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Redfern Community Centre – celebrating 20 years

The Redfern Community Centre (RCC) was opened on March 16, 2004, by NSW Governor Marie Bashir and Aunty Joyce Ingram. Prior to the opening there had been civil unrest by youths on The Block, South Sydney Council (SSC) was absorbed into the City of Sydney and the Premier’s Department was consulting on its RED Strategy to redevelop a third of Redfern-Waterloo.

The 20th anniversary of RCC was celebrated on April 20, 2024, with Councillors (Waskam) Emelda Davis and HY William Chan being joined by Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo for the cutting of the cake. Community development officer and RCC’s acting manager Otis Williams was pivotal in organising the event, which saw a good community turnout despite heavy rain.

Caption: Councillors (Waskam) Emelda Davis and HY William Chan with Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo at Redfern Community Centre.
Photo: Geoff Turnbull

Councillor Davis spoke on behalf of the Lord Mayor, and Aunty Beryl, who worked out of the Centre after it opened, emotionally reflected on its impact on the local community.

The three-storey building, which is now the RCC, was formerly a printing factory. The site also included a disused timber yard and an 1881 corner shop, which is now home to the Welcome to Redfern artwork. In 1991 SSC rezoned the industrial area to recreation, finally purchasing it in 1993.

In the late 1990s, community disagreement about the site’s use was intense. Four local community groups put forward a joint proposal for it to be used as a reconciliation community and cultural centre with opportunities for Aboriginal employment. Other options proposed included a police station installed on the site adjacent to a park; a parking station; a walled dog park or a native flora park.

The community pushed for Council management of the centre, rather than Council subletting its operation to a community group.

It has become a focus for Aboriginal social and cultural activities in Sydney. Surrounded by a landscaped park with an amphitheatre for performances and a children’s playground, its facilities complement open space within the Pemulwuy Project, Yellomundee Park and Hugo Street Reserve.

In 2023 the Council consulted on a revamped vision and plans for the open spaces in the area which go to Council this month.

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