Redfern’s Aboriginal-owned housing project The Block became an icon of post-colonial Indigenous stories – and protest – in Sydney. It has seen cultural revival, riots, and now redevelopment.
Many scenes in AACTA award-winning drama Redfern Now were filmed there. Lights, cameras and actors filled buildings in Little Eveleigh Street for months, until the series premiered in an outdoor showing for Redfern locals – many of whom had featured as extras.
But as Redfern Now makes its NITV debut this week, The Block is not as it was. Its private owner, the Aboriginal Housing Company, is controversially turning it into the $70 million, 16-storey “Pemulwuy Project”, combining retail space and accommodation for 500 students with 62 affordable homes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families (to match the 62 houses of The Block).
Shortly after the premiere of Redfern Now, SBS won the 2012 Walkley Award for Coverage of Indigenous Affairs for The Block: Stories From a Meeting Place, a groundbreaking online documentary produced in partnership with the Redfern Indigenous community.
It's a virtual time capsule that reflects The Block as it was, just after the 41 remaining residents received notice to vacate their homes. You can use it to “walk” down the streets of The Block, captured at that time in panoramic photography, listening to the sounds of the area and encountering interviews with locals - including boxer Anthony Mundine.
It will prepare you well for powerful drama Redfern Now, which tells the stories of six inner city households around Redfern, whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.
The cast includes Deborah Mailman (Rabbit-Proof Fence, Cleverman), Leah Purcell (Bran Nue Dae), Dean Daley-Jones (Mad Bastards), Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits), stars of The Sapphires Miranda Tapsell, Shari Sebbens and Wayne Blair, and Kelton Pell (Cloudstreet, The Circuit).
Acclaimed British scriptwriter Jimmy McGovern (known for Cracker and The Lakes) worked with the writers of the series as Story Producer. Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair, Catriona McKenzie and Leah Purcell were among Redfern Now's directors.
Their contemporary tales of Indigenous people are sure to draw attention to how Redfern has changed, and how many of its stories are yet to be told.
Start watching Redfern Now this Thursday from 7:30pm on NITV.
Visit online documentary The Block: Stories from a Meeting Place: www.sbs.com.au/theblock
(Note: The Block requires Adobe Flash and may not work on some phones.)