The Home Project

(12pm, Sunday 27 October 2013, Sydney Story Factory Redfern)

Thank you and hello everyone. I was thrilled to see the Sydney Story Factory make its home in Redfern.

This has been my place for many years, ever since my husband and I and our two young children returned from a few years living in London.

Redfern then was neglected. There were no quality open spaces, not many trees, heavy through traffic in city streets, shops with roll-a-door shutters…it was grim.


But the people were fantastic. The area was a hub for Aboriginal people from around NSW; there were the old Aussie battlers and the new-comers of Greek, Turkish, Lebanese and Portuguese backgrounds, and there was a tremendous sense of community.

Many of the big old terraces were boarding houses, and while there was a scattering of pubs, I don't think there was a café within coo-ee! Traffic thundered along Cleveland Street, and Redfern Oval was surrounded by besser blocks topped with barbed wire.

I believed the people of Redfern deserved better so when I was elected as Lord Mayor, we made improvements here a priority. We took down the ugly overhead wires and widened and paved the footpaths in Redfern Street.

We put an enormous effort into Redfern Park, to remake the Oval and install an elegant new grandstand, fabulous lights and planted more trees. It is now safe, and open for everyone to use when it is not being used for a game.

Look at the people you see in there throughout the day and into the evening - playing sport, walking their dogs, doing tai chi, enjoying a barbecue. It has become a real centre for the whole community.

We made the physical changes but there are others to be made if Redfern and Waterloo are to remain strong and cohesive communities.

One way to do that is by listening to other people's stories. Story-telling is as old as humanity and it's one of the most powerful ways we connect with each other.

The Story Factory gets that and it's encouraging the kids of Redfern and Waterloo - anyone from seven to 17 - to tell their own stories about living here. And they're also going to interview older people, to hear their stories of how it was before.

It's going to provide a wonderful picture of this very special place. I think it's another fantastic project from the Story Factory, and the City is very pleased to support it. I really look forward to seeing the results.