ELIZABETH STREET, SYDNEY, ABORIGINAL SACRED SITE
The Hon. ELISABETH KIRKBY [5.05 p.m.]: On Tuesday, 22 April, Premier Carr delivered the National Trust heritage week lecture. At the end of the lecture members of the National Aboriginal History and Heritage Council rose to ask if they could ask questions. They were informed that they could not. When they attempted to ask questions about the day of mourning site they were accused by a National Trust representative of being fascists and failing to observe the democratic process. They have sent me the questions that they wish to ask the Premier and have asked me to put them on the public record. The questions are:
The following day a function was organised by the National Aboriginal History and Heritage Council at Australian Hall, the heritage site that they wish to preserve. About 170 supporters of the campaign to stop redevelopment of the site attended a special lunchtime visit arranged by the council to focus public attention on the plight of the site during the National Trust heritage week. Visitors were given a narrated tour of the site, which is now occupied by the Mandolin cinema. They were able to walk down the original dusty stairwells leading to the back doors from where the activists were believed to have entered the hall in 1938.
They were able to walk into alcoves where the original floor can still be seen, and heard to creak, and to stand just above the spot where the activists had sat around their conference table. Last November the New South Wales Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning, Craig Knowles, gazetted his decision to preserve only the building’s facade, retained because of its European architectural interest. The commission has condemned this as an act of wanton heritage vandalism and is pursuing legal actions; one under the Racial Discrimination Act and another under the administrative review legislation.
Negotiations are taking place between the owners of the building, the NAHHC and the Sydney metropolitan local Aboriginal Land Council for the possible purchase of the building. Tragically, the bid to acquire the site may force the sale of Aboriginal land in order for the council to raise the finance. The Minister for the Environment, Pam Allan, is considering an application by the NAHHC for the building to be protected as an Aboriginal place under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. A report prepared by the National Parks and Wildlife Service states that the building has exceptional significance to Aboriginal people and recommends that the entire site be gazetted as an Aboriginal place.
The Minister’s decision is awaited. However, if the Aboriginal order is granted the National Aboriginal History and Heritage Council will maintain its fight to have the building placed under the protective powers of a permanent conservation order under the New South Wales Heritage Act. I believe that the New South Wales shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs has given notice that he intends to move a motion in the other place condemning the Carr Government’s failure to protect the site. The motion was to have been moved in the period from 6 to 8 May. I trust that the motion will be moved. If it is not, I give notice that I will move a similar motion in this House because I believe that this is a very important site and should be protected.
Why does the heritage policy which is to provide a special opportunity to raise community awareness of the heritage value of our natural, cultural and built environment, not extend to the day of mourning site, the venue of the first national Aboriginal civil rights protest held on 26 January 1938? Why does the Premier refuse to acknowledge the need to conserve and protect this unique built environment site of national Aboriginal heritage significance? Why did the Premier ignore William Simpson’s recommendation, Chief Commissioner of the Environment and Planning Commission, for a permanent conservation order on the entire site? Why did the Premier ignore representations by the National Trust, Australian Heritage Commission and Sydney City Council, all of whom have listed the site in their heritage registers? Why did the Premier ignore 2,000 letters from the community appealing for the site to be saved from demolition?