Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Redfern's 'The Block' landmark is done

By Yoni Bashan
OCTOBER 23, 2011

The last house at the notorious block in Redfern has been demolished today. Picture: Angelo Soulas

REDFERN'S controversial landmark The Block has now been reduced to a dusty pile of bricks.

To many, it ends an era of drugs, violence and crime; but to others, it's the loss of a spiritual home to the Aboriginal families who had lived on this unique parcel of low-cost, inner-city land.

The Sunday Telegraph captured the historic moment as bulldozers moved in for the last time, demolishing the last standing building in the precinct - comprising Louis St, Caroline St, Vine St and Eveleigh St.

Last year tenants had been served with eviction notices, given 60 days to leave the area and seek out alternative housing. The plan was to level the area and start again with the long-anticipated construction of the Pemulwuy Project - a new look development designed to completely revitalise the area.

Those who couldn't find, or afford, another place to live have been supported by The Block's management company, the Aboriginal Housing Corporation (AHC).

The corporations chief executive, Mick Mundine, said everyone had been successfully relocated except for one man, whose arrangements were still being finalised. The AHC, a charitable organisation which owns the land, confirmed that partial funding for the project had been secured, including some assistance from the federal government.

The next step, Mr Mundine said, would be to approach banks and other commercial investors to chip in the rest of the funding. "A lot of people out here don't like changes," Mr Mundine told The Sunday Telegraph. "But it's progress for the future, and we've worked so hard. It's in the past, it's in the history books, and we're building a better future for our children."

The revamp is expected to cost upwards of $60 million and will see the construction of 62 family apartments and areas for commercial, retail, community and cultural space.

The plans were rejected by NSW planning minister Frank Sartor in 2005 - he argued that none of his cabinet colleagues, including "the lefties", were ready to approve the development. It was later endorsed under planning minister Kristina Keneally in 2009. The Block has been known as one of the most iconic and troublesome no-go zones of Sydney, particularly during the heroin boom of the 1990s.

It's ghetto image is so well-renowned that parts of the TV series Underbelly were filmed at the location before its last buildings were demolished.

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