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Supreme Court rules on Block dispute

The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) last month succeeded in getting a Supreme Court order to remove trespassing protestors from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at The Block. Justice Hulme accepted the AHC’s claim for possession of the land and ordered Jenny Munro and the other protestors leave the site by September 3. He also ordered Ms Munro not to interfere with the AHC’s Pemulwuy Project.

Tent Embassy supporters outside the NSW Supreme Court. Photo: Bruce Wardley
Tent Embassy supporters outside the NSW Supreme Court. Photo: Bruce Wardley

Housing Company Chairperson Alisi Tutuila said the protestors had their day in court and should leave peacefully. “Despite some differences in the past, one value we have always shared with the community is the need for more affordable housing for Indigenous Australians.”

Lawyers for Ms Munro told the court the Whitlam government had gifted money to the local Aboriginal community in 1973 to purchase the land known as The Block and the AHC had been formed two months later. They said this had been a particularly difficult case as the local Aboriginal community had deep feelings for The Block.

Lawyers representing the AHC said Jenny Munro had prevented work starting on a project that would significantly benefit both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Redfern and the broader community.

Justice Hulme said the actions of Ms Munro in setting up the Tent Embassy had left in no doubt her depth of feelings for The Block, but he accepted the Housing Company’s submission. The AHC argued the Tent Embassy protestors were engaged in an illegal activity to stymie a legitimate commercial project and that there was no basis to allow the protest to continue.

The Commonwealth government is now said to be offering a $5 million grant to the AHC if construction of the affordable housing component of the Pemulwuy Project starts at the same time as the commercial development. Ms Tutuila hopes the grant would assist the AHC secure funding for the Pemulwuy Project. “We have always wanted to build affordable homes on The Block as soon as possible but the reality was that funding was not available. It is now hoped work can progress over the coming months.”

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