17 February 2004

On the drawing board

If ever a master plan were needed, it is in Redfern. And good design can help restore something like normalcy, according to Dillon Kombumerri, one of Australia's few Aboriginal architects.

Kombumerri, who is with the Aboriginal Design Unit, Merrima, based in the NSW government architect's office, has been working on a master plan for Redfern and the block, as this Whitlam-era exercise in urban land rights and affordable housing is known.

Most of the original houses - 68 of the 91, according to the Government - have already been demolished. Those that remain are in a poor state, although the drug dealers who have insinuated themselves are not complaining.

Kombumerri once worked for the custodians of the block, the Aboriginal Housing Company, so he knows the dispiriting history of attempts at urban renewal. Even so, he feels there is no choice but to be optimistic. 'I can't see it not succeeding,' he says.

Within weeks the master plan will go to the housing company and the Government. It will offer suggestions not just for new housing on the block but for linkages with public open space and the rail line.

Merrima has a good record. Carr should ensure that their master plan is considered in a hurry.

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