Tag Archives: Redfern
Here is a snippet from this month’s South Sydney Herald.
In case you can’t read that, it says that Redfern identity Patricia Corowa is off to Copenhagen for the Climate Change meet. She has a special interest in the Pacific Island implications.
Redfern activist calls for climate justice
The Rudd Government’s failure to adopt adequate greenhouse gas emission targets may prove devastating for Pacific Islanders, according to Aboriginal and Islander activist Patricia Corowa reports Laura Bannister in the South Sydney Herald of February 2009.
“Australia reaps the economic benefits of being the world’s highest per capita polluter, while sovereign island nations like the economically disadvantaged Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa watch rising seas sweep through their houses,” she says.
As a third-generation South Sea Islander or “saltwater Murroona woman,” Ms Corowa has always had a “strong sense and knowledge of country”.
The retired Sydney airport customs officer, and grandmother of one, says she has been an Aboriginal and Islander activist since age 10, when remote Indigenous communities were persecuted by white settlers. During the 1970s Ms Corowa founded several pivotal welfare organisations including the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.
Now living in Redfern, she is a strong advocate of climate justice for resource-poor Oceania nations and believes the Australian Government, as the dominant regional power, is bound by a duty of care for them. “I am not persuaded that there has been serious or even basic discussion about the rights of small Pacific Island nations under threat,” she says. “The situation [of many Islanders] is alarming.”
Tuvalu is one such struggling island nation. Made up of reef islands and atolls, the low-lying land is a mere five metres above sea level at its highest point and has few natural resources. With less than 100 tourists visiting annually, Tuvalu’s weak economy is heavily dependent upon foreign aid.
Yet industrialised countries refuse to adequately curb their consumption of dwindling resources or restrain greenhouse gas production, factors that could eventually result in the nation’s complete submersion, Ms Corowa argues.
Ms Corowa says the displacement of Pacific Islanders contravenes Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right of every person to a home. “I contend that unrestrained greenhouse gas production by Australia and other economically developed countries for their own advantage constitutes arbitrary interference,” Ms Corowa says.
“When Australians sing ‘our home is girt by sea’ do they really understand that sea includes three great oceans … with Indigenous Islander societies?”
Source: South Sydney Herald February 2009 www.southsydneyherald.com.au
Shuffling the years with Bev Hunter
Like old Dan in Judith Wright’s “South of My Days” John and Bev Hunter have seventy years of Darlington memories hived up in them like old honey. “It was a great place. We had the best of it,” Bev recalls. “It was a really safe area. You could leave your key in the door, or leave it open, or the key under the mat. You never got shut out.”
“It was terrible, what happened. ‘Progress’ they call it, but the Town Hall where everyone had their birthday parties, engagement parties, wedding parties – that went. But we did save the old school, which is a music room now, and the gates with the war memorials. How many were affected? You’d have to look at the James Colman Report on the expansion of Sydney University into the Darlington area.” Bev has a copy in front of her; it came out in 1976 and is in Waterloo Library.
There were some, apparently, who helped themselves to people’s property even before they had fully moved out. Some of the local hard men soon dealt with that. “It was pretty tough in those days,” Bev says. “But we did get enough support to stop them crossing Shepherd Street” – referring to the University of Sydney which began encroaching on Darlington in the 1960s and has now swallowed up almost half the suburb.
Not the first time the area was devoured of course. In 1788-9 the “Kangaroo Ground” (as it was then known) was set aside for educational and other purposes, though it would be the 1850s before the University actually appeared just above the swamp and lake that formed one of two sources of Blackwattle Creek. By 1791 most of the Cadigal had succumbed to smallpox and other hazards. In 1835 the botanist Thomas Shepherd had a nursery there named in honour of Governor Ralph Darling; the street names – Ivy, Rose and so on – reflect that origin. By the late 19th century Darlington was well established as the working class suburb John and Bev Hunter were later born into.
One of the attractions for young people in the 40s and 50s of last century was the Surryville. Johnny Devlin & the Devils, from New Zealand, started a permanent Tuesday night dance at the Surryville, but the place had been jumping long before that. St Vincent de Paul’s had an event there: “In the winter of 1903, the Society organized at ‘SurreyVille’ for the’ distressed poor of the parish’ a Bread and Butter Dance which was hailed as ‘a perfect success’. Thirty-three lady parishioners, ranging from Madame Huenerbein to Madame McSweeney furnished a generous table free …Rickett’s string band discoursed the music and Miss May Stanley played the extras’ . G.Smythe provided Arnott biscuits, E. and G.Humphreys the cordials, the chemist Mr. M.H.Limon the programmes, and four local butchers the meat.” Bev remembers the alcohol-free dance nights. “We used to walk up to the Surryville, where the Wentworth Building now is, and walk home again around 11pm – that’s how safe it was then”
But the University did provide work too for local people in the 60s and 70s. Bev herself worked as a cleaner in the Wentworth Building from 5-9am, then worked at a shop on the corner of Calder Road and Shepherd Street, which she eventually owned. Later she was in the hamburger bar upstairs in Wentworth. The Calder Road shop did much business with students from the new Engineering School; among Bev’s customers was Frank Sartor with whom Bev would in time be on Sydney Council. Bev’s activism in that role is local legend now. Her community work was acknowledged by the Council in 1988 with an Australia Day Award for voluntary work. She had also become a JP during those activist days so she could save people having to walk up to Newtown Court to get their documents witnessed. She is still an active JP.
Bev and John raised three children in Darlington. Retired to Long Jetty, she still feels part of the Darlington community. Some of their old neighbours now live not far from their new home, including one who was John’s next-door neighbour in 1939. Bev still has relatives and friends in Darlington and visits quite often. A sister-in-law and her family still live in Calder Road.
Acknowledgement: St. James’ Forest Lodge parish history (online) for the account of the St Vincent de Paul event of 1903
Yes, the South Sydney Herald is out, so I can share the Aunty Beryl story now.
Aunty Beryl’s three word dictionary
“My dictionary has just three words,” Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo says. “Communication, Education, Respect. That’s what I tell those students in there all the time.”
Not a bad dictionary that, and there’s a story and a half behind it.
Three years ago, following an initiative by the Redfern Waterloo Authority, Aunty Beryl co-founded the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality and Function Centre with chef Mathew Cribb. The Centre is in Wilson Street Darlington just by Carriage Works. Those three years have seen quite a few personal transformations – young students made confident enough by their success at Certificate II Hospitality to go back and do the HSC; families now well fed with good slow food and a real knowledge of nutrition; people finding jobs in the hospitality sector.
Of the 106 graduates who have now completed the nine week hospitality training course with Yaama Dhiyaan, 66% have gained employment or moved on to further education.
Things like Yaama Dhiyaan don’t come from nowhere, and in this case it is a long-held dream that holds the key. As a young girl in Walgett with no formal education Aunty Beryl dared to dream. She knew education was the key and dreamed of one day bringing back to the community whatever skills she might learn. At sixteen she was in Sydney working as a nanny in an upper middle-class Eastern Suburbs family.
“Yeah, I had to learn to read then, what with the kids going to Sydney Grammar.” So she did, and that was just a beginning. She remained close to that family and still does.
Her real formal education began at age thirty-one while she was working as a cook at the Murraweena preschool, then in Surry Hills. She worked days and at night studied nutrition and budget cooking at East Sydney TAFE. This was something she felt she could take back to the community.
Then she met a challenge: an invitation to become a trainee teacher for TAFE. “But I have no formal education,” she countered. That, she was told, would look after itself as she had the life skills and knowledge and an ability to communicate.
It didn’t quite look after itself as she found herself working as before, going to TAFE, and undergoing teacher training. When I asked her when she slept she just smiled.
Graduating in 1988 she went ahead in her new career. When retirement loomed the Redfern-Waterloo Authority made their offer. Here was at last the greatest chance to bring all that knowledge and experience right back into the heart of the community and make a real difference. She decided to give it a go for twelve months – and now it’s three years.
Aunty Beryl has been part of the Redfern community for fifty years now, but her beginnings are with the Gamillaroi people. The Centre’s web site says: “Yaama means ‘welcome’ and Dhiyaan means ‘family and friends’ in Aunty Beryl’s Yuwaalaraay language of the Gamillaroi people of north west New South Wales.”
“A great life,” I read somewhere years ago, “is a dream formed in childhood made real in maturity.” Aunty Beryl would probably reject that applying to herself, but it’s hard to deny.
She wanted to know if this would be a positive story as we had talked a bit about the dark side and the way Aboriginal issues are represented so often in politics and the mainstream media. How could it not be positive? Seeing the college, the students, and meeting Aunty Beryl have been inspiring. Anyone who dropped in would be inspired too – and well fed, if you happen by when food is on offer. As Aunty Beryl told SBS’s Living Black: “We specialise in bush tucker. We might have crocodile – we’ll do that with a lemon myrtle sauce, we might have kangaroo and we’ll just do that with skewers, and make a bush tomato sauce for that, vegetables in some of our herbs and spices.”
But it is the transformation of lives that is the real work at Yaama Dhiyaan. “You can’t forget the past because that is who you are. It’s in your heart,” Aunty Beryl told me. “But we have to move on for the sake of the future generation. Some come here needing their self-esteem building up and we show them they can have confidence, and they do have choices.”
… and other miscellaneous bits.
1. Something else to brag about
AUSTRALIA has the second best quality of life in the world and could pip Norway for top spot next year, the author of a UN report on migration and development says.
Australia was ranked second among 182 countries on a scale measuring life expectancy, school enrolments and income in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2009, published yesterday.
The US slipped a spot to 13 and Britain was steady at 21, based on the latest internationally comparable data from 2007. Niger ranked lowest, followed by Afghanistan and Sierra Leone…
2. Who’d be Malcolm Turnbull right now?
The latest Newspoll isn’t good news for the Libs.
3. Gerard Henderson gets it right!
In my opinion anyway, and I quite often disagree with Gerard Henderson.
… The 60th anniversary of the Communist Party victory in the Chinese Civil War was celebrated last week with an ostentatious display of military power of weapons and personnel.
Contrary to some views, the Rudd Government’s 2009 defence white paper is not directed at China. Yet the Chinese leadership should not be surprised if nations such as Australia focus on the possible reasons for China’s military build-up.
Australia’s one-time infatuation with Mao’s China is a thing of the past – as is evident in Bruce Beresford’s fine film Mao’s Last Dancer.
It should not be replaced by passion born of China’s wealth and the business and cultural possibilities this provides.
So far, despite criticism from the likes of Palmer and Hanson-Young, Rudd has got Australia’s China policy about right.
4. Local but global: October’s South Sydney Herald.
Nothing by me in this, but many good articles as usual. It’s been getting better, the old SSH.
Here is your copy: SSHOCT09.