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‘Racist undertones in hub complaint’

Saturday, 28th February, 2015

By Erica Visser

A councillor says racist and offensive language is rife throughout Broken Hill but noted that some locals weren’t “as well-educated or politically aware as someone on Council is”.

Cr Jim Richards took to social media on Thursday to express his frustration about terminology that segregates Aboriginal people from the wider community.

He referred to a particular incident where a resident near a Creedon Street public housing area spoke in objection to plans for a “community hub”. 

The development application for the hub was deferred following complaints from residents who believed it would increase incidents of noise pollution and anti-social behaviour such as binge drinking and fighting.

A post on Cr Richard’s Facebook in response to a BDT article on the matter read; 

“The reporter for the Barrier Daily Truth last night must have heard differently to what I did; the quote in this morning’s paper was, ‘If the hub goes ahead you are going to get more people congregating. Who’s going to monitor the situation?’ but what I heard last night was ‘you are going to get more of THOSE people congregating.’

“This comes only a week after council erected an Aboriginal flag in a show of solidarity with the local community - it seems some people still have a way to go.”

Submissions to Council on the matter referred to the public housing community using similar terminology.

“It’s really unfortunate but I really do feel like there is a long way for people to come forward for reconciliation,” Cr Richards said yesterday.

“... I would shudder to think that anyone would intentionally set out to be racist or offensive to someone.

“We’re an old-fashioned town, I love that about Broken Hill, but not everyone has the same sort of education, the same sort of background.

“There’s a lot of language that shouldn’t necessarily be used where not everyone is as well-educated or politically aware as someone on Council is.

“It’s all about education and all about coming to a place where we can understand.”

Cr Richards said that the objecting residents in Newton, Harris and Lunam streets as well as Pell Lane, should acknowledge that the neighbourhood was part of the wider community.

“The people need to realise that Creedon Street isn’t a correctional facility, it’s not an area reserved for just indigenous people either,” he said.

“It’s also not entirely a public housing area, especially in the southern part of Creedon Street (where) people own their own homes.”

Cr Richards didn’t deny that people should be concerned about social issues in the police hotspot, however he argued the addition of a hub would improve the situation.

“People are right to be concerned about the welfare of the people in the area, about disorderly behaviour and alcohol abuse, but the people that live next door are just as concerned.

“The whole point of the hub is to alleviate these problems. It’s going to be a 9 to 5 sort of community centre where people can go to cooking classes or participate in social groups.

“It’s sort of like putting the cart before the bull... They don’t want the hub to go ahead but those problems will exist whether there’s a hub or no hub.”

Cr Richards also hit out at the deferral of the matter, proposed by Labor, pending a “site inspection” by councillors. 

“What’s the point in us going to the hub? All the information’s there anyway. 

“As the mayor said, it’s not a big town and you can drive by the site.

“Everyone seems to save up their questions for the Council meeting, when they’re in public and can get all the media attention.”

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