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Redfern was named after emancipated convict Surgeon William Redfern who was granted land in the area by Governor Macquarie in 1817. Distinguished by grassy paddocks and plains, Redfern was initially a primarily residential suburb with a significant number of migrant market gardeners and seed growers quickly settling in the area to service the nearby city of Sydney. The construction of Sydney's main railway terminus in Redfern in 1855 would be transforming for the fledgling suburb. The influx of railway workers to the suburb would have the primarily pastoral land divided into small worker cottages and terraces and cemented the working class profile of the suburb.
Named after the familiar call heralding the rabbit meat sellers who sold their wares by foot in Redfern, Rugby League team The Rabbitohs were born in Redfern in 1908 and are one of code's oldest and most successful clubs with more premiership titles to their name than any other. The once feted 'pride of the league' faced financial ruin and was forcibly retired from the code in 1999, yet the considerable efforts and tenacity of their fans and the funds from influential backers such as Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court had them return in 2002, hoping to recreate the glory days of the past.
Redfern has always housed a large Aboriginal community with Sydney's largest Aboriginal population living in Redfern today. However, following the Depressionin in the 1930s the Indigenous community in Redfern was largely dispossessed with many squatting in empty buildings. It was in the 1970s that the squatters formed the Aboriginal Housing Company and, in conjunction with the property owners and the newly elected Whitlam government, were given a grant to buy six squatted terrace houses in Redfern's Eveleigh Street which would become known as The Block.
This was the first urban Aboriginal land rights claim of its kind in Australia and brought significant positive renewal for the Aboriginal community in Redfern and despite intermittent government funding, the community based company had purchased all houses in The Block by 1994. Plagued by drug abuse and crime, The Block and its residents have had a troubled history with the Aboriginal Housing Company choosing to demolish several derelict buildings known as haunts for heroin users in 1997. In February 2004 the Redfern Riots broke out after 17 year-old Thomas J Hickey was impaled on a fence after being pursued by police. The Aboriginal community expressed outrage at how the police treat the community, resulting in a full-scale roiot using molotov cocktails. The incident made world news.
The once staunchly working class Redfern has undergone something of a gentrification since the turn of the 21st Century with a significant proportion of its population in high income industries. The City of Sydney is currently in the middle of an urban renewal project for Redfern with plans to redevelop significant portions of the suburb including the Station and Eveleigh Street.