to get out of their welfare mentality.
Mr Mundine says the protesters who’ve been occupying the site have a broader agenda.
He says what they really want is his removal as CEO.
“They want to take over the organisation and now they’re using me as a scapegoat I really believe. You know they’re crucifying me and I’m just here doing my job. It’s just a personal thing between me and her (Jenny Munro), mate and I don’t know what I’ve done to these people.”
Michael Mundine says the commercial developer that’s partnering with the Aboriginal Housing Company to build stage one is being contracted to provide a service and it’s the housing company itself that’s developing the Pemulwuy Project.
He says the development application was approved in December 2012.
“The Aboriginal Housing Company, we are the developer. Shouldn’t people be proud that the Aboriginal Housing Company is the developer and we own everything ourselves, we get no government funding. (Reporter) You are the developer, you’re saying (Mundine) We are the developer, DeiCorp only signed a contract for design and construction, we are the developer.”
Michael Mundine says the affordable housing will be built and construction of stage one will start this year.
He says the Aboriginal Housing Company is still trying to secure finance from a range of sources.
“We’re still negotiating with one of the major banks for the commercial, okay, but as you know we believe that the government should give us money toward affordable housing but at the present moment I don’t think we’ll be getting money from them. We’ve just got to, we’re still out there just negotiating. (Reporter) Have you got enough money to start constructing anything as yet? (Mundine) Well, as I’m saying, we’re still negotiating with the bank, we’ve got a discussion paper going, it’s looking pretty good so, you know, we will be starting this year.”