The other side of Redfern

Redfern. The name probably evokes memory of the 2004 Redfern riots and the Aboriginal enclave in the Block. As with other uni students who use Redfern station, I’m fairly familiar with the part to the west of the station. But what lies to the east? With a camera, I set out to investigate.

The chance came about because as part of our clerkship at Blake Dawson, we get to have a one-day pro bono visit to one of the centres that the firm supports. So, on a warm summer’s day, I found myself at the Intellectual Disability Rights Service on Regent Street in Redfern; the service provides legal advice to people with intellectual disabilities:

img_1804The day begins by heading out of the “other” side of Redfern station:


Redfern, to the south of the CBD, is a stone’s throw from the city centre; the Ernst & Young sign can be clearly seen just above the trees:


It was surprising how spacious Redfern feels, in comparison to the cramped city streets. Combined with the general lack of high-rises, you could say that it is fairly free of visual clutter, but at the same time, it lacks the relatively lucious greenery that you find on the way from the station to uni. The atmosphere along Regent Street is a little subdued, somewhat lacking in vibe, confidence and energy – almost as if its inhabitants were already preparing for a siesta by early morning:


Architecture-wise, there were no surprises, with many terrace houses typically found in the older parts of Sydney and on the west side of the station as well:


But there was no doubt that this was suburbia, despite its relative closeness to the CBD:


Some parts have been gentrified, with higher-density development. It looks like they were after a community plaza feel further down Regent Street, although it appears that this benefited more pigeons than people:

img_1783What was surprising was the ethnic diversity in Redfern; for example, Wikipedia reliably informs me that 5.5% of Redfern’s population speaks Chinese, and only 55.9% spoke English exclusively at home. I would never have suspected that the suburb was a magnet for migrants, although I suspect migrants of past times were not as well-off or as well-connected as more recent migrants:

img_1784There was some street art, but I couldn’t help but feel that its primary purpose was to fill up space, rather than invigorate the streetscape:

img_1796Redfern, together with the other areas south of the CBD, will be undergoing substantial redevelopment in the next few decades, as the CBD reaches capacity and the attraction of inner-city living increases with rising transport costs. The challenge, however, is to work out how Redfern can be integrated with the rest of the city. Paradoxically, the railway line that forms the lifeblood of the city divides it in two, with Redfern, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst on one side and the trendier Glebe, the gentrified Ultimo and the well-patronised Haymarket on the other.

More photos.

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1 comment

  1. James Patterson’s avatar

    I have written an article about Redfern which is featured in an online arts and current affairs magazine accessible at:

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