The Block Urban Aborigines 1973

The Block Urban Aborigines 1973

The Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) was formed in 1973 and was based on the Block. (The Block is bounded by Lawson Street, Vine Street, Louis Street and Eveleigh Street.) A group of campaigners supported by the Builders Labourers Federation lobbied the Whitlam government to transfer ownership of The Block in Redfern to the Aboriginal housing Company. The grant facilitated by Whitlam allowed the AHC to purchase and restore a group of six terrace houses. This is claimed to be the first instance of urban land rights in Australia. The AHC’s purchased all 68 houses on The Block which were renovated and rented by Koori people for Koori people. The plan was opposed by 226 residents of South Sydney who signed a petition, ‘We the undersigned residents of South Sydney vociferously protest, object and condemn the establishment of the ghetto in Louis and Caroline Streets by the Aboriginals who have squatted in these properties … we want the Aboriginal ghetto stopped now – for if allowed to continue it will spread like the plague throughout the entire South Sydney area.’ This group was called the South Sydney Residents Protection Movement. Years of woful underfunding, racism and police harassment have ensured that 'The Block' has continued to be a site of struggle and activism.

Syd Shelton

Having studied fine art in Yorkshire he began his photography practice in the early 1970s, following a move to Australia. In Sydney, Syd worked as a freelance photo-journalist for newspapers such as Nation Review, The Age, and Digger. In 1975 he had a solo exhibition of his photographs, ‘Working Class Heroes’ at the Sydney Film-makers Cooperative. In 1976, Syd returned to London and he established the design and photography partnership ‘Hot Pink Heart/Red Wedge Graphics’ which evolved into the current agency ‘Graphicsi’. Syd became one of the key activists in the movement Rock against Racism. He was the photographer and one of the designers of the RAR magazine ‘Temporary hoarding’ which was published between 1976 to 1981. During the 1980s, as well as producing photographs for magazines and the press, and graphics for the public and private sector, Syd co-edited, and was art director of, a series of photographic books that includes the award winning Day in the Life of London, and Ireland: A Week in the Life of a Nation. His work has been widely published and is in numerous collections including the V&A, The Tate Gallery, The Photographers Gallery, The Istrian Museum of Modern Art, Rock Archive, Eric Frank Fine Art and Autograph ABP. Syd's photographs from the 1970s are featured in the solo touring exhibition ‘Rock Against Racism’ currently at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until April 9.

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