'Such a shame': Aboriginal flag mural at Redfern's Block torn down

 smh.com.au  06/14/2019 08:23:07 

'Such a shame': Aboriginal flag mural at Redfern's Block torn down

For nearly two decades, Redfern's famous Aboriginal flag mural loomed over the Block - a symbol of continuity as the inner city area's streets were rocked by riots and its rows of derelict terraces razed.

But the mural was this week ripped down for high-rise student housing, removing one of the most recognisable nods to Redfern's past as the focal point of Aboriginal culture and politics in Sydney.

Bulldozers ripped down Redfern's famous Aboriginal flag mural this week.

Bulldozers ripped down Redfern's famous Aboriginal flag mural this week.Credit:Janie Barrett

While remnants of the mural were visible at the worksite on Friday, the bulk of the wall had been torn down on Thursday.

"It's such a shame, it's devastating," said Blake Robinson, a Bundjalung man who grew up in Redfern-Waterloo.

"The flag itself was symbolic but it's definitely not the be-all and end-all of Aboriginal culture and people in Redfern.

"It was probably the last thing that was going to go that symbolised we were here. Now we just need to do that with our presence and our activism and our culture."

The mural has been the backdrop for Aboriginal culture and politics in recent years.

The mural has been the backdrop for Aboriginal culture and politics in recent years. Credit:Jenny Evans

The flag mural was painted in 2000 by Alex Tui, a former world champion kickboxer, on the wall of the Elouera-Tony Mundine Gym, where he was manager for 25 years.

That building is being demolished to make way for student accommodation, known as the Pemulwuy Project, for 600 university students and 62 homes for Indigenous families.

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There are plans for an image of the mural to feature in a replacement gym at the redeveloped site.

Tongan-born Mr Tui restored the mural in 2014, despite knowing the artwork's days were numbered.

Mr Tui said at the time he had chosen a design the Indigenous community "would identify with and they'd be proud of".

"I thought it was something that would bring people together and [reaffirm] ownership of their part of Sydney," said Mr Tui, who raised his family on Eveleigh Street, told the Heraldin 2014.

"At that time there was a lot of bad news, all negative, about the Block & but there's a lot of good things about the Block. I found I was accepted there more than anywhere else I lived in Sydney."

REDWatch spokesman Geoff Turnbull said the modern mural had become an "iconic image of Redfern" and had "entered into pop culture because it has represented Redfern more recently".

"But it's also coming down because the Block is being redeveloped and that image will become part of the Pemulwuy Project," he said.

Plans to redevelop the Block - which was the scene of riots in 2004 - have been repeatedly delayed by setbacks and changes, and surrounded by controversy.

For more than a year an Aboriginal tent embassy occupied the grassed area in front of the Aboriginal flag mural to protest the gentrification of the area and the erosion of its Indigenous links.

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