The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the 26th May 2014 in Sydney Australia to protest the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) failing to develop affordable housing for Aboriginal people on “The Block” in Redfern. The AHC was co-founded by Jenny Munro and sought to assist Aboriginal Australians who were being discriminated against in Sydney’s rental market. The Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on the 26th May 2014 to protest the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) failing to develop affordable housing for Aboriginal communities on “The Block” in Redfern. The AHC was co-founded by Jenny Munro and sought to assist Aboriginal Australians who were being discriminated against in Sydney’s rental market.
Jenny Munro is no longer part of the AHC, which is now being lead by Mick Mundine. The proposed Pemulwuy Project by the AHC was to include commercial and residential development on “The Block” including housing units for University of Sydney students and affordable Aboriginal housing at a later date. Jenny Munro and the occupiers of the Tent Embassy argued as the Aboriginal housing wasn’t being built concurrently with the commercial and student housing that there was a very high likelihood of there being no Aboriginal housing for the people that originally lived in “The Block” before being evicted for re-development.
The AHC went to court with the occupiers of the Redfern Tent Embassy to have them evicted so the AHC could go ahead with its Pemulwuy Project. After several court hearings the NSW Supreme Court ruled on August 23rd 2015 in favour of the AHC and gave the occupiers of the Redfern Tent Embassy an eviction notice. The Australian federal government then stepped in at the last minute to provide $5 million in funding for affordable Aboriginal housing units to be built to ensure a peaceful resolution to all parties involved. The occupiers of the Redfern Tent Embassy packed up and shared their last moments together at the site on the night of September 5th, 2015.
Most of these photographs were taken as I observed the Redfern Tent Embassy during their final week in “The Block”. During my time there I learned of the strong community bond that had grown over time. Many become very emotional when speaking about having to leave the “The Block”.
For this series despite having access to a DSLR, I specifically chose to photograph it with my Leica M6 TTL and 35mm Summicron ASPH. I made this decision based on the knowledge that every other photojournalist had documented the tent embassy with modern digital cameras. I also wanted to place myself in the shoes of photojournalists of the past and place those same restrictions they had on myself. I had to consciously think after every Tri-X roll what speed I was going to need for the upcoming shots. There’s nothing quite like being in the middle of changing film and seeing a very visually promising scene unfolding in-front of my eyes that could potentially end before I even load the next roll all while it’s sunset and the light is changing rapidly.
The entire film developing and scanning process was handled by myself as I want absolute control over those aspects and I don’t like the pre-baked in look that I get from lab scans. It’s from these original negatives that I had the prints made from for my exhibition.
About the exhibition:
The exhibition for “Final Days of the Redfern Tent Embassy” is part of the Head On Photo Festival, Australia’s leading photography festival. Opening May 21st 2016 5-7pm at GkJE 1 located inside Canvas Bar. 364A Kent Street, Sydney, Australia 2000. The exhibition runs from 20-29th May 2016.
About Dillon Mak
Dillon Mak is an Australian-born, Chinese photographer based in Sydney who first picked up a camera in March 2013. With intentions for a different career, he quickly fell in love with the art of photography.
Without formal training he learnt online, studying the masters of street and documentary photography, motivated by the need to show others the things he notices that they may not. He never poses his subjects, he always captures the scene as they unfold in front of his eyes. His preferred camera of choice is the Leica M6 TTL. He discovered Leica when realising street photography was his favourite genre of photography to shoot. Naturally Leica is strongly associated with the genre and the masters of it.