13 February 2008: just back from The Block in Redfern

13 Feb


Redfern Community Centre, The Block, 2007. Image from Redfern Oral History. Click for more.

At least 1,000 people stood in the pouring rain at Redfern’s famous Block and watched on the big screen as Kevin Rudd moved the motion of Apology. I would not have missed it for quids!

Next to me an Aboriginal woman in her thirties or forties, her tears blending with the rain.

Cheers and a standing ovation greeted Kevin Rudd’s speech.

cafe-cana.gifWe didn’t get to hear the middle section of Dr Nelson’s speech as at that point the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, was speaking to us live.

However, the symbolism near the end of Rudd and Nelson jointly presenting to the Speaker the gift from the Stolen Generations spoke to all our hearts.

Golden syrup and damper afterwards, and then a coffee for me on the way home at Cafe Cana.

William Yang was there at the Community Centre, and some people from church.

Big smiles from some little Aboriginal kids as I crossed Pitt Street and Redfern Street: “Look! He’s got a flag!”

A day truly to be treasured, long long anticipated and for a period the dread that it would never happen. But it has happened.

No more analysis today, no more commentary. The day is too good for that.

See Cheers, tears as Rudd says ‘sorry’.




Speech gets standing ovation in Redfern

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech received a standing ovation at the Redfern Community Centre, where hundreds gathered. Residents, workers, families, students and Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore braved the rain to watch the speech via a large outdoor screen set up in the heart of the notorious Block, the setting of the 2003 Redfern riots.

After the speech a teary Ms Moore stood and addressed the crowd. “Parliament House in Canberra is a long way from the streets of Redfern, but the apology made this morning must resonate here in our hearts and minds,” she said.

David Page, 46, composer with the indigenous dance group Bangarra Dance Theatre, said he liked the fact that Mr Rudd made a personal apology.

“It was very moving to see a prime minister with a bit of heart. I loved it when he said he was sorry. There was just something personal about it. It’s very hard for a prime minister to be personal,” he said. “It’s a long road but it’s a great beginning.”

Enid Williams, 72, who was brought up on a mission in Warrabinda in north Queensland after her father was forcibly removed from his family, said she was happy with Mr Rudd’s speech, but said it was now important to look to the future.

“We’ve been put down so many times,” she said. “I’m 72. The main thing is the young people, to give them a better future.”

The reception was not so warm for the speech delivered by Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, and the crowd booed at file footage of former prime minister John Howard that was broadcast before the apology.

Michael Kirby, 36, a resident of Waterloo who grew up in rural NSW and whose father had been removed from Swan Hill to be raised at the Kitchener Boys Home, said he was pleased with the turnout at the community centre.

“I was so proud to be walking down here today with non-indigenous Australians,” he said. “Now we have to move together to try and build Australia bigger and better as a whole.”

An entire day of activities has been planned at the community centre, including an afternoon smoking ceremony, repetitions of the speech and a barbecue.

Melanie Giuffre of Surry Hills said she and her husband, Remo, brought their children Lola, 13 and Roman, 9, to Redfern to mark a historic national event. “Roman was doing something at school but we thought it was important to be here as a family,” she said. “[The speech] was really wonderful. It felt we’ve seen the Prime Minister we voted for.”

Sydney Morning Herald multimedia report.


Ivan Clarke, one of the stolen generations, is comforted by a friend after watching the apology by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a large screen in Redfern.
Photo: Jon Reid Sydney Morning Herald.

Joy, that was the dominant note today: sheer joy. 🙂

  • Compare Denys’s post Big Daddy ‘K’ did good!. He gives more detail about what Clover Moore said. BTW, I was able to congratulate Clover personally on her speech, as she came up and talked to William Yang as he and I were comparing notes about M’s recent travels.
  • Arthur has embedded Kevin Rudd’s complete speech.

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5 responses to “13 February 2008: just back from The Block in Redfern

  1. Priscilla

    February 13, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Yay! Tears in my eyes, too.

    Possibly a different feeling at Martin Place – lots of passers by who were more worried about getting to work than the significance of the speeches, lots of eye-poking with umbrellas and all that. But there were a few hundred people who were there to take part and join the PM in saying sorry.

  2. Denys

    February 13, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Ninglun, it is indeed a day for joy. Whilst I didn’t get teary watching the ‘apology’ live, I did yesterday whilst reading it online.

    I thought of you this morning and for some reason I felt that you would be in Redfern.

    I know Ivan and he is a good bloke. He was kind to me during my first days of sobriety. Seeing this photo of Ivan I imagine that he was feeling many things such as joy, grief and loss maybe.

    Taking responsibility by acknowledging our past actions is a mature thing to do. Today, “Big Daddy K” did good!

  3. ninglun

    February 13, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks, Priscilla and Denys.

    Denys, I think your comment really grounds the day. It was not about abstractions or even history, not where I was sitting. It was a profound human and spiritual experience, and it was just RIGHT. 🙂

  4. Bruce

    February 13, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I missed attending events in Elder Park this morning thanks to injury, so I’m a bit late to it all. I can tell you though that I can feel the collective dread of the past 11 years, the dread that this day would never happen, evaporate.

    That picture of Ivan Clarke tells it like is doesn’t it? The real, human face of it all, not the media constructed demon that we’ve been tritely threatened with for simply wanting wrongs righted.

    Mixed emotions to be sure. Relief, joy, determination and hope are there, but there is also a bit of anger that this day didn’t come sooner.

    Seeing Ivan Clarke’s face makes me wonder what failure of empathy kept this day from happening a long time ago.

    But even my anger gives me hope. I suspect others have been and will continue to ask the same question I have and I think that can only help people resist opposition to reconciliation.

    An important day in Australian history.

  5. James Russell

    February 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    the dread that it would never happen

    Or the seemingly equal dread in some quarters that it WOULD happen.

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