Wednesday, October 4, 2023  
    see also  
    Timeline - part 1  


The lands of the Gadigal clan of the Darug language group extended from Burrawara (South Head) through to Warrane (Sydney Cove), Gomora (Cockle Bay-Darling Harbour) and Blackwattle Creek, taking in the wetland sand and dunes now known as Redfern, Erskineville, Surry Hills and Paddington. Some say Cadi (gadi) was the name of the grass trees and the name of the freshwater creek at Camp Cove, others that it may have been Kutti (Watson's Bay). AHD/Cadigal Wangal/slnsw


Dispossession of the Gadigal people began. Resistance led by Pemulwuy resulted in many deaths. Loss was intensified by introduced diseases, and the soiling of fresh water sources.


Smallpox epidemic. Colebee, his nephew Nanbree and Caruey were known to survive. Colebee died of a spear wound in 1805 and was buried at the Brickfields (Chippendale)

 1825 In the early 19th century Aboriginal people used what became Redfern as a place for camping, feasting and other social gatherings.

British land 'grants' eg William Chippendale, William Hutchinson (former convict 1799) , 'Waterloo Mills' and James Chisholm (NSW Corps), William Redfern (Canadian). AHD

 1840s Hutchinson's third daughter, Mary, married John Rose Holden in 1834. He had arrived in 1831 as an ensign. They built 'Everleigh House' on Hutchinson's Paddock, naming it after his mother's maiden name, Betty Everleigh. It showed in the maps from 1850; in the vicinity of Louis St, just north of Vine. It was later spelt Eveleigh. Two sons; George and Henry Augustus. 1849 Mary died, 1853 Holden returned to England.

 Watercolour shows the turning of the turf for the first railway.


The railway line to Parramatta Junction opened, cutting through Hutchinson's Paddock, and Chisholm's grant. The Government established repair shops at Redfern [now Central].

Aboriginal people were employed to strike through, find water etc. They came back for employment on the railway, but on 1/2 pay. Unions later fought to equalise their pay. [LT]

 1875 The site was too small, so recommendations were made to move the workshops. The Government chose nearby land; sixty-two acres 'granted' to Chisholm.
 1878 Chisholm's Grant was resumed. Eveleigh Railway Station opened [now known as Redfern].
 1881 1881 Hutchinson’s grant was subdivided for the Golden Grove estate; houses were built for workers.
 1880s Residential dwellings were constructed in Darlington, for Eveleigh Workshop workers.
 1889 Most of the Darlington area was subdivided and most of the buildings were constructed.
 1890 11,827 people worked for the NSW Department of Railways. The railway workshops at Eveleigh were the biggest employer of Aboriginal people, particularly during the late nineteenth / early twentieth century.
1906 Eveleigh Station was renamed Redfern. Redfern Station was renamed Sydney Terminal.

1914 The Department of Railways was one of Australia’s largest employers; 1/10 of them were  employed at Eveleigh. Many local Aboriginal people from Redfern were employed in the foundry, boiler room and workshops.



Aboriginal people migrated to Redfern drawn by the possibility of regular work.


During the Great Depression, many Aboriginal people sought refuge with relatives in Redfern as work in rural areas became scarce. AHD  'Eveleigh employees were involved in the advocacy of improved living and working conditions for Aboriginal people, and their citizenship rights, from the early 1930s until 1967.' LT

 1938 The Day of Mourning Read more about the photo and the Ingram family.

Many travelled from northern and western NSW for work opportunities after the outbreak of WWII.


Redfern All Blacks up and running, mix black & white players, only black gear available due to the Depression

 1944 1944   Bill Onus and Ted Duncan began organising support for the Redfern All Blacks.
  late   1940s

After WWII, residents who had bought nearby freehold land pressed Randwick Council to move squatters from La Perouse. Many moved to Redfern and sought refuge with relatives. A large Aboriginal population had now re-established itself in Redfern, which became the location of civil rights protest meetings and rallies.

 1965 Over 12,000 Aboriginal people lived in Redfern; many employed in local factories. AHC

1967 National Referendum. Many rural workers were laid off when wages equalised. At the same Aboriginal people were freed up to move around, for the first time. As racism in the country was  bad, many migrated to Sydney for better opportunities for jobs, housing and education. People who had been removed from their families came to Redfern searching to find and reclaim them.

    Timeline - part 2  
1968 – Redfern and Darlington become part of South Sydney Council

1968 – Hundreds of Aboriginal people are relocated from ‘the inner city area’ to places such as Green Valley, Mount Druitt and Campbelltown. (Cracknell & Lonergan p 26)

1969 – Many Aboriginal workers at Eveleigh goods yard are noted as being paid less than half of the other workers and are referred to as ‘boys’ (Col James in C+L p 26)

Late 1960s and early 1970s – Many Aboriginal people report that they were unjustly arrested if they were seen on the streets of Redfern after a quarter past ten.

1970 – Unjust treatment of Aboriginal people by police and the courts leads to the birth of the Aboriginal Legal Service. Bob Bellear is named director soon after.

1970 – In December the then minister for Aboriginal affairs announces a grant of $20,000 for the Aboriginal Legal Service.

1971 – Between 4000 and 9000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are estimated to be living in inner Sydney, most in unsuitable housing conditions.

1971 – Father Ted Kennedy arrives in Redfern.

1971 – Fred Hollows and Mum Shirl establish the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service. It eventually helps to fund and assist other Aboriginal Medical Services throughout Australia at this time. Fred Hollows states that the reason for starting such a service was because he saw things that he thought died out with the depression afflicting Aboriginal people daily.

1972 – Houses in Louis Street had been leased to mainly Aboriginal people by absentee landlords for many years. Ian Kiernan’s company, IBK Constructions, under the name Tierra del Fuego, purchased most of them, evicted the tenants and boarded up the houses.

1972 – When a group squatting in the houses was arrested, they were released into the care of Ted Kennedy, two other priests and Kaye Bellear at St Vincent’s Church. A green ban was placed on the houses and a mop and bucket brigade set to cleaning them up.

1972 – Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey and Bertie Williams travel to Canberra and set up a beach umbrella at [old] Parliament House to protest the McMahon Government's refusal to recognise Aboriginal land rights.

1972 – The National Black Theatre Company run by Bob Maza performs sold-out shows to rave reviews at the Nimrod Theatre.

1972 – 22 years of conservative rule is celebrated in Redfern as the McMahon government concedes defeat to the Labor Party.

1972 – The formation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is celebrated by many Redfern residents in December.

1973 – Nugget Coombs notes that ‘a politically active intelligentsia’ starts to emerge amongst the visionaries in Redfern.

1973 – Bob Bellear, squatters and supporters formed a group which stated their intentions to buy the 68 houses on what became known as The Block.

A group of campaigners, led by future judge Bob Bellear, successfully lobbied the Whitlam government for a grant which allowed the AHC to commence purchasing houses in 1972.

1973 – The Aboriginal Housing Company is registered, employing mainly Aboriginal workers to renovate and restore the houses.

1973 – Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council is established in Waterloo

1974 – Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, chaired by Charles Perkins, is set up in the factory building on the corner of Eveleigh and Vine Streets.

1974 – Black Theatre Arts & Cultural Centre opens at what is now Cope Street, Redfern, administered by Bettie Fisher. Kevin Cook, the president of the Black Theatre states that ‘This resurgence of pride as a race of people must be encouraged and made to grow stronger’. Bob Maza – the director of the company’s first play states ‘When you entertain, you educate’.

1974 – Murawina women’s centre is established on an industrial site in Eveleigh Street

1975 – Aboriginal Children’s Service is established on the first floor of the Aboriginal Housing Company by Kaye Bellear. It is a service which traces families affected by Child Removal policies.

1977 – The Black Theatre Arts & Cultural Centre closes after operating for a year without funding.

1982 – NSW Aboriginal-Police Liason Unit is set up and advocated by the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern.

1984 – The Eora Arts Centre is established in Redfern

1984/5 – Radio Redfern sets up next door to The Black Theatre site.

1985 – Tony Mundine establishes the Elouera Gymnasium at the corner of Vine Street and Eveleigh Street

1986 – Aboriginal Housing Company Redevelopment Proposal plans are drawn up for company’s Redfern estate

1987 – Boomalli Aboriginal Arts Co-operative is established in Meagher Street, Chippendale, it later moves to Cleveland Street, Redfern.

1988 – Redfern Park is the starting point for the ‘Long March of Freedom, Justice and Hope’ on Invasion Day, 26th of January

1989 – South Sydney Council is divided from the City Council

1992 – ABC Television screens Copping it Sweet, a documentary displaying the fractured nature of the relationship between local police and Aboriginal residents of Redfern

1992 – Mudgin-Gal opens on Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. It is an Aboriginal-controlled service and support centre for Aboriginal women

1992 – Paul Keating launches the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People at Redfern Oval, with what becomes known as the Redfern Speech - video / transcript

1993 - Gadigal Information Service and Koori Radio is founded in Cleveland Street, Chippendale

1993 – ‘The Summary Report’ highlights the extent of damage afflicting many houses in the Redfern area

1994 – The last house on ‘The Block’ is purchased 20 years after the initial grant by the Whitlam government

1994 – Former and current Redfern activist Charles Perkins is appointed ATSIC Commissioner and Deputy Chair

1994 – The Aboriginal Housing Company states in its Future Directions Survey that ‘To restore the dwellings would cost more than to construct new dwellings’ and that ‘The Block must remain as an asset for future generations’.

1996 – Anthony Carter, the Aboriginal Housing Company’s Secretary states on Radio National: ‘Redfern will become a place of true celebration. It will be the identity with which Uluru is the identity of traditional Australia, Redfern will become the identity of contemporary Australia’.

1996 – Drug problems plague the area and are widely publicised throughout the media

1996 – In a Redfern Church Hall the NSW government admitted that it had sanctioned the removal of approximately 8000 NSW Koori kids from their families. This is noted in the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Children from their families.

1996 – The Guwanyi exhibition opens at the Museum of Sydney, it is curated by the Redfern Aboriginal Community and highlights the struggle of Indigenous residents in the South Sydney area and particularly Redfern

1997 – The Sydney Morning Herald writes that “Heroin is permeating the community” and that there are “no local services available for mental health, drug-abuse, alcohol counselling or pregnancy” (SMH, Saturday Feb 22)

1997 – Large numbers of police raid houses on ‘The Block’ leading to lots of media attention.

1997 – ATSIC announces a $6,000,000 allocation for the demolition of ‘The Block’ despite objections by the Aboriginal Housing Company and some residents

1997 – 2003 – ATSIC and the Aboriginal Housing Company struggle to come to an agreement about the direction of ‘The Block’ and its subsequent funding

2004 – Infamous Redfern Riot ensues after death of Redfern youth TJ Hickey. Publicity and media attention on Redfern area is magnified and the negative perception of Redfern is worsened amongst the wider Australian community

2004 – Aboriginal Housing Company CEO Michael Mundine states that ‘The Block’s’ major problem was the needle exchange van, which acted as a honey pot for drug users and dealers

2004 – South Sydney council is involved in a forced amalgamation with Sydney City Council

2004 – On the 13th of March Redfern Community Centre is officially opened by the NSW Governor. The centre aims to ‘provide a meeting place for the many communities of Redfern and respond to their recreational and cultural needs’. (from website)

2004 – The AHC Community Safety Plan developed from the AHC 2004 Social Plan wins the International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) Innovation Award from the International Security Management and Crime Prevention Institute and the International CPTED Association

2004 – At Redfern’s newly built Community Centre Sydney Lord-Mayor Clover Moore signs a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ between the Sydney City Council and the city’s Indigenous representatives.

2004 – Minister for Planning through the Redfern-Waterloo Authority Frank Sartor expresses publicly his intention to reduce the number of Aboriginal Houses proposed on ‘The Block’ and disperse at least half the community

2005 – Father Ted Kennedy passes away and is mourned by over 1500 people at ‘The Block’

2005 – Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Facility opens on Cope Street, Redfern

2006 – Events such as Redfern Rocks, Rock The Block and Gathering Grounds attract thousands of people from outside of Redfern to Aboriginal-run celebrations, celebrating Aboriginal culture and values whilst promoting Reconciliation

2006 – With the appointment of Catherine Burn as Redfern Police Commander the robbery-rate alone drops by 50% in 12 months in Redfern

2007 – Hundreds of demonstrators march from Redfern to Sydney Town Hall to protest against the forced intervention by the federal government into Aboriginal communities

2008 – As part of Sydney City Council’s ‘Sydney 2030’ vision the ‘Eora Journey’ is planned. It starts in Redfern and extends to Prince Alfred Park, Hyde Park and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair; ‘…the journey would reveal stories of places of Indigenous importance, along side European landmarks, giving an Indigenous history of the land and harbour’ (from website).

2008 – Minister for Planning Frank Sartor is relieved of his duties by new NSW Premier Nathan Rees

by James Hoff
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