Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Demolition of derelict homes to kick off Redfern clean-up

Brown, Malcolm
Sydney Morning Herald
25th January 1997

The Redfern crime summit yesterday delivered the action - rather than words - demanded by Police Commissioner, Mr Ryan, with an almost immediate go-ahead for demolition of derelict houses.

Mr Ryan announced a "shopfront" police station by the end of March at one of the inner suburb's worst trouble spots - Redfern railway station.

These moves are part of a comprehensive program to combat the recent wave of crime and violence decided at a two-hour meeting at police headquarters attended by community, public service, police and welfare agency representatives.

South Sydney Council will approve by Monday the demolition of the derelict houses.

The meeting, chaired by Mr Ryan, also decided there should be greater use in Redfern of Aboriginal police and liaison officers, and that Redfern Aboriginal community leaders should foster the role played by elders and authority figures.

While the meeting was concluding at midday, yet another robbery occurred in Lawson Street, in which a taxi driver was stabbed three times.

Mr Ryan said: "We cannot allow that to happen. The community have convinced me today you don't want this sort of criminal behaviour to contnue. You have to do something about it."

Asked whether taxi drivers should be warned not to go near the Block, he said: "The worst thing you can do is warn people to stay away. You cannot give up the streets. We have a policing presence in Redfern ...

"Redfern is an inner-city deprived area. One way to improve that is environment. All the agencies will have to help as much as possible."

Mr Ryan said the Police Service was adopting strategies to stop the drug supplies which came from "all over the city".

The environmental clean-up would include landscaping, helped by South Sydney City Council, and would be part of the anti-drug campaign.

"You will see some of the measures to improve the quality lf life for the residents of Redfern ... to ensure the environment and housing are a lot cleaner and safer for people and to take away the hidey-holes where criminals sell drugs and abusers take drugs," Mr Ryan said.

There would be a focus as well on sensitivity of policing. At the request of the community, he had adopted a longer-term objective of deploying more Aboriginal police officers.

Mr Mick Mundine, chief executive of the Aboriginal Housing Company Ltd, endorsed Mr Ryan's view that it was now time for action.

"We cannot do a Band-Aid job again like in the past," he said. "The police can do so much. It is really up to our people."

The housing company was negotiating with the Government over longer-term plans to redevelop the Block. Representatives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission had also offered yesterday to assist wherever they could with rebuilding and redevelopment.

The Mayor of South Sydney, Councillor Vic Smith, said the council had asked the State Government to "come to the party" and support the council, Police Service and Aboriginal Housing Company.

On Tuesday, the council would be removing a raised crossing across Lawson Street, where motorists had been vulnevulnerable to attack. It would be replaced by a traffic island, further away from Eveleigh Street.