Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Sinister or simply petty: Redfern's problems divide opinion

Harvey, Adam
Sydney Morning Herald
23rd January 1997

He was part of the push to give Aborigines the Redfern "Block" in 1972. Now Father Ted Kennedy, the parish priest of Redfern, would rather see the cluster of units demolished and never redeveloped.

"I would not mind if the thing just sat there and was never redeveloped, and the blacks could simply relate to it as land," Father Kennedy said.

Much of Redfern's problems were being caused by the prospect of redevelopment in the area, he said.

There was also a "sinister" element that wanted to divide Redfern's Aboriginal community. "There is something very deep and very secretive going on, and it has been happening now for a fair while."

Father Kennedy said he believed that the heroin habits of young Aboriginal addicts were being funded by outsiders. There was no other explanation as to how they were able to finance habits estimated at up to $500 a day.

"I cannot for the life of me figure out how the young people are finding the finance for these drugs," he said.

"It has only been 12 months since I buried a young man from Redfern who I knew very well. He was 28 and he died in a toilet block in Cabramatta.

"He had long got past the stage of being able to afford the drugs on the money he stole, and he was still getting the drugs - how?

"There is big power and big money - white money - involved," Father Kennedy said.

But other people say there is nothing sinister about the problems in Redfern, and that they are not as great as portrayed by the media.

Mr Trevor Christian, the manager of the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern, said most of the suburb's crime was petty street crime.

"There is much more serious crime going on in other parts of the city, like Cabramatta, than is happening up here," Mr Christian said.

"Mate, this is petty stuff to what's happening in other parts of the city. It just doesn't get any airplay (from the media). This is street crime that can be avoided if there are police on the streets."

Other long-time residents contacted by the Herald agreed that the drug and alcohol problem of the Redferncommunity was being blown out of proportion, and that the police were overreacting.

"The violence problem is not out of hand," said one woman, who did not want to be named.

Police yesterday continued their high profile in Redfern, with many police vehicles cruising along Eveleigh Street.

South Sydney Council will remove a pedestrian crossing on Lawson Street, between Eveleigh Street andRedfern station, in a bid to reduce bag snatches from cars.

The Mayor of South Sydney, Councillor Vic Smith, said cars would no longer be forced to stop at the crossing, thereby avoiding break-ins by thieves.