The newly-appointed boss of Redfern’s National Centre of Indigenous Excellence has revealed her shock at news of its imminent closure and urged its operator to explain how the centre’s handover broke down.
Closure of the cherished 180 George Street facility has sparked community outrage and a planned sit-in protest on Monday when it is expected to close its doors.
NCIE chief executive Jasmine Ryan said the organisation was given no chance to have a say on the closure one month after the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation began work to hand it over to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
“For ILSC to come in and tell us, no, you’re not going to be with NSWALC we’re actually shutting you down instead was just, it was a lot to take in, especially when they there’s no real reason being shared on why,” she said.
— Clover Moore (@CloverMoore) August 2, 2022
“Which understandably for a lot of people is not really a good enough answer.
“It was ILSC that made the decision to close down NCIE, and the only people who can change that are ILSC themselves.”
Ms Ryan said issues impeding the swap, which Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has ordered a probe into, remained unclear.
While rejecting claims staff were being told to sign non-disclosure agreements, Ms Ryan said the payouts offered were disappointing.
“On Monday, what happened is everyone was kind of brought together and the casual staff were given paperwork, as notice to say that unfortunately the gym is being closed in seven days and this is the package that they will be paid as part of the redundancy process,” she said.
“Some of those packages were really small.
“It’s really disappointing.”
Ms Ryan’s comments come after a joint statement from ILSC and NCIE chief executives claimed a suitable agreement could not be reached.
A follow-up statement from ILSC acknowledged the community response and distress to staff, and said counselling would be offered.
“All tenants have been advised that their tenancies will continue under the new ownership to ensure that they can continue to run programs for the benefit of the local community,” an ILSC spokesperson said.
“Through this difficult period NSWALC and the ILSC are working together to try and ensure that community groups retain their current access arrangements with minimal disruption.
The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence is the beating heart of the Aboriginal community in Redfern.
I have spoken with the CEO and Chair of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation and the Member for Sydney today.
— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) August 2, 2022
“The ILSC is confident NSWALC will work to ensure the site remains part of the fabric of the local community, delivering benefits for Aboriginal people into the future.”
The centre, at the former site of Redfern public school on George Street, has been a pillar of the inner-Sydney First Nations community since opening in 2006.
The hole it threatens to leaves in the heart’s of many is shared by Ms Ryan, who attended NCIE classes as a child.
“Some of them (the staff) have been coming to this gym since they were 12 years old themselves,” she said.
“Some of them have been working here since they were 16.
“It’s not just a job to some of our staff, they have grown up here, this is like a second home to them.
“This is where they come to feel safe.”
The Redfern community came out in numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the news, and a major protest is earmarked for Monday morning.
Youth programs such as Tribal Warrior and Youth Connect are expected to continue.