It is impossible to stroll through the National Aboriginal Center of Excellence without being struck by the tangible pride in the sporting achievements displayed there. From the Wallabies rugby jersey signed by the three Ella brothers, to the plaques honoring Indigenous Olympians and Paralympians, to the photographic montage celebrating Cathy Freeman. If you miss them, chances are you’ll spot a gentle giant in the form of former rugby league champion Solomon Haumono leading a fitness class for a group of youngsters.
The center has been a sanctuary for thousands of members of the local community since its establishment in the heart of Redfern over a decade ago. He has been a hub, a magnet, a home away from home. He signaled a rejuvenating and rejuvenating uprising in a corner of Australia that was once marked by crime and dysfunction.
Five days a week, dozens of children are picked up after school, bused to the centre, given a healthy meal – for some their first of the day – and cared for through organized programs. Six days a week, the place welcomes toddlers and teenagers, sports enthusiasts and the elderly. It runs leadership, fitness, cultural and life skills programs. She manages social groups and youth groups. It has an aquatic center, a 25-meter swimming pool, basketball courts, gymnasiums and weight-training facilities.
However, everything can collapse. It is threatened with closure, which would be a tragedy with unforeseeable consequences. It would be an appallingly short-sighted abdication of social, political and corporate responsibility by parties who should have recognized the exponential ramifications of closing the center and should have the means to pool their resources and ensure that this does not happen. not produce.
“We are a safe space where children can develop their capacities for life,” says Margaret Haumono, executive director of Redfern Youth Connect, a force of nature that does everything from running youth programs to meeting young people. potential benefactors going through the center running on all cylinders. “Our children are learning life skills here. They learn values. They learn to give back. They have suffered so many losses in their lives; if we close they will be back on the streets.
The crisis came when the Commonwealth-owned Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) – designed to help indigenous people acquire land after the 1992 Mabo judgment – bought the former state school in Redfern. He set up the center and later handed over ownership to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, but negotiations between the two bodies broke down, with the $2 million annual operating loss being the critical factor in the standoff.
Addressing a protest meeting last Friday, Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney said the center must remain open, its programs and services must continue, its tenants must be permanent and its staff must retain their use.