Australia: The ‘Block’ explodes in anger

Arrests are continuing after tensions between police and Aboriginal youth in Sydney’s inner city suburb of Redfern broke out into open clashes on the night of 15 February following the death of a young Aboriginal boy believed to have been being chased by police.

The clashes took place near the Aboriginal housing area known as the Block.

The Block, ownership of which was handed over to the Aboriginal community during the Whitlam era of the 1970s, has been the centre of continuing tensions and clashes with police over the decades. Despite all the talk of improving relations and ‘community policing’ the police are still seen to ignore white guys in sports cars openly dealing drugs in the area while they keep their focus on the Aboriginal youth just waiting for them to commit an offence…

There have been various calls, including some from within the community itself, to demolish the Block, much of which is in a serious state of disrepair. Liberal New South Wales opposition leader, John Brogdon, is one of the latest to call for the Block to be “bulldozed”, whilst federal Labor leader Mark Latham, ‘blames the parents’.

Besides the permanent residents, the Block also acts as a temporary home to many Aboriginal people passing through Sydney. Getting rid of the Block would be any developers dream as it is a prime real estate location. There are undoubtedly huge social problems in the area, but as one long time Aboriginal activist, Pat Eatock, put it, “We have to defend both the Block and the community because if Redfern goes, then White Australia will be better able to forget and ignore the urban Aboriginal community altogether as it is our public face. The problem of ghetto life is obviously the poverty but the strength is that at least our kids are growing up knowing they are part of a community rather than being isolated in a predominantly white community.

Why should we have to accept all the values of white society and give up our aboriginality just to get basic health and education benefits for our people?”

Report by the Socialist Party, the cwi in Australia

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