The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place

Diane Whittaker, 50, is a Kamilaroi housewife from Walgett. Here she shares her story of arriving on the Block in Redfern for the interactive documentary The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place.

She ran away from home at the age of 12 and came to Sydney aboard the tour bus of Aboriginal rock band the Black Lace in the early 1970s.

When she was 18, she and her mother moved into their first house on the Block at 96 Eveleigh Street. She later lived at 92 and finally 48 Eveleigh Street.

In 1975, Diane married her husband Jeff, who passed away in 1997.

In 1993, the Redfern needle exchange van began operating on the Block. It handed out up to 700 needles per day, while parked directly across from children’s play areas.

Many of the Block’s residents, including Diane, were strongly opposed to the van’s presence on the Block. They felt it was exposing their children to drugs and they fought hard for the service to be moved. It continued to operate until 2005.

Diane witnessed first-hand how the Block changed, from the vibrant and healthy community it was in the 1970s and ‘80s, to a place troubled by drugs and violence in the early ’90s.

This change had particularly tragic consequences for Diane: her daughter Vanessa had her first experience with heroin at the age of 12.

In 1997, Diane’s family was among the residents who opted to be relocated, and they moved out of their home on the Block.

Diane now lives in Glebe and has had 11 children (six of whom are living) and six grandchildren.