Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reader Comments / 5 Minutes of History: Kelly's Bush

Below are some recent reader comments.

Comments are not enabled on the blog site because the posts get inundated with spam. Persons who subscribe to this blog can email me a comment. 


From Byter Dennis, a retired architect, in respect of the pics of mosaic stairs and staircases"

These stairs may look pretty but they would be decidedly dangerous, particularly to the elderly.

I suggested to Dennis that the risk might be in the treads, not the risers, in that some pics only the risers had been decorated.

Dennis responded:

OK for the ones where treads were clearly defined but the ones like Coogee, London, Happonvilliers are definitely a no-no and a couple of the others would be very suss. I would not ever want to take responsibility for any of the designs shown, even if only marginally dangerous.


From Byter Dianne in Holland, in respect of the chicken Funny Friday

After reading your chicken funny stories I thought that you could add this one story that I read a couple of weeks ago. There was also a court case about it. 
They were advertising fresh eggs from free roaming chickens and just watching the money come in for the higher prices for those. They, the chicken farmers, asked a higher price for those healthy eggs from free roaming chickens.When it was checked it appeared that those poor chickens had a roaming area of a 4a by 4a 
Having been born and brought up on a farm, can just imagine the fun that those poor chickens must have had roaming on a space of 4a by 4a... 
Take care, Dianne

I asked Dianne what 4a meant in size and it was clear from her response that she was referring to what we call A4. Here is Dianne's reply:

4 a is often/always used here as the size of the page of copy machine page in length. It is 30cm. This is how much room each roaming chicken had. They wouldn't be doing to much roaming on that bit of space. 


From Byter Sue about the art of Cecelia Webber, who creates photographic flowers out of posed human bodies:

How bizarrely beautiful!


From Byter Donna about the house featured in Oz TV show A Place to Call Home:

We have been watching it with great interest, not only is the story good but Rachael & Brendan Powers are good friends of ours. They actually graciously allowed Glenn and I to hold our wedding reception in the beautiful stables and also had fabulous photos taken in the house and gardens. The house is amazing and they have done well to bring it back to its former glory considering it was extremely run down with rain pouring through the holes in the roof when they purchased it.


From Byter Robyn on Gough Whitlam's birthday:

Thank you for reminding me about Gough's birthday. I too remain a staunch supporter of his for the same reasons espoused by yourself. Oddly enough he was PM for a slightly shorter period than JG. 
I met Gough once when he attended the Hunters Hill branch meeting sometime in 1971 when I was then branch secretary and one Rodney Cavalier was president. Those were the days when ALP leaders were actually interested in the goings on of local branches and their members. At that stage the HH branch had achieved some notoriety for its involvement in the campaign to save Kelly's Bush and associated green bans. 
Even in old age Gough remains a larger than life character and huge intellect with a wicked sense of humour. They just don't make 'em like that any more.

I replied to Robyn that I had been intending to do a Bytes about Kelly's Bush so it's appropriate to say "It's time."


Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister in 1972.

In 1971 Billy McMahon was PM. The Vietnam War was in progress, conscription decided which 20 year olds would go to the war and both the political and social scenes were decidely conservative. The role of the monarchy was much greater than today, there were no boat people and communism was looked on as the great threat to democracy and our way of life.

Also in 1971 a group of women were trying to save Kelly's Bush, the last remaining undeveloped bushland in the trendy Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill. They called themselves the Battlers for Kelly's Bush and they had tried various appeals to various persons and authorities in charge - the local Council, the Mayor and the Premier of New South Wales.  All appeals had been unsuccessful.

The 5 hectares of bushland that made up Kelly's Bush was the last remaining natural bushland on the peninsula.  The land was owned by AV Jennings and had been earmarked for 147 units including 3 eight storey buildings.  When the Hunters Hill Trust objected it was scaled down to 56 units, which was approved by the Council. Later it was reduced further to 25 luxury houses. The site had prime location and magnificent views.

In 1971 there was limited environmental consciousness, no rights of challenge through the court by private citizens and little sympathy for those who wanted to stop progress and development. The Council was the body responsible for approving development.  If it gave approval, that was the end of it.  If it refused approval, the developer had a right of appeal.

There was little or no consideration of conservation or environmental issues, no statements of environmental effects or assessments of environmental impact and no involvement of residents or the community.

With the Premier of NSW about to sign to rezone the land from open space to residential to enable the development to proceed, the women sought the help of the NSW branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF), a trade union of construction workers.

To the horror of the Hunters Hill Trust, which had supported the women, they had sought support from a union with avowed communist leaders - Jack Mundey, Bob Pringle and Joe Owens.  Middle aged women did not do that sort of thing in 1971, especially when Australia was fighting a war against communism.

The BLF, however, believed that the labour movement should involve itself in all struggles of the working class, not just struggles over wages and working conditions. The BLF asked the Hunter's Hill women to call a public meeting at Hunter's Hill and show that there was community support for the request for a union ban on the destruction of Kelly's Bush. Over 600 people attended the meeting, which formally requested a ban. This ban was called a green ban, an environmental and conservation ban, to distinguish it from a black ban - a union action to protect the economic interests of its own members. By imposing a green ban the union was acting against the immediate economic interests of its members for the sake of a wider community and environmental interest.

AV Jennings declared it would nonetheless build on Kelly's Bush by using non-union scab labour.

Building workers on an office project of AV Jennings in North Sydney sent a message to AV Jennings:

'If you attempt to build on Kelly's Bush, even if there is the loss of one tree, this half-completed building will remain so forever, as a monument to Kelly's Bush.'

AV Jennings backed down, saving Kelly's Bush but also setting the scene for confrontation between the BLF and developers. In the process, Jack Mundey and the BLF were demonised by the press, by politicians and by the developers.

In 1973, Hunters Hill Council unsuccessfully sought funding to buy the whole of Kelly's Bush, but by 1976 a newly elected council again voted for residential zoning. In 1977, the incoming Premier Neville Wran announced that no development would take place at Kelly's Bush, and a long period of inactivity followed. Doubts about prospective home sites were raised in 1978 when low-risk radioactive waste material from the old tin smelting furnace was found on the land.

The Battlers for Kelly's Bush and the unions continued their resolute fight until 4 September 1983 when Premier Wran announced that the government had purchased Kelly's Bush for open space, saying this 'represents a victory for environmentalists generally'. Control of the bush was handed over to Hunters Hill Council on 30 December 1993, and a plaque unveiled to commemorate the conservation victory.

Kelly's Bush remains for the use if the public and is part of the Great North Walk.

35 year renunion, 2006
Pictured above with Jack Mundey AO (centre) are, l to r, Kellys Bush battlers Monica Sheehan, Miriam Hamilton, Kath Lehany, Dr Joan Croll, Christena Dawson and Trude Kallir. Guest speaker Mr Mundey, then Secretary of the BLF, campaigned strongly against the development plans for Kelly’s Bush in last wHunters Hill back in the 1970s.

Mr Mundey spoke to a crowd at the Hunters Hill RSL as part of the National Heritage Festival Program Week and was joined by six original battlers.

Mr Mundey also formally opened the exhibition, dedicated to the Kelly’s Bush battle, housed at the historic Vienna Cottage. “Kelly’s Bush is embedded in the history of urban environmentalism in Australia and I am glad to have been a part of that,” he stated.



A 4 year wave of green bans followed that stopped 3 billion dollars of development, approximately $18b in 2005 terms.


Green bans saved from demolition and redevelopment such areas and features as Wolloomooloo, the Rocks, Centennial Park, Victoria Street in Kings Cross and parts of Glebe.


The green ban movement sought to preserve the character of working class suburbs and the availability of low cost housing fro the original residents.


Many of the aims and policies of the BLF and its green bans movement were subsequently adopted by the State and Federal Labor Governments and enshrined in legislation.

According to one author on the subject, "The Green ban movement in Sydney and Melbourne of the early 1970s, led by the Builder Labourers Federation, was the most profound external indication of the need for planning reform". In 1977 an editorial from the Australian quoted “bans were an inevitable result of official attitudes which regarded people as irrelevant factors to development”.

Community concerns came to be incorporated in the planning and consent process, heritage restrictions were introduced and developments were scaled down. The community was also brought into the planning and evaluation process.


The Green Bans led to the Wran government introducing two acts, The Heritage Act 1977 and The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which overhauled and replaced the previous planning regimes and procedures.


A large number of sites that were the subject of green bans were acquired by the State and Federal governments and preserved.


Despite being openly communist and being demonised in the public consciousness, the BLF worked with, and was often sought out, by residents, community groups and professional associations as the last defence against unwelcome or undesirable development when other avenues had failed.


Green bans influenced local NSW planning structures as well as national planning systems. “The Green ban movement in Sydney and Melbourne of the early 1970s, led by the Builder Labourers Federation, was the most profound external indication of the need for planning reform’. In 1977 an editorial from the Australian quoted “bans were an inevitable result of official attitudes which regarded people as irrelevant factors to development”.


By its deregulation in June 1974 and long before the Kelly's Bush issue was settled, the Builders Labourers Federation had imposed 42 Green Bans to save housing, buildings and bushland. Later, Petra Kelly cited the Sydney Green Bans as her inspiration for launching the world's most successful Green Party in Germany.

· In 1975 Mundey and other NSW leaders of the BLF were expelled from the union by the federal leadership under Norm Gallagher, who was later to be convicted of corrupt dealings with developers (but subsequently overturned on appeal). The BLF was permanently deregistered in 1986 for corruption after investigation by a Royal Commission.


Jack Mundey is today respected and revered, although some still consider him a communist ratbag. He has been awarded a number of university doctorates for 30 years of service to the environment. He is the Chairperson of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. In February 2007, the Geographical Names Bioard of New South Wales renamed a portion of Argyle Street in The Rocks "Jack Mundey Place" in recognition of his leadership 'in the fight to preserve such significant sites in the historic Rocks area'. Mundey continues to act in development issues, and in 2012, joined the action to preserve Windsor Bridge from further development


Jack Mundey addressing workers, c 1973

Jack Mundey arrested after protesting about the proposed Rocks development.

Jack Mundey in The Rocks, present day

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