Redfern Oval

About this Item
SubjectsFootball; Redfern; Waterloo; Sydney City Council
SpeakersKeneally Ms Kristina; Moore Ms Clover; Burney Ms Linda; O'Farrell Mr Barry; Acting-Speaker (Ms Marie Andrews)
BusinessBusiness of the House
Commentary Clover Moore

Page: 19986

    Urgent Motion

    Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [3.48 p.m.]: I move:

    That this House:

    (1) notes the overwhelming community support for the South Sydney Police and Community Youth Club's proposal to develop Redfern Oval.
    (2) notes the significant role Redfern Oval has played over many years in providing a safe and healthy environment to develop sporting prowess and community spirit within the Redfern community.

    (3) calls on this House to support South Sydney Police and Community Youth Club's proposal to redevelop Redfern Oval.

    On 14 November the City of Sydney's Environment and Heritage Committee narrowly endorsed a recommendation that puts the future of Redfern Oval in jeopardy. I understand that the option that was endorsed by the lord mayor using her casting vote was for an open field with a grandstand capacity of 700, surrounded by a picket fence and with open access, at a cost of approximate $19 million to taxpayers. The lord mayor and the other Independents voted as a block to block the proposal from the police and community youth club [PCYC], a proposal with cross-partisan support from Labor, Liberal and Greens, and wide community support from Redfern and Waterloo.

    The lord mayor believes, and claims publicly, that the proposal endorsed at the environment and heritage committee's meeting will provide training facilities for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and will be used by schools and other sporting bodies, but this flies in the face of the evidence. The facility that the committee endorsed is no different from the other three open access levels in South Sydney—Erskineville, Alan Davidson and Waterloo. These three ovals are underutilised, they lack active recreational facilities, and they are used by only a minority of the community. Why would the council spend $19 million to create a fourth oval—a facility that only replicates what already exists in South Sydney three times over? The council would do that because the lord mayor and her team of Independents have an ideological obsession with passive open space.

    I am sure the honourable member for Bligh is about to tell the House that the average area of open space per square metre per person in Redfern and Waterloo is below the average in the Council of the City of Sydney. As a matter of fact, the honourable member for Bligh often quotes those figures, so let me put on the record that in the Council of the City of Sydney there is an average of 6.6 square metres of open space per person whereas Redfern-Waterloo has 5.9 square metres of open space per person. However, there are some other figures that the lord mayor does not frequently quote, so I will ensure that they are stated on the record because they make a compelling argument in support of the proposal of the police and community youth club to redevelop Redfern Oval.

    Income levels in the Redfern and Waterloo are low compared to the remainder of Sydney: 28 per cent of Redfern's population and 56 per cent of Waterloo's population have incomes of less than $400 per week. Tenancy in Department of Housing dwellings is high compared to the remainder of Sydney: 23 per cent of Redfern's dwellings and 73 per cent of Waterloo's dwellings are Department of Housing homes whereas the equivalent figure for greater Sydney is only 5.1 per cent. In Redfern, the profile of persons over 15 years of age who are not in the labour force is similar to the overall Sydney profile. However, in Waterloo, 60 per cent of people over 15 are not in the labour force. The proportion of people who are employed full-time or part-time is less than half the rate in Redfern than in greater Sydney. Among the Aboriginal population in Redfern and Waterloo, levels of employment are lower again.

    Children and young people in Waterloo are almost three times more likely to be living in sole parent households than in Redfern and Sydney as a whole—that is to say, 11 per cent compared to 4 per cent respectively. However, the proportion of Aboriginal children in sole parent households is higher again, with 46 per cent of Aboriginal families in Waterloo being sole parent families compared to 19 per cent of Aboriginal households in Redfern and 15 per cent of Aboriginal households across greater Sydney. Not only that, but Tony Vinson's report "Community Adversity and Resilience" ranks Redfern and Waterloo as suburbs with some of the highest rates of unemployment, imprisonment, court convictions, disability and sickness in this State.

    In short, Redfern and Waterloo are communities that struggle. They are not resource rich. In an area where children and young people are most likely to come from a household with a single, unemployed parent, or a parent who is mentally ill or drug and alcohol addicted, what is the Council of the City of Sydney offering at Redfern Oval? A big empty field with a lovely picket fence. It is not as though the Council of the City of Sydney does not have the funds, or the will, to spend money on community infrastructure—take for example the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre in Ultimo. When the lord mayor was elected, the budget for that facility was $25 million. The lord mayor has increased it to $40 million, and construction is well under way. Indeed, today the Sydney Morning Herald published a lovely story about the construction of that facility.

    It is worth noting that that pool will be in the honourable member for Bligh 's new State electorate of Sydney. North of Cleveland Street there are four pools and the Ultimo pool is the fifth. Meanwhile, back in the current State electorate of Bligh, south of Cleveland Street residents have nothing. There is no active community facility at Redfern Oval, there is no swimming pool, and there is no indoor sports facility. People in the Heffron electorate cannot even get the upgrading of Redfern Street happening at a cost of a lousy $8 million, and we have been waiting for three years. That is why the PCYC's proposal to redevelop Redfern Oval is so important. It provides the community with a top-notch active recreational facility in suburbs that are resource poor and for people who are doing it tough in high-rise public housing accommodation.

    We do not need passive recreation space in South Sydney. What we desperately need are active recreational community facilities. The PCYC proposal will relocate the South Sydney PCYC from its existing location in Elizabeth Street, Redfern, across the street to the oval and it will create a new PCYC with indoor sports courts, exercise rooms, homework centres and recreation capacity for the entire community. The PCYC proposal integrates a number of social policy objectives and provides for rationalised and sustainable social infrastructure. The proposed facility will open up Redfern Oval to the park. The PCYC believes its proposal meets the key criteria outlined by the lord mayor for the redevelopment of Redfern Oval with the added advantage of providing for a new PCYC in the same strategic area where it is currently located.

    The proposal is also formally endorsed by the South Sydney Leagues Club and is supported by the football club and Souths Juniors. It will provide a first-class training facility and the possibility to play some—I emphasise "some"—home games at Redfern Oval to maintain the team's identity in the local community. The PCYC proposal has the support of three local schools, 31 local businesses, over 15 Aboriginal organisations, and local churches of all the nominations. It is also worth noting that the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is strongly supportive of the proposal. In short, the PCYC proposal reflects a willingness to find, in consultation with the community and the council, common ground for the renewal of Redfern Oval.

    By supporting the motion, the House can send a clear message to the independent councillors of the Council of the City of Sydney—Marcelle Hoff, Robyn Kemiss, John McInerney and Phillip Black—some of whom, I understand, have privately endorsed the proposal and some of whom have given me a commitment that they will not rip the heart out of Sydney. I urge this House to call on those councillors to support a facility that provides active recreational space that the Redfern-Waterloo community needs. Otherwise, if the independent councillors cannot stand their ground and stand up for the South Sydney community, their tag of "independent" will stand for something else. It will stand for councillors who act completely independently from the community they represent. I conclude my speech with the words of Terry Denzil, who is a local Aboriginal man from Alexandria. He says:

    The hypocrisy of this Council that can offer the keys to the City to the triumphant Sydney Swans in 2005 but cannot offer the keys to Redfern Oval to the Rabbitohs, a local treasure and icon. Not unlike the draconian Industrial relations reforms being proposed by the Federal Government, this Council has taken us back in time when the disadvantaged and the vulnerable are again placed at risk.

    I do not think that anyone wants that to happen. I do not believe that councillors of the Council of the City of Sydney intend to do that to the people of South Sydney. The people of Waterloo and the people of Redfern, their community organisations and their football club all want a redeveloped Redfern Oval. I have said previously that Redfern Oval is the heart and soul of South Sydney. Whether that heart continues to beat depends on the vote that the council takes next week.

    Ms CLOVER MOORE (Bligh) [3.57 p.m.]: Redfern Oval on Redfern Park is public land currently locked away from the public. It is unsafe, unsightly and underused due to the leagues club's failure to do work required under its lease from the former South Sydney council. The Rabbitohs left the site in 1987, not having maintained it—notwithstanding its 1981 agreement with South Sydney Council—and the team has not played a match at Redfern Oval since 1996. Moreover the team has never played a National Rugby League [NRL] game there. The site is not suitable for a stadium of over 20,000, which is what is needed for NRL games, and would not be viable if built for crowds of 12,000 to 15,000, which is what is required for some NRL home games. On top of all that, Redfern Oval is not needed because Aussie Stadium is less than two kilometres away.

    The city's strategy for a $19 million upgrading culminates years of debate and provides action after years of talk. To maintain the team's historical links with Redfern, the city proposes a professional-level training field for the Rabbitohs with a total ground capacity of 8,000 and a new grandstand on the site of the existing stand which will include facilities such as change rooms, storage rooms and weights rooms. The field will be accessible to all football codes and other outdoor activities for junior and senior teams, and it will be available for individual athletes for the remainder of the time.

    The oval will be managed and maintained to a high standard by the council. The design will provide access to areas around the field for all the community and will expand green space in Redfern, which has less open space than most other areas of Sydney. I am appalled by the shameful attempts by the honourable member for Heffron to undermine work that is intended to enhance desperately needed services and infrastructure in the area, and to divert attention from the failure of the State Government and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority to address the needs of this community.

    The real issue is: what has the Redfern-Waterloo Authority done for this previously neglected community? It has done nothing of substance—no new funding, no new programs. The only things we have seen in the area are glossy newsletters. The locals are tired of spin, they have been consulted to death, and they know that the real purpose of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority is to carve up their suburb for development. This is clear from the Minister's attitude to the Aboriginal Housing Company. In a way that would generate outrage if done to a commercial landowner, the Minister rejected out of hand a well-developed plan for the Block that has wide support and is consistent with current planning controls.

    I opposed the introduction of the Redfern-Waterloo Authority legislation in Parliament as a dangerous concentration of power and a way to evade the usual checks and balances. A year on, my view has not changed. I see no evidence that the Redfern-Waterloo Authority has added value to my community; if anything, it has slowed down the implementation of earlier plans. In the meantime, the Redfern-Waterloo Authority is trying to claim credit for the work being done by the city council to upgrade public facilities and critical social services. Just last week the city council received a request from the authority to fund a camp for Aboriginal kids, which it did, of course. The council knew that there was no new money in the Redfern-Waterloo Authority without the intended development, but it is ridiculous to think that the authority could not find $1,500.

    By comparison, the Federal Indigenous Land Corporation plans to buy the former Redfern school from the State Government for $25 million—the State Government had planned to flog that site—and the city council is injecting more than $50 million into South Sydney over four years through upgrades to Redfern Park, Prince Alfred Park and pool, the Redfern Street and Regent Street shopping centres, Waterloo skate park, other local parks and reserves around the Block area and East Redfern, and child care places in Alexandria and Redfern.

    Why is the police and community youth club [PCYC] looking for an alternative location? It is because the State Government wants it off the site so it can flog it for income-generating redevelopment. The council supports the work of the PCYC. The council's biggest concern is that the PCYC will be moved from its ideal current location. The State Government is seeking to move the PCYC in order to develop the land as high-density residential and, presumably, is seeking to make a substantial profit from the sale of the site—which is 3,760 square metres and may yield in excess of $10 million.

    I call on the State Government to leave the PCYC at its present location, ideally situated between the new residential area of the Redfern Estate and Redfern Park and Redfern Oval. The Government appears to have made preliminary offers to the PCYC to redevelop Redfern Oval, which, of course, is public land; it is not the State's land to make that offer. That money should be accepted by the PCYC to make its existing site an even better facility for the youth of the area. The PCYC is seeking—and has put a proposal to the city council—to move off its site, not to the State Government site, but to a site owned by the city council and zoned as open space. That proposal goes way beyond the charter of the PCYC, which is to provide life opportunity, growth and development for young people.

    The proposal put by the PCYC—to be on public land, zoned for open space—is for corporate boxes, a large stadium, administrative offices and cafes. That is not all in keeping with its charter. However, the city council's plans provide local young people and the South Sydney PCYC with outdoor recreation and a new quality oval. The kids who will use the new oval are living in tiny high-rise flats in Redfern and Waterloo, which has less open space than elsewhere. They need the facility of the existing PCYC site and they need the facility of open space where they can, together with other people in the community, have active sporting recreation.

    I put strongly to this House that redeveloping the existing PCYC site is a much better option. Public housing tenants support that. I lobbied former Minister Scully, former Minister Tripodi and now Minister Burton on behalf of the Redfern public housing tenants to keep the PCYC on its current site, which is ideally located. The population of the area is set to increase from 14,000 to 40,000 by 2015. The PCYC facilities at the existing site, the council-provided facilities on public open space, and other facilities in the area will be needed urgently by the community, many of whom are seriously disadvantaged. The behaviour of the honourable member Heffron has been opportunistic and disgraceful, and many people in the area that I have represented for a very long time share my view. I really regret that Deirdre Grusovin is not still here.

    Ms LINDA BURNEY (Canterbury—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.05 p.m.]: I am very familiar with Redfern Oval. At the end of the football season I went to Redfern Oval for my nephew's grand final: unfortunately, the Rovers Nines lost. However, it was a great occasion. It is very obvious when one goes to events at Redfern Oval, particularly for junior events, that it is not just a football oval, it is a place that is extremely symbolically important to the people of Redfern and Waterloo and, to build on what the honourable member for Heffron said, it is important to the people of the whole inner city right through to Marrickville and Dulwich Hill. Redfern Oval is very symbolic to the Aboriginal community of the area. I will give a number of reasons why that is so.

    I cannot count how many Aboriginal knockout grand finals I have attended at Redfern Oval, they are always held there. Generally there is a crowd of about 10,000, which the honourable member for Heffron might be interested to know. Redfern Oval is fenced, for security and for crowd control. Another reason why Redfern Oval is symbolically important to the Aboriginal community and to much of the activist community is that on 26 January 1988 it was the rallying point for those who gathered for the March for Freedom, Justice and Hope. It was a most incredible event, as the march wound its way into the city from that well-known site.

    Redfern Oval has been of spiritual and symbolic importance to the five or six generations of people who have lived near there. People need to understand that the oval, the spiritual hub and the original home of the Rabbitoh's football team, is very important to local people. Not everyone follows the Rabbitohs but it is safe to say that everyone loves the Rabbitohs, with all due respect to my Canterbury Bulldogs, of course. I have attended many Rabbitohs games, and met with the honourable member for Heffron at one match not so long ago at the Sydney Football Stadium. It really is an anomaly to me that Redfern Oval is not the oval that the Rabbitohs are able to train on and play their games on. It would mean a lot to most of the local community if they could.

    There is a great need for balance between urban planning and open space. Infrastructure in a community is not only bricks and mortar, it is also social capital, and that is what is really important here, development of social capital. A number of organisations support the honourable member for Heffron's proposal, and in my view that equates to support of the development of social capital. This area of Sydney needs development of social capital. I understand the police and community youth club [PCYC] proposal is to join up with Redfern Oval. That matter has received community consultation and a response should come back to the community. I note with interest that today's edition of the Daily Telegraph contains a fantastic piece by Rob Welsh, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Land Council. He writes:

    For generations, Aboriginal people have gained strength and hope from watching Souths play at Redfern Oval.

    Generations of Aboriginal families have cheered on the Rabbitohs there and generations of young black footballers have aspired to play on the same famous ground as their heroes.

    Social capital is linked to infrastructure, which is what this motion is about. Honourable members should understand that the proposal by the Aboriginal Housing Company is not endorsed by everyone, and there are many differing opinions about it.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL (Ku-ring-gai—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [4.10 p.m.]: I regret that this urgent motion is really about the ongoing concern of the State Labor Party regarding the loss of city hall in the local government elections. Every parliamentary sitting week the honourable member for Heffron moves motions that have more to do with the business of the Council of the City of Sydney—

    Ms Linda Burney: Point of order: My point of order goes to relevance. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is supposed to be debating the motion, not personalities. I ask him to draw his remarks back to the motion before the House.

    Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the urgent motion.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: For your benefit, Madam Acting Speaker—as I know that you were tied up in discussion with the Clerk—the motion relates to an action that is being considered by Sydney city council. So presumably it is relevant to talk about this ongoing obsession that the honourable member for Heffron has, on behalf of the State Labor Party, with the Lord Mayor of Sydney, who for the first time in many years sits as a member of the House. That is how I intend to progress the debate today. The only worthwhile comments to come from Labor members to date—I realise that there is another speaker to come—are the observations by the honourable member for Canterbury about social capital. As someone who spent time in high-rise public housing, I could not agree more.

    But I object to Sussex Street not getting over the last local government elections and, instead of trying to progress these matters in the spirit of co-operation, continually sending the honourable member for Heffron into the Chamber on a weekly parliamentary basis to try to somehow or other tag the honourable member for Bligh, the Lord Mayor of Sydney. That will not advance the interests of the residents of Redfern and Waterloo one single jot.

    Ms Kristina Keneally: She would have knocked it down last year if we hadn't spoken up.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The honourable member for Heffron spreads disinformation. If one were to combine her comments today with those of the honourable member for Canterbury one might believe that at the end of the process Redfern Oval will no longer exist.

    Ms Kristina Keneally: It's not. It's going to be a nice white picket fence, an open field and nothing else.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: The reality is that, just as Redfern Oval began as an open field, it will continue to be preserved, under the lord mayor's proposal, as open space in an area that, for goodness sake, needs open space. Over the next 10 years the population of the area is to increase from 14,000 to 40,000. We on this side of politics, of course, support police and community youth clubs [PCYCs]. We have done so consistently for 10 years despite, as the honourable member for Epping, the former shadow Minister for Police, and I remember, the machinations of those opposite in relation to PCYCs in the mid to late 1990s. We support the South Sydney community and we support the Rabbitohs—one of our former Premiers sat on the board of the Rabbitohs. We enjoy the National Rugby League. But the interests of the Rabbitohs and the PCYC, of those who live in high-rise buildings in Waterloo and Redfern today, and of the 40,000 people who are due to live there in 2015 will not be advanced—

    Ms Kristina Keneally: What would you know about it?

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: Do you want to talk about what I know? How long have you been here, mate? If we want to advance those issues—

    Ms Linda Burney: Point of order: The term that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used in referring to the honourable member for Heffron is not acceptable and he should withdraw it.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: If the honourable member for Heffron regards the term "mate" as unparliamentary, I am happy to withdraw it.

    Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to be chivalrous and withdraw the remark.

    Mr BARRY O'FARRELL: I withdraw. My thesis in this debate is that the honourable member for Heffron must stop politicising this process. She must stop leading the tag team for the minority Labor councillors on Sydney city council when it comes to the honourable member for Bligh and that council. The honourable member for Heffron should use her good offices as the local member to try to advance this matter. She should concentrate more on social capital, as the honourable member for Canterbury discussed, rather than political capital so that the community is the winner in this dispute at the end of the day. It is not about the interests of the Labor Party; it is about the interests of the Redfern-Waterloo community first and foremost.

    Pursuant to sessional orders business interrupted and motion lapsed.