Uncertainty over Sydney Aboriginal centre

·2-min read

Ministers have reassured the Sydney Aboriginal community the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence will not close its doors, but uncertainty about a funding model remains.

Redfern locals, politicians and Aboriginal advocates gathered at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) on Friday as alarm grew about the vital community hub's imminent closure.

Staff and locals were shocked to hear on Monday the centre, a cultural and community lifeline to local Indigenous people since 2006, would close within a week.

The centre had accrued $2 million in annual losses.

On Friday, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Federal Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek visited the centre and made assurances NCIE would not close its doors.

Ms Burney told the crowd gathered at the centre she would meet with the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council later on Friday, and hoped to find a way to keep it functioning, Nine Newspapers reported.

"I'm saying very clearly to the people who are making decisions about this place, you've got a week," Ms Burney said.

However, uncertainty remains over where funding to support continued operations will come from.

NCIE offers cradle-to-grave support for Aboriginal people, executive director of Redfern Youth Connect Margaret Haumono told AAP.

"There's babies that come in here for swim classes," Ms Haumono said.

"Right through to the youth programs, and then elders that use this also for their exercise programs."

She said last Monday she was told all NCIE staff would lose their jobs.

"Being the cultural aunty on site, they've come to me for advice," she said.

Workers were left with few options after entering discussions with the ILSC.

"Linda (Burney) is now going back to the ILSC, and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, to tell them to come up with a solution," she said.

She said parties were told the centre would not close this Monday but nothing had been formalised.

"Until we get it in writing and it's concrete, then we'll back down. Until then we're going to continue to fight.

Ms Haumono called for change around the decision-making process for centre funding.

"The solution needs to have community at the table," she said.

"We need to have a few seats at the table - more than a few - many.

"They've made decisions for us, without us, and it cannot continue."

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore told AAP the inability to reach a solution over the centre's funding had likely heightened the community's concerns.

"We were hoping that Minister Plibersek and Minister Burney would be able to tell us that this was a solution," Ms Moore said.

"We didn't hear that - we've heard the solution has to be developed. So it's work in progress.

"I think there's probably a degree of disappointment or a degree of anxiety about but they are very strongly committed. So that's encouraging."

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