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Ten years watching over government, informing community

Co-founder and spokesperson Geoff Turnbull says they were “ready and waiting” when government intervention in the area increased. REDWatch’s “initial objects and constitution were quite broad”, he says, in order to be able to involve everyone. This foundational wide scope is key to the organisation’s longevity and achievement.

Over the years, REDWatch reduced the reach of the Minister for Redfern-Waterloo’s ability to annex land under government control without consultation. It ensured the Redfern-Waterloo Act had specific objects. It continues to clarify rumours for public housing tenants, act as a platform for the Aboriginal community to have direct dialogue with government, and has won considerable ground on heritage issues, “now seen as an asset, not as a liability”, Mr Turnbull says.

REDWatch’s reputation for thoroughness being so strong (with government operations being so opaque), meant that it was not uncommon for government staff to check REDWatch Updates to find out what their employer was up to.

Representing a community, however, isn’t without its challenges. Around 1857, the French poet Baudelaire wrote: “The form of a city changes faster, alas, than the human heart.” As government bodies swallow each other and change names, the ongoing mission for REDWatch and other community organisations has been to match, as closely as possible, the form of the city to the changing heartbeats and desires of the people living within it.

“There is not one community, there are a broad range of voices, and if you are going to consult with the community you need to listen to those voices,” Mr Turnbull says. Michael Chapman, member of the REDWatch Coordinating Group, has seen “jaw-dropping” changes; rapid redevelopment and gentrification having “the potential to erode” existing community ties.

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