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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