Iconic post office building a showcase of Indigenous culture

Posted .

The City of Sydney has purchased the iconic Redfern Post Office with a plan to turn it into a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural hub.

The historic building is located in the heart of Redfern, an area synonymous with Indigenous activism for rights and self-determination.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the community had long advocated for a space to gather, share and practice the cultures of the First Peoples of Australia.

"We've been searching for an appropriate property for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural space for some time and I'm pleased we've secured such an iconic landmark in Redfern," the Lord Mayor said.

"Since I became Lord Mayor in 2004, the City has worked to put Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities first - our first public artwork was in Redfern and our first major park upgrade was Redfern Park.

"We recognise the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as custodians who have nurtured this land for tens of thousands of years and who have an immutable connection to our country and our city.

"We've long advocated for the State and Federal Governments to commit to an Indigenous cultural centre of national significance and I hope our news today will encourage them to take action."

The City's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory panel assisted the City in the decision to purchase the building. The panel inspected the property and provided cultural and community advice on its potential to support the needs of the community for cultural uses.

Co-chair of the City of Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, Steven Satour, said: "This purchase is another exciting step in the Eora Journey, which has been a visionary plan to celebrate and see our living culture all across Sydney."

Former co-chair of the City of Sydney's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, Millie Ingram, said: "Redfern has always been recognised nationwide as the epicentre of the Aboriginal Rights struggle. The Aboriginal people need to always have a visible presence in Redfern. Our history should be on display for all people to learn and know about Aboriginal Australia and its history, before and after 1788. A modern keeping place would serve this purpose."

The 136-year-old Redfern Post Office is a two-storey Victorian Italianate building with a four-storey corner clock tower. The heritage-listed building is located on the corner of Redfern and George Streets and is within walking distance of Redfern Park - the home of the Redfern All Blacks rugby league club and the famous Redfern Address.

The building is on a significant part of Redfern Street which includes the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, and is central to many other key Aboriginal organisations. It comprises 315 square metres over two levels and was recently renovated into commercial offices.

Current tenants will remain in the building until mid to late 2019. During that time, the City will support the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to develop a plan for the best use of the property.

The cultural hub will be a centrepiece of the City's Eora Journey, a long-term project that celebrates the living cultures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Sydney.

"Our broader community emphatically told us that they want to know more about the Aboriginal owners of our city, who survived the years of first contact, and whose descendants live here today," the Lord Mayor said.

"In the Gadigal language, Eora means 'the people', so Eora Journey is 'the people's journey' - a visionary series of projects that demonstrates our strong commitment to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Sydney and their stories.

"We work closely with the community, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel and the Eora Journey Public Art Working Group on these important projects."

The Eora Journey includes seven major public art projects overseen by curatorial advisor Hetti Perkins. Three public art projects have already been delivered:

  • Welcome to Redfern by Reko Rennie and young Aboriginal artists in Redfern
  • born in darkness before dawn by Nicole Foreshew, a temporary film installation projected onto the side of the Australian Museum
  • YININMADYEMI Thou didst let fall by Tony Albert in Hyde Park.

Plans for the fourth project - bara, by acclaimed artist Judy Watson - were announced earlier this year.

Other projects that celebrate First Nations people include Barani/Barrabugu (Yesterday/Tomorrow), an 84-page booklet published in 2011 with detailed research into Sydney's Aboriginal history and heritage, and the establishment of a walking trail that celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and places while telling the story of Aboriginal life in Sydney.

The City has also included a welcome in Gadigal language on park signs across the local area, with 'bujari gamarruwa' (good day) and the words 'You are on Gadigal country', and endorsed an economic development plan to improve educational, employment and business opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

For interviews, contact Anusha Muller.
Phone 0408 494 545 or email amuller@cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

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