Federal Minister Linda Burney says National Center of Indigenous Excellence must stay open – Michmutters

Federal Minister Linda Burney says National Center of Indigenous Excellence must stay open

The Minister for Indigenous Australians has told the decision-makers who are closing an Indigenous hub in inner Sydney they have “a week to get their acts together” to keep its doors open.

Linda Burney addressed hundreds of community members at the National Center of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern on Friday after learning it would close within a week.

The social enterprise, which provides community services and programs, is set to be shut down on Monday following failed negotiations between its new and old owners.

“To the people making decisions about this place, you’ve got a week to sort it out,” she said.

“I am convinced we can find a resolution to this, we have to, get your acts together and sort this out, I believe it can be sorted out.”

Ms Burney said she “expressed very clearly and very forthrightly” to the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ISLC) that the site must stay open, that people keep their jobs and tenants are given permanency.

Negotiations broke down between the ILSC and new owners the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) who failed to reach agreement over the centre’s financial future.

Up to 50 staff, mostly young Indigenous people, are set to lose their jobs.

a number of young students sitting on the floor holding signs
The social enterprise is due to be shut down on Monday.(ABC News: Nakari Thorpe)

Ms Burney — who attended with the Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore — said future negotiations about the center needed to “have local people sitting at the table”, saying it wasn’t appropriate discussions only involved the two parties.

“Because this joint is important … and what I’d like to see going forward is to hear directly from you,” she told locals.

“Voices need to be heard and that fact you have so many people here is a very loud voice.”

Co-founder and CEO of non-for-profit Redfern Youth Connect Margaret Haumono, who runs a high-school program at the centre, said Ms Burney’s support was “reassuring” but requested something in writing.

“There is no announcement but at least someone is hearing us … at least the dialogue has opened,” she said.

“For too long we’ve sat here and not been included, this belongs to the community and this is how it’s staying.”

On Wednesday, the ILSC said it was working with NSWALC to ensure the community “will still have access to the facility for community purposes and programs under the ownership of NSWALC.”

three women sitting on chairs at a public meeting
Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, left, joined Linda Burney, centre, and the Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek at the community meeting.(ABC News: Nakari Thorpe)

It acknowledged its announcement to shut down the center was “particularly distressing for staff” and is offering separation payments.

It also confirmed tenancies will continue under the new ownership.

Ms Plibersek told the community: “It can’t be beyond us to get it sorted.”

“This place has to stay here for the community … jobs need to stay, programs need to stay, community access needs to stay,” she said.

The center opened in 2006 and offers sports, fitness, conferences and community classes including tutoring and educational support.

Locals have been gathering at the center each day to protest its closure.

Ms Burney said she would be meeting with the ILSC and NSWALC later today.

a group of people sitting on chairs at a community meeting
Hundreds of community members attended the meeting ahead of the centre’s closure.(ABC News: Nakari Thorpe)


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