Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hidden Slums in the City of Celebrations

Posted by Nia Reed, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – The world famous Opera House brands Sydney like the Eiffel Tower brands Paris, and the Sydney your typical tourist sees is one of striking beauty matched only by the charm of its people. When Oprah Winfrey shot a live show in Sydney during late 2010, Americans saw wealth, extravagance, and splendor. Indeed, Sydney is one of the country’s most expensive cities, and perhaps one of the more expensive places to live in the world. Ironically, however, Sydney’s luxurious apartments, where the likes of Russell Crowe reside, sit less than 10 minutes away from impoverished Aboriginal communities where dilapidated buildings litter the landscape. These are the hidden slums of "The City of Celebrations".
The Redfern Community contains some improved housing, but scores of run-down, make shift buildings where people live – some even boarded up – are readily visible as well. Broken windows are numerous, and stray cats are everywhere, roaming the neighborhood looking for food. Garbage is piled up on the sidewalks because the city doesn’t have regular garbage pick up there, an indication of official disinvestment and neglect.
Tensions between the Aboriginal people of Sydney, city officials, and do-gooders are long standing. A teenage boy was killed after falling off his bike and impaled by a nearby fence in 2004. Soon after what are now known as the Redfern Riots erupted. The Aboriginal community claimed the boy was being chased by the police; city officials deemed the incident an accident.
Several Sydney organizations, including the Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company, continue to actively pursue real change in the housing conditions for the Aboriginal citizens. There has been some improvement, but the work is slow and arduous.

Nia Reed is a Doctoral student in the Sociology Department at Georgia State University. She also received a Master’s degree in Gerontology there. She is a Team Leader on the GSU Urban Health Initiative, a project examining the impact of public housing demolition and relocation in Atlanta, and a professional back-up singer. You can contact Nia at

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