The Location Wooloomooloo is the bay to the East of Farm Cove, on the very edge of the first settlement. It is peopled with those who cannot afford to live elsewhere, but who huddle trapped between a precipitous rocky escarpment, the edge of the harbour, and a small stream being rapidly fouled.
The A Team A combination of the landed political class, property developers, and corrupt coppers (Robin Askin, Frank Theeman, Joe Meisner, Norm Gallagher were notable)
The B Team Residents, unionists, leftist progressive politicians, academics, and journalists (Jack Mundey, Joe, Owens, Juanita Neilsen, Tom Uren, Gough Whitlam)
What happened? The city was bursting at the seams. More office space was required. More high rise residential buildings were required. And here, on the edge of the city, was a valley full of run-down tenement houses, terraces jumbled together as they tumble down the escarpment. Hovels rented to the working class, the criminal class, the unemployed and those on the drug or sex game.
This was the time when Paddington was discovered by the artists who moved into the rundown terraces and a flowering occurred, saving the area. The ‘Loo was closer to the city, and the elite were mendacious. They bought up terrace after terrace, allowing entire blocks to become rundown and rat infested. They waited. They planned. They plotted.
But the residents protested. Loudly. They called in reinforcements in the form of two unions: the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF); and the Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association (FEDFA). Developers brought in strike-breakers, and violence ensued. People were bashed and kidnapped, police evicted squatters, and Juanita Neilson, the editor of a local newsletter, disappeared. The ‘Green Ban’ was born.
Such bans were springing up all over the city, not just the inner city. They were imposed in The Rocks, down near the bridge, and in Kellys Bush on the north of the harbour. A ‘green ban’ is not just the saving of trees, but also of green space, of breathing space, of room to move. Unions simply refused to knock down the old buildings. Refused to operate the machinery of destruction. Marched to the sound of megaphones. Lay down in front of cranes and dozers. Chained themselves to fences and railings.
From 1971 to 1974 42 green bans were applied by the BLF at the behest of resident activists.
Tomorrow, I will end this series with a post about the area as it is today.