An account of life on The Block (Redfern)… …

15 Jun

This is an excerpt of the book, ‘Back On The Block: Bill Simon’s Story, by Pastor Bill Simon, Des Montgomerie and Jo Tuscano’ posted on SMH.com. ‘The Block’ in Redfern is called ‘Sydney’s toughest stretch of street’ by Timeout and it reveals the disparity within Australian societies, pertaining to the indigenous and non-indigenous. As the writer notes, there is the lingering problem of ‘trust’ amongst its residents and the police, despite recent efforts to build a better community:

… Trust is not something that is extended to many people. If you are not accepted, you are a “them”. This applies to all colours and races. It is the same for the police. They are always treated as outsiders. This is unfortunate as there are some very decent police, but too many locals have had bad experiences with them.

The police have an extremely difficult job and it is not made easier when some behave in a racist manner.

Unfortunately, both sides practise racism and some on The Block hate white people to the point that they will do bodily harm whenever they can. There was a time when I was like that and I can relate to what they feel. Inequality always breeds contempt.

The Block’s people are hard. Their self-preservation mechanism is astute. Even those who have slept under the same awning for months will not trust one another beyond a certain point. Everyone performs as an individual working for his own purposes, until an outside problem faces them. Then they band together, as if they have worked as a close-knit community at all times, which makes it hard for the police to operate.

Any person who robs or assaults somebody from outside is safe on The Block. There is an unbelievable amount of covering for one another.

Money is a constant source of problems for the residents. Keeping their dole payment day a secret is very difficult. Most know when one another’s payment is due. On pay days the only way recipients can keep their money for themselves is to be far away until it is all spent. Only after they are penniless can they return, usually with a small supply of drugs, a full belly and totally inebriated, to face their indignant “friends”…

Elsewhere, in the Northern Territories, life for black people continue to languish, two years after the Intervention. In the AP report, ‘Australia tries tough love to heal Aboriginal woes‘:

… Today, the streets [of the town, Wadeye] are quiet — but problems remain.

An average of 17 people live in each house. On what should be a school day, hundreds of children roam barefoot through town. Playing cards litter the ground; gambling is big in this community…

… Some believe the government’s strict approach has led Aborigines to feel even more hopeless.

“Tough love alone will not deliver outcomes,” says Jon Altman, director of the Center for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University in Canberra.

Altman questions how the government measures progress. For example, he says, officials ask store owners if people are buying more food, then claim that as proof the welfare rules are working.

Pat Rebgetz, who spent more than three years serving as Wadeye’s doctor before quitting in December, also questions the government’s rosy portrayal of its efforts. Rebgetz says the town he left behind is still a mess: Women continue to be raped, most kids can’t speak English, housing is abysmal.

“I don’t know how many millions have been spent,” Rebgetz says. “Meeting after meeting, reports, investigations — all involving white bureaucrats. And yet nothing hits the ground — nothing changes.”…

The ensuing despair coupled with the labor government’s policies in the Northern Territories have met with resistance, even from its own indigenous MPs. Marion Scrymgour, a former labor member and the NT Deputy Chief Minister, has resigned from the party over its withdrawal of the support of the ‘homelands’ policy. The Labor government has withdrawn funding for ‘outstation’ communities in homelands and directed them towards building larger towns even though research shows Aboriginal people living on the stipulated former areas tend to lead healthier lifestyles.

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