Thursday, September 15, 2005

Port redevelopment and Kaurna heritage


Eager investors are already buying waterfront apartments off the plan as the 10 year redevelopment of Port Adelaide’s inner harbour gets underway. Prices start at nearly $300,000 for a one bedroom unit and skyrocket from there. There is excitement that the $1.5 billion project will transform the Port into another Fremantle or even Paddington. Louis Christopher of Australian Property Monitors likes the comparison with Paddo. “In the 70s, that was very much a workers’ rundown area but, over the course of 20 years, it changed to be one of Sydney’s blue-ribbon suburbs,” he told The Sunday Mail.

As first sods are turned, “for sale” billboards are erected and speeches are made by state government politicians, it is becoming clear that the transformed areas will be reserves for the wealthy and not the existing residents of predominantly working class Port Adelaide. Their hopes for the redevelopment are restricted to finding work in its construction and ongoing servicing. Clearer still is the fact that recognition of the location’s Indigenous heritage will be limited and token.

This is how developers Urban Concept and Multiplex Living are promoting stage one of their latest housing development:

“Edgewater is a perfectly planned community of 187 contemporary style homes… There are 2 & 3 storey villas with both harbour and park views and apartments with park views. Everything from a traffic free water’s edge promenade to beautifully landscaped park areas to enjoy. Residents enjoy exclusive membership to the Edgewater Club, providing pool, spa, sauna and gymnasium facilities for FREE. Not only luxurious and well appointed, Edgewater homes are environmentally responsible in their design too.”

There is not a word about the history of the former CSR sugar refinery site which occupied much of the area until it was demolished in 1992 to make way for the redevelopment. The Kaurna people were forced from their last traditional riverside settlement in 1891 and into homelessness or onto missions to allow the construction of the factory. Needless to say, they were not compensated.

Kaurna elder Veronica Brodie still lives locally. Her great grandmother Lartelare (Rebecca Spender) was among the Aboriginal people evicted from the CSR site. Lartelare, her husband George, son James and daughter Laura were afraid to go the mission where they risked being split up. A year later they were arrested for begging on the streets of Adelaide. When Veronica went to see the CSR factory with her grandmother Laura Spender in 1951, the young Veronica was to made promise that she would do everything she could to return the land to its traditional owners.

True to her word, Veronica began the detailed work of reclaiming the land in 1992. Kym Mayes, the then Aboriginal Affairs Minister rejected her application under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, saying that the location of the campsites was unknown and, in any case, had been destroyed by the factory. She persisted and was able to bring more proof of her people’s association with the land. Finally, the site was protected but at the end of a decade of bureaucrat buck passing and “consultation” on the part of successive governments and agencies, it seems the acknowledgment of the area’s Kaurna heritage will be minimal.

Veronica Brodie originally asked that some of the land in question be given for the construction of an aged care facility for the Aboriginal community. There will be no such facility. Instead, there will be a “Kaurna Park”, a strip of land north of the Jervois Bridge that intersects the site. This will have a monument or some other sort of installation to remind the more reflective park users of the original inhabitants. This will be added to the Kaurna Heritage Trail launched on June 1, 2003 and which comprises six “interpretative signs” that describe traditional land use of the area. There is talk of a “cultural centre” but no talk of dollars to build it. If ever such a centre gets built, it will be wee away from the water’s edge, which is about to be lined with marina berths.

Veronica is not giving up. Together with supporters, she is planning a “Cultural Heritage Day” with speakers, bands, BBQ and drinks on the land where her ancestors had their last camps. She is hoping that the event will raise awareness and protests about the plans for luxurious apartments on the traditional land of her dispossessed people. For further information on the planned heritage day, contact Cat at catikah1@yahoo.com.au.

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