Pemulwuy gets underway

REDFERN: Tuesday March 26 saw the “turning of the soil” for the Aboriginal Housing Company’s (AHC) long-awaited Pemulwuy project. “Today is a day we have dreamt of for a long, long time,” said CEO Michael “Mick” Mundine.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Mick Mundine with children for “turning of the soil” to signify commencement of long-awaited Pemulwuy project. Photo:Andrew Collis

The ceremony, emceed by mentor and sports commentator Brad Cooke and including a welcome to country by Gadigal Elder Uncle Charles “Chicka” Madden, signified the commencement of construction on the land known as The Block.

Speakers included Lord Mayor Clover Moore, Fouad Deiri of Deicorp, Mick Mundine and Alisi Tutuila of the AHC. Prayers were led by Pastor Peter Walker of Australian Indigenous Ministries and the Right Reverend Archimandrite Nabil Kachab of the St George Cathedral in Redfern.

Located between Louis Street and the railway corridor opposite Redfern station, the Pemulwuy project will see the redevelopment of the land into three precincts.

Construction on precincts 1 and 2, comprising a gallery, gym, and retail space, two- and three-bedroom units alongside two-, three- and four-bedroom terraces – a total of 62 affordable dwellings – will commence this month with the expectation of residents moving in by 2021. Precinct 3 (student accommodation) will be completed by mid-2022.

“The units and terraces will be double brick,” AHC Chief Operations Officer Lani Tuitavake told the SSH. “The traditional build will follow adaptable and sustainable design principles so that generations can live and work here together.”

Mr Mundine, who has been involved with the AHC for more than 40 years, said: “We have always had faith that this vision for our people’s future was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.

“As originally planned, we will be building affordable housing for 62 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, a new [Elouera Tony Mundine] gym, childcare, student accommodation, a gallery, as well as commercial and retail spaces.”

The student accommodation will be managed by Scape, on a 99-year lease. The development will include 110 affordable units for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

“We are excited for the future,” Mr Mundine said. “The process has made us more resilient, more determined, focused on self-determination – how it looks, feels and works – and respect for one another. I will be so happy to see the Aboriginal flag flying high from our new building.”

Many people, long-time supporters as well as critics, have played important roles.

Speaking to the SSH, Mr Mundine and Ms Tuitavake recalled the vision and passion of architect Col James, after whom the student accommodation will be named. “Col was a strong advocate for affordable housing,” Mr Mundine said. “He talked about ‘housing as a verb’; this is going back to the early 1970s.” “Col offered guidance and mentoring over many years,” Ms Tuitavake added. “He was an inspiration to many students and community members.”

Others deserving of thanks included Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Monica Barone of the City of Sydney, former NSW premier Kristina Keneally, REDWatch, Indigenous elders, activists and artists, and developer Deicorp, a partner to the AHC over more than ten years.

“Our hopes and aspirations to breathe new life into The Block will now begin,” Ms Tuitavake said. “We are happy and proud to be leading the way in providing affordable housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in business and property development.”

Speaking at the “turning of the soil” ceremony, Alisi Tutuila, Chairperson of the AHC, said: “We thank you all again for all your prayers and support and look forward to realising this vision together as a community.”

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