URBAN RENEWAL AND THE CREATIVE UNDERCLASS: ABORIGINAL YOUTH SUBCULTURES IN SYDNEY'S REDFERN-WATERLOO

Authors


George Morgan, School of Humanities/Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia. E-mail: george.morgan@uws.edu.au

Abstract

ABSTRACT: Redfern-Waterloo, on the edge of Sydney's CBD, has long been an important center for the city's Aboriginal population, as a place to live, socialize, work, and/or access services provided by the area's numerous Aboriginal organizations. State plans to regenerate Redfern-Waterloo, to realize its latent potential, far from seeking to displace the socially disadvantaged Aboriginal community and erase its cultural legacy, stress the importance of a continuing indigenous presence. Planning and policy documents generally suggest that Aboriginal people can contribute to, and reap the benefits of, the area's renaissance. This article will explore construction of minority cultures in planning discourse in Sydney and in particular the way indigenous culture and citizenship is delineated in the discourses of urban renewal. The vision of Aboriginal culture (and residual communal presence) is narrow and circumscribed by conventional “touristic” representations (fine art, dance, and other performance) around national heritage and consumption. This excludes many of the area's youth who, like their counterparts throughout the world, identify more with street culture—hip-hop, graffiti art, skateboarding, etc.—than with traditional arts/high culture. These activities have little place in the vision for urban renewal. This article will argue that civic booster strategies that fail to recognize the complex and ambiguous character of public spaces and their importance as sites of resistant/underground/avant-garde/youth subcultures will inevitably generate sterile landscapes; their vision of local communal heritage is little more than tokenistic.

Ancillary