Our Place: Redfern & Waterloo Interviews

Our Place - Redfern - Nicholas Shehadie b. 1926

Nicholas Shehadie’s grandfather, the first Orthodox priest in Australia, built the church on the corner of Redfern and Walker Streets, and his father built the Antioch Orthodox Church at the corner of Walker and Cooper Streets. His family loved Redfern: “You could leave your front door open, and nobody went without food, and everyone helped each other”. Social status was apparent only outside of Redfern. He talks of the Lebanese, Italian and Indian communities, and of the Aboriginal kids he knew: “There were a lot of Aboriginal families and a lot went to Cleveland Street School, and they were just great citizens. Nobody took any notice if you’re Aboriginal and Lebanese”. William McKell was “a politician everyone adored … just a good man, and Bill never forgot his roots in Redfern, and the Redfern people of those days never forgot Bill”. Favourite places to visit included Coogee, the Coronation Playground and the roller-skating rink at Prince Alfred Park. He later became a keen footballer, but he was a supporter of Souths and the women’s NSW football team in the 1930s. He recalls the Alleys Club for dances, scaling trams, and swimming at Centennial Park: when the trams went by “we would all jump out in the nude!” Before leaving on a football trip to England, his farewell at the Redfern Town Hall was compered by Johnny Wade who said, “This is a fun night. Everyone leave the hardware outside”. The guns and the knives were left outside. Everyone was upset by their displacement when the Housing Commission demolished housing: “We fought, we didn’t want to go … and it was very sad”.