29 May 2006
Ali Golding is a Biripai woman from the north coast of New South Wales. She is graduate of Nungalinya College in Darwin with a Certificate and a Diploma in theology (2004). She lived on the Block for twenty years and is a community elder. She and her family now live in Little Bay near La Perouse.
Here we are in Holden Street, which is on the Block in Redfern, and next to me I’ve got Aunty Ali Golding. The date today is 29 May 2002. I will ask Aunty Ali questions about some of her experiences here on The Block.
Ali Golding: My name is Ali Golding and I’m one of the elders here on the Block. I’ve been here a bit over twenty-one years. So every time I have an interview that seems to be another year and I am over twenty-one years living on the Block now. I have seen people come and I’ve seen people go. I’ve seen babies born, I’ve seen people die. But the Aboriginal community here in Redfern, called the Block, is so special to me. It has its big downs, we have had more downs in this community than ups, but I believe one day, I mightn’t be here except in spirit, the ups will be real rewarding. The ups will be great because the Creator will raise up this community, I feel that. I feel that in my spirit.
But when I got here in the late 1970s, I had six children. I have seven, but six moved to the Block with my husband and I. Our first home was given to us by Mickey, by the Housing Company, run then by Richard Pacey, who was the co-ordinator. Mickey said there was a vacant home here when we asked, you know, so I was really grateful to have that home here on the Block because living in a private home with six kids is very hard even if both people work. Even if mum and dad are working, it is very hard to cope paying the private rent so I was very grateful when we got the house here on the Block. So we moved to the Block at the end of the 1970s. From that day on, I never really wanted to move off the Block because there were things to do. When we first moved here, there wasn’t any graffiti on the walls. All the gutters were all clean, no broken bottles or empty cans. The community was a beautiful community when I moved into it. You could feel the flowing of the spirit was so great and moving.
That spirit is still moving but what is happening as the community has been going downhill, there has been a loss of a lot of discipline from the families here, a lot of hurts and pain of people coming into the community looking for comfort and peace. I am talking about stolen generation people looking for their families. They stayed here. I am not saying it is their fault but I am saying the place got a little bit overcrowded with a lot of hurting people, people with a lot of pain. Then the media used that, the overcrowding of the community, they used that in a real bad negative way so things started to happen worse. As I said, the community was going downhill. But seeing it was going downhill, my spirit was still satisfied in this community. I still wanted to stay on because I knew the Creator has placed me here to try and help the people in this community, try to talk to the broken people of this community.
So it got worse. The co-ordinator moved away, who was looking after the Housing Company, then he went back to the country, I think it was for health reasons but I’m not quite sure. Then as it was going more downhill, the pace in the community has gotten faster, has started to move faster. Society has started to move faster. Then the drugs started pouring in. I keep on keeping on having my hope in this community because I know this community has a lot of good things in it. A lot of good people are staying here as well.
Why I believe and have got a lot of hope in this community is so many prayers of all different denominations, even international, American Indians put us in their prayer books, New Zealand people in their churches over there are putting us down in their prayer books. So there are prayers not only in Australia but outside of Australia, people are praying for this place. It is discriminated against. This place has been put down so much by non-Aboriginals, Aboriginals, media, and I believe it can’t go any worse than what it is because the Creator’s hand is upon this community, I believe that with all my heart. I believe he whom we serve, God Almighty, is not a creator that sleeps, or slumbers, he hears all the prayers and I believe that he will answer them all. It just reminds me of Nazareth, you know, what good came out of Nazareth, Jesus came out of Nazareth and he was the good that came out of Nazareth. That is what I believe for this community, that good is going to come out of this community. I believe that the Creator’s hand is on this community. There is going to be a big turnover, a big positive and a great turnover in this community. That is just the hope I have.
Aunty Ali, just talking about that and the good things that have come out, you are thinking about the future in a sense. Looking back would you be able to describe to the listeners some of the good that has come from the Block so far.
Ali Golding: Yes well I believe looking back, a lot of good things have happened and still a lot of good things are happening here but they are under cover. The media don’t want to hear about the good things that are happening on the Block here, they are only interested in the bad negative things, but there are things still going good here. I think about the Triple R, the Redfern Residents for Reconciliation, even that has really made a good happening, a positive action, in this community. You wouldn’t believe this but there are international big celebrities who came into this community and asked a lot of questions about the people and the community.
It is a real sad thing that we’ve never had a big resource centre here where people could come through and look at all these great celebrities who when they came to Australia wanted to see the Block and the Aboriginal people on the Block. That’s Michael Jackson, and he is the greatest celebrity throughout, and he came here and wanted to meet the Aboriginal people on the Block and the children. His sister came twice, Janet Jackson. She came twice here. Then Whoopi Goldberg, another great black entertainer, the greatest, she’s my favourite. Even she came here and just spoke to the children and the teenagers and the elders. Here we have another fellow, Danny Glover, great black actor in Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson, well he came here, him and his wife. We gave him the Redfern All Blacks T-shirt and he loved it. He went to visit the prison, the Aboriginal people in Long Bay, and they gave him a big painting. They told me he just wept, just wept like a baby when he received that painting from the Aboriginal people in Long Bay Gaol. This is the thing with the Block, it must be really effective if people are going to come and look. Are they going to come and look at something negative or are they drawn by a great a powerful spirit, an energy, a drawing?
I reckon myself it is that spirit, that good powerful energy that draws these people to this community. This community is nothing good to look at. People raise their foreheads and their eyes with big sighs and say, 'Oh my goodness, I wouldn’t let my dog live down there,' and yet there is a very special spirit in this place and I wouldn’t like to see that spirit fade away. I would love to see that spirit come again, have a powerful energy again, like it had and it draws those people here to it, you know. It is not that they just want to sticky beak. I believe it is that spirit draws them here. It is like a very sacred spiritual water hole here on the Block. To me, it is because it is very effective. Positively effective.
On the other side, it is an opportunity for negative people to come and have a look at this so-called the Block, where people wouldn’t let their dogs lay down. I have to say they balance, the negative and the positive. I think they balance which ever way you look, or turn, or see. But I believe that the most positive energy takes place more than the negative. When you live in the community, you feel it. You know you live here and you feel the community, you feel the spirit and no one can take that away from you. I have been questioned, 'Why do you live on the Block?' and I say, 'Well if you have felt the energy and felt the spirit that I feel in this place, you’d want to too.' But it is that I take the time of being still and feeling that spirit.
Now the community just looks at that. There are needs and they don’t look above those needs. They see our young people, the broken spirit of young people. But when you know who is holding the community by the hand, and that is the Creator, you look above those needs and know there is hope for this community. I just pray for it every day that it will get back. I believe it will get back to how it used to be. As I said in the earlier part, no broken bottles. I believe this community will get back to that. That is my hope and that is my prayer and I believe it. I wouldn’t believe a man if a man came and said it wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t believe men because I believe in the Creator. I believe the degrading of the Block, how badly it has been put down, I believe the Creator will uplift that and turn it over. Turn it around into a beautiful place where people are going to come and look at the Block and see all of the beauty in the Block, see it beautiful. I believe that. I believe when God touches anything and turns it around, it is a miracle and I believe that is what is going to happen to The Block. That’s my greatest hope, a miracle for the Block.
With that in mind, I know all things are in the Creator’s hands too, what do you think our part could be, or should be, towards that?
Ali Golding: Our part if we pray for people and believe in prayers I think the prayer leaders, we are called leaders but we are not titled what leaders we are, so if we titled ourselves and called ourselves prayer leaders in this community and just let unity take place. The unity in prayer leaders. We have to come together if we are going to see the change. We know the Creator is all power, all strength, but we can make the move too. We don’t have to sit back and just pray. We believe in prayer but not just sitting back and praying. I think if we believe in the Creator, we should be active, we should get up and do something. If we are just going to pray, just leave it at the prayers all the time, we become idle, we become lazy and expect the Creator to do everything. We have got to get up and move. We’ve got to use our energy. If we say who we are, prayer leaders, we have got to be active, in action as well. I believe action goes alongside prayers. We’ve got to move, we don’t have to stay in one place. If prayer leaders are not active, the community will remain as it is so we have got to move ahead. When we move as prayer leaders, and active prayer leaders, then the community will move. I think that is what the Creator is waiting for, us to move. If we move to reach out to the community with compassion, because Jesus done that, that is [the] only thing that could break every barrier of bitterness, hatred, all these bad negative things that people have against one another. I believe when you show your compassion you can break through every barrier. Jesus knew that. Break through anything. Whatever the barrier is, I believe compassion can break that. This is what we have to use. That is the only weapon to break through all these things, that is, compassion for our lost ones.
Prayer leaders have to come together, have to have compassion for one another too. When we become active, we have got to be active with one another, we’ve got to build that up, become one with that energy, with that active energy, become one. If we become one, it would be so powerful. Not pulling against each other, or segregating one another, or jealousy towards one another. Jealousy is a terrible curse, it is, it pulls back a lot of people from doing what they want to do. It stops a lot of moving towards the goal that we set ourselves. Jealousy is a terrible curse. So we get rid of that and turn that into compassion, this community will stand off a giant. It would stand off a lighthouse. But it is up to us with our prayer, with our energy and dynamic action. We’ve got to reach out and do things. Come together and get up the top of Eveleigh Street, bottom of Eveleigh Street, Caroline Street, entrance to Caroline Street coming in, Vine Street, Hudson Street. We have got to stand on these entrances into this community, stretch forth our hands and just pray and claim it. Claim the community, claim the land and the people. We have to do that. Maybe that is all He is waiting for, for us to come to action as prayer leaders.
Okay Aunty Ali, could you just describe the Block as if someone was going to look at a painting of what it looked like at the end of the 1970s. Describe what the street looked like, maybe what the people were doing, something like that.
Ali Golding: Well as I said there was nothing in the gutters or anything. Also, because I love gardening and I love trees, when we first moved in, there were little verandahs outside the front of the houses and there was a tree each. You would look down Eveleigh Street and there was a nice little square space for a garden outside each house and in that little square verandah piece in the front of the houses, all different trees. There were paperbark trees, which grew lovely, and then when the time of the season came around, there would be the white blossom, they’d be really lovely. Then we had the palms and the palms would have like beads hanging from them and it was really beautiful. So there were these paper bark trees and nice palm trees growing in nearly every little garden, our front little square verandah, our front. People would have their pot plants around on the square, part of the verandah on the bricks as they were built in a square form. People would have their little pot plant and things growing there. South Sydney Council were very good at doing the streets, the humps and the footpaths. So it all looked really, really nice.
Louis Street, we had the church and somebody drew a beautiful... It used to be the Black Market, it was called the Black Market in those days in the late 1970s. We used to go in there and it was really handy for the families there because that was our shop. The kids had a lot of pride in that. Not only the kids, but the whole Aboriginal family, had great pride in having their own shop, supermarket, and they called it the Black Market. I remember one of the teachers at the opening of the Black Market, he was an Indian teacher at the Darlington Primary School, and he said, 'Oh I heard about the opening of your Black Market, the supermarket down in Louis Street,' he said this to the kids, and they said, 'Oh yes, sir and you’re allowed to come in to our Black Market because you’re black too.' He was Indian, see, or Pakistani. They had the pride in their own supermarket. I was really disappointed when they did close it down, our own supermarket. All down that street also was trees growing out further onto the footpath in Louis Street. Hugo Street was the same, it was a tree-lined street as well. But Eveleigh Street looked really nice from the top of Eveleigh Street looking over the trees outside every house and looking towards the city, the buildings. It was really a beautiful sight.
Along Caroline Street as far as Louis Street, I think, it is where that vacant block is now, was where the Housing Company used to be, the office. That was really lively with people coming and going, coming and going. It was really a great place in those days of great movement. There was a lot of moving in the community, children, families and workers as well there. Namaroo was established, the education part of the Block, they had TAFE courses running there. The Housing Company, Namaroo. Namaroo came long after the Black Market. It was really good.
The Black Market I can see it really plain in my mind, coming around off Vine Street, coming into Louis Street to the Black Market and you would see all the little kids sitting on the steps there licking ice-creams and having ice blocks and stuff there. It was a really happy atmosphere in those days. People talked. The beauty part of it is when I first moved there, you had little children knocking on your door, 'Aunty, my mummy said have you got a needle and cotton?'. Or someone else would come over, a little kid with a little sweet bowl, 'My mummy said, can you give her a bit of sugar until tomorrow,' Pension day was tomorrow, see. All this went on and it was real cultural communication, someone coming to your door for a bit of sugar, a needle and cotton and other things. It was great in that way in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That was the most comfortable and enjoying years of my experience living on the Block, the late 1970s and early 1980s. To get back to that now that would be great. But I believe the place is healing, it will come back to that time. It takes a while for healing to get back to where the Block used to be.
When you talk about a community, are we just talking about Aboriginal people? Has there been a mixture of people here? Could you describe the people, even going back to the 1970s to now? Maybe there was a change, I don’t know.
Ali Golding: Well there used to be a coffee shop, a little factory, just up the top of Eveleigh Street on the right hand side as you’re going down Eveleigh Street, and the smell of coffee used to be lovely as you walked past there. Used to give coffee out to the Aboriginal people, you know. That was there but then they had to close down for some health reasons and they moved. Down further there is a lady, a non-Aboriginal lady, before you get to Holden Street, she has lived in that house right down the bottom of Eveleigh Street on your right for years, she has lived there for years. That’s her own home and she won’t move, she won’t leave. Of all the things that have happened on the Block, you know riots and everything, she won’t leave. I remember that lady when my daughter-in-law and my son lived further up, 71 Eveleigh Street, and I remember talking to her, I think she was of Scottish descent. So she was non-Aboriginal. Then there was my husband when we came here to Eveleigh Street, he was an Englishman, but he fitted in there. He fitted in really great. Then there were non-Aboriginal people coming and going, buying private houses on the Block. You know buy a private home, stay for a while and then move off. In Louis Street there was a private house there. There were people [who] came and had that renovated and fixed up, non-Aboriginal people, and they stayed for a while then they got up and moved out. There was an Aboriginal family who came in after that and stayed there then. But I think the non-Aboriginal people came and went, stayed for a while and then went again.
There was a man for fourteen years, he was in a little bus, combi van, and he used to sell juices and eggs and bacon and everything here to all the families on the Block. Alan, his name was. They named him ‘Mr Juicy’. I tell you what, with his eggs and bacon and off-pension week, the ladies used to tick him up for big plastic bottles of juices of all sorts, passionfruit, lemon, orange, and he’d give it to them. A couple of packets of eggs, packets of bacon. He always seemed to be handy. They all waited for him, sweated for him, off-pension week. I mean to say, he had some bad moments, experiences, on the Block, but that didn’t stop him, he kept coming. Fourteen to fifteen years he was doing that kind of thing, delivering eggs and drinks and that for the families on the Block. Then he turned around and bought a bit of land down on the south coast and he found a new girlfriend and they got married and they moved down there. He was greatly missed when he got married and went and lived down the south coast. People used to sit around and talk about Mr Juicy. We missed him, you know.
I remember just before I came onto the Block, we used to live in Wilson Street, up near the railway there, just a bit up from the Block here, there was a rabbito man, used to have a van, going around in a little small van selling rabbits, skinned rabbits. You would hear him and he would sing out real loud, “Rabbito,” and ring the bell. We lived for ten years in Wilson Street and he always came there. Then he went somewhere and never sang out “Rabbito.” He might have moved to another club or whatever. I don’t know whether he came onto the Block.
Then there were other people coming onto the Block selling things like packets of lollies, a $1.50 or $2 a bag. Mr Whippy as well. Mr Whippy was very popular on the Block with the kids. His last moment before leaving the Block, the kids would be running behind his van and they would be ticking up ice-creams and stuff, but then he would give him free because they were his last couple of minutes. Before he left the Block he would give them free ice-creams. I think Mr Whippy still comes. But all these people got used to the children on the Block, like the lolly man, Mr Juicy with the families, Mr Whippy. I tell you what they knew and when to come around too. They knew the pension days. But then Mr Juicy used to come on off-pension days, so he was more handy with the families than the others.
Non-Aboriginal people living here, only if they were partners or living with the Aboriginal women who lived on the Block. Then the pre-school, Murawina Pre-School, they had non-Aboriginal teachers. Then it just went Aboriginal about ten years after that. Just all Aboriginal teachers organised it, co-ordinated it, bookkeepers. I think there is a non-Aboriginal bookkeeper still there but he is a Sri Lankan man. A lot of non-Aboriginal people or other indigenous people apart from Aboriginal, they would come on the Block and have their time here and done little favours and that for Aboriginal people here and left again.
The CDEP that started up in 1990. That was going really good in the early 1990s because they had all these enterprises like they had the Koori Cafe up on the top of Eveleigh Street where the old pub used to be. They had qualified caterers and the CDEP ran that through the TAFE in Petersham, that’s where the qualified caterers went through and done their course there and had their certificates. Then the art work was done in Holden Street here where they done all the fabric and everything, screen printing and everything, they set up a screen printing area here in Holden Street. Then they had sewers, women that sewed the dresses, tops and stuff, and put them up into another section from the cafe, into another little room section, that was a shop where they would sell all the screen printing stuff and the T-shirts and everything. People started coming in and buying, non-Aboriginal people was coming in as customers. I think the sign was a little bit out of order because it had the Koori Cafe. There were university students coming out of Redfern Railway Station and they’d peep in and they’d say, “Is this all just for Kooris to come in and have a hamburger or a cup of tea, or for everybody?” I would say, “For everybody.” I would think we should get off that sign, the Koori Cafe, but then we thought no we wouldn’t get rid of that because that was our cafe, all we have to do is write underneath it, ‘Everybody is welcome’. So it was good. We had people from Westpac, just up the back of the TNT buildings, when that was open; it has been closed for a few years now; when that was in service, those girls used to come down for hamburgers. There were two Westpac tellers, girls, non-Aboriginal, and they’d say they were the best hamburgers they had ever tasted in Sydney, so that was good.
When I mentioned about Danny Glover, the big American black actor, him and his wife came and had a look at the cafe and had a feed there and also went into the shop. That is where we gave him some gifts to take back. So his wife gave the invitation for the girls to go across to America, because she has got an art exhibition thing she runs over there too and she was interested in the art. So that was really great. We had that.
The CDEP used to run fashion parades, just to advertise their stuff. We used to wait for all the festivals, South Sydney Festival, Newtown, The Rocks, and we’d have the fashion parades there, so that was really, really good. Out from that we had the boys doing the garbage run, we had other boys doing lawns and things for hospitals or wherever they wanted lawns mowed, so it was very active in the early 1990s. It got back up again, really active. I think the CDEP made that happen. But then something happened with the CDEP too and we had to move out of Holden Street and find other premises, or another place to do all our work, all the CDEP workers. They found a place up in Redfern, not too far away, in George Street I think now. So yes, the CDEP did bring it alive again.
The Project Garden, that used to be up and running really great, but something has happened there. I think the CDEP does give a hand in that as well as that young Tongan gentleman called Alex. I think he does some work in the garden. I would like to see that come about really good and have native plants there, geebungs or the wild fruit trees growing there.
Whereabouts is this garden?
Ali Golding: This garden is just beside the Murawina Pre-School up the top of Eveleigh Street. As you are coming down Eveleigh Street, it is on your right, where the swings are, the kiddies’ playground swings are, it is just at the back of that. Connecting on to the fence of the Murawina Pre-School.
So what was the original plan for this garden?
Ali Golding: The intention was that we’d grow our own tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and onions and everything in it, including the wild berries, bush tucker. We tried to get the bush tucker into there, the fruits and the herbs, but it was a bit of a struggle. It started off really good at first, when the CDEP first started it. People did take care and pride in seeing it happen, helped look after it. But then later on people left. A lot of people had to move from the Block here to get into Department of Housing and things like that. These are the people who had a lot of interest in the Project Garden, interest in the CDEP programme, and they had to leave. These were the people that had a bit of energy, you know, and were very active. As people left, I think we sort of slacked. We miss those people because they were so full of energy and so supportive and so active. When these people leave, you are lost without people like this sometimes. But things were happening in the early 1990s.
As I said, it was alive in the late 1970s. It went downhill in between late 1970s and 1990s. Then it came up again in the 1990s. Somewhere along the line, it has slackened again, but there will be another time when it will rise up again. The time you see it falling, it does rise.
So the streets were made bigger and wider in Eveleigh Street. Then Vine Street that is connected to Eveleigh Street, they made that street wider. They wanted that to be made wide because it was flat for kids to play out in and that, there was a flat area, that street, Vine Street, so it is the widest street on the Block. Eveleigh Street they had trees outside on the footpath, but those trees are all gone now. Things did change. As I said, the community falls, hits rock bottom and bounces up again.
More or less like a little yo yo, it bounces up again, but I’ll believe it when it bounces again. When it bounces up, I think it will be for the best, when it bounces up again. As I said the Creator is going to bounce it up this time, but we need to get together, the prayer warriors, prayer leaders and the people who are the followers of the Creator, we have to get together. The only answer to this Block is getting together in unity and more praying. Going to these different parts around the Block and just putting our hands forward. That is the only way that this whole community, the grounds, the land is going to be healed, plus the people are going to be healed. I believe in that.
That’s great Aunty Ali. Just one more little question. I know that you have travelled up to Darwin and you’ve been up there for awhile studying. I am just wondering since you’ve been up there way up there, do they know about the Block?
Ali Golding: People up there have heard of the Block. I have a T-shirt last year printed by the CDEP and it has got ‘The Block - NAIDOC Week 2001’ and I put that on. I went down to this mid city of Darwin, we went to the wharf, that is the main tourist attraction down there the wharf, and I walked down there and this Filipino man and his wife and other people were there and he kept looking at my T-shirt as I walked over to order a barramundi fish. I was standing there and as I walked back again, the queue sort of bent back a bit towards where his table was, where he was sitting, and as I got my fish and chips and I was walking around that way, he smiled and he said, “Your T-shirt, are you talking about Redfern?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I knew the Block. When I see an Aboriginal person wearing a T-shirt with the Aboriginal colours and it has got the Block and the national Aboriginal week, I thought she would be from Redfern. Or the T-shirt is from Redfern.” So people hear of us. I went to a couple of the churches and I always mention where I am from and they came up to me talking later and they said, “You know we have a prayer group praying for the Block, the Redfern Aboriginal community.” So people do know.
We went down to Katherine, 80 km out of Darwin, they had a big convention down there, three Saturdays ago. They had nearly seven to eight hundred people all gathered from all different communities, all non-indigenous and indigenous people. People were getting up singing and playing music and everything and witnessing. I got up and when I mentioned where I came from, I heard all whistles all around. So there are a lot of people up there in Katherine, in Darwin, that know all about the Block, especially the church leaders up there and they say they have special church groups that pray about the Block. So everybody has heard about the Block and they know the struggle. They know there should be that prayer now that they are healing. Everybody knows, thank God. It is not man that is spreading out the news. I believe the Creator is placing all these things into their hearts about the Block and they have to be part of the praying. They’ve got to do their job too in praying for the Block.
Even Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, when I had dinner with her she came up to me and we were talking and the lady on the side of me said, “Ali lives in the Aboriginal community.” “Oh,” Princess Anne said to me and grabbed me by the hand. I said, “Yes, I live on the Block.” “You live on Tte Block. We know all about the Block.” Talking to me with all these five or six marbles in her mouth. But she knew all about the Block. She said, “We mention you in our prayers. We know all about what is happening and we will help soon.” That’s what she said, “We will help soon.” So internationally, there is influence. People are hearing, people are praying for this place. That’s why I believe there is so much hope this is going to be changed in a really great powerful positive way.
Maybe in June, Lord willing, on the four week school holidays. If not, I’ll be back in December for six week holidays. I graduate in June, so I am hoping to come back after I graduate. I want to go right through until 2003. I want to get my diploma and then I want to get my doctorate. I will be Dr Ali Golding then.
Ali Golding: To hear that news on 20th December 2006, the positive news about the Block after the riot three years ago that the crime rate has gone down, there's a big change, the attitude of people, the attitude of the media. The media put on the very important thing and read it in a slow, good, clear sound way. [That was] part of my hope from way back then. There's a turn around now about the negative things between police and Aboriginal people. Never in a million years that I'd live to hear that Aboriginal people would vote a police person [Catherine Burns, former Superintendent of Redfern Police] as a police person of the year!
Interviewer: Kaylene Simon