Immediately south of Sydney’s
CBD is the inner-city suburb of Redfern, NSW. Governor Macquarie granted this
tract of land to surgeon William Redfern, who was a freed convict, in 1817.
Largely residential in nature, the area attracted settlers who planted gardens
and took their produce to the local markets. Small cottages later sprang up to
house local railway workers, who gave the area a more working class air.
The community has always been marked by a large migrant population, but it has
also been home to a large Aboriginal population throughout the years. The
Indigenous people of Redfern suffered greatly during the Depression, which left
many of them homeless. After struggling for decades, many who understood the
risks associated with illegally squatting in empty buildings throughout the
suburb formed the Aboriginal Housing Company in the 1970s. The Aboriginal
Housing Company received a grant to purchase several terrace homes, which would
later be called The Block.
The Block was considered the first land rights claim of its kind, and it
allowed the Indigenous Australians of Redfern the ability to renew and
transform their community. The focus was originally on providing low-cost
housing to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. The activists
struggled to maintain consistent government funding, however, and the residents
of The Block struggled to keep the criminal element out. After several
buildings were demolished, tensions in the community increased.
In 2004, things came to a tragic head when Thomas J. Hickey, a 17-year-old
Aboriginal boy, was riding his bicycle home after visiting his mother. The
stories about what happened next are conflicting, but the result of the
accident was clear: Thomas was impaled on a fence and died in the hospital.
Angry, grieved residents rioted in outrage. Many police officers were wounded,
but instead of giving up, the suburb marched on and focused their energies on
healing and recovering.
Since the tragedy, the neighbourhood has undergone significant gentrification,
and the City of Sydney has focused its efforts on an urban renewal project.
They are currently redeveloping several parts of the suburb. Redfern today is
home to several major sporting teams, including the South Sydney Rabbitohs,
which is amongst the oldest Aboriginal rugby teams in the country, the Redfern
All Blacks and the Redfern Raiders Soccer Club.
Visitors to Redfern can explore boutique shops that specialize in antiques,
retro-chic clothing, home wares, children’s toys, Australiana, surplus goods,
seasonal goods and designer and contemporary furniture. There is something here
for art lovers, too, with galleries dedicated to contemporary artists,
structures, digital arts, video art and photography. These galleries feature
installations and promote both emerging and established artists in order to
bring a broader variety to their clients. Art extends to the literary here,
with poetry broadcast via radio, podcast and other media.
Gardening stores hearken back to the earliest days of Redfern when settlers
worked the soil and brought their goods to the markets. Explore these shops and
choose from a range of plants, pots and decorations for your urban garden. When
you are ready for a snack or a meal, take your pick of restaurants, including seafood,
sushi, Thai, Indian, barbecue, pizza, fusion or even quiet coffee houses.