Iconic Redfern: the creation and disintegration of an urban Aboriginal icon

Australasian Urban History/Planning History Group and Griffith University, Gold Coast
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 13th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference, 2016, pp. 530 - 540
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While the idea of urban icons might be about producing iconic buildings in terms of form and shape, the specific use of high-end materials, or a particular strategy for the organisation of urban spaces, places often have significant meanings through very different – and often underappreciated – means. Significantly, the people who inhabit them and live in them thus give the place a distinctiveness that contributes to its iconic status. Considering the above, this paper will look at a particular example of this – The Block in Redfern, Sydney – which is considered to be significant for Indigenous people. Yet while many recognise the contribution of Australia’s Indigenous population toward the making of this iconic place, at the same time other forces – such as gentrification, rental prices, political power struggles, etc. – are actively working against the long-term formalisation of this place. This paper will thus analyse the past, present and prospective future of The Block, and consider how is Redfern and The Block considered to be an iconic place for Indigenous and non-indigenous people? Also significant is the notion that The Block has been demolished, and the majority of its Indigenous population have been forced out or relocated, and that there is a current approved proposal to rebuild The Block with undefined plans to re-house a portion of its previous Indigenous community. Given this, what is the potential future for The Block in terms of retaining its meaning as an Indigenous icon and establishing appropriate community values?
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