Voices from the past come alive during History Week | City of Sydney

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Voices from the past come alive during History Week | City of Sydney

We explore the treasure trove of the City of Sydney’s oral history collection to mark History Week and this year’s theme, Voices from the Past.

Vacant lot on Erskineville Road Erskineville c 1977 City of Sydney Archives A-00062541

Jim Piotrowski

Jim Piotrowski moved to Erskineville in 1990. Already an activist, he found the neighborhood’s socio-political nature suited him and his professional life. In this interview, Jim talks about his involvement in a local campaign to save 2 parcels of vacant land from development that brought the community together. Support for the campaign unexpectedly came from a bus full of “casual” activists and their children who camped for several months on the vacant land. Jim talks about how the local community has embraced these activists in surprising ways. After a long 4-year grassroots campaign, the vacant land was saved from development and turned into Green Bans Park.

Listen to the full interview

Tim Cole, Rocks Architecture, The Rocks Sydney, 1996. City of Sydney Archives A-00083631

Jack Mundy

Jack Mundy was a leader of the New Wales Federation of Builders’ Workers and central to the famous green bans of the 1970s, which protected Sydney’s built heritage and open space against development. In this interview, Jack discusses the strong support from the rank and file, the unions formed, the threat of development in Millers Point and the division of the community. He also spoke about the key issues in the green ban movement that prevented the demolition of The Rocks, adjacent to Millers Point, in the early 1970s.

Listen to the full interview

Victoria Street, Kings Cross, 1975 City of Sydney Archives A-00008558

Ian Millis

Ian Millis was active in the Victoria Street squatting movement in the 1970s and recalls finding some poignant reminders of the evicted tenants. Squatting followed forced evictions that made way for large-scale housing development in Potts Point. Ian also talks about the politics of the day, the art, personalities and backgrounds of these and other related events.

Listen to the full interview

Harry Ali, Air Force Serviceman, Malaysia. Photo courtesy of Harry Ali

Harry Ali

Harry Ali joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1966. In this interview he talks about his early life, his decades in the Defense Forces and the Colored Miners movement in NSW. Harry also spoke about his family members’ commitment to the defense forces at home and abroad. This interview is part of a project called Honoring the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served their country.

Listen to the full interview

Waterside Workers’ Federation Building, 1989 City of Sydney Archives A-00023822

Ina Heidman

Ina Heitman grew up in inner Sydney in the 1940s in a communist family. Ina’s widowed mother is active in the Communist Party and a trade union activist, while also working as a cleaner. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Ina joined the Communist Party soon after starting work in a trade union. Ina describes her association with the Communist Party and her long involvement with the Waterside Federation of Australian Workers.

Listen to the full interview

Pitt Street Congregational Church 1927 City of Sydney Archives A-00037496

Dorothy McRae-McMahon

The historic Pitt Street Uniting Church in central Sydney was almost lost to the wrecking ball in the early 1970s, but was saved by a green ban. In this interview, Uniting Church minister Dorothy McRae-McMahon talks about her personal religious development, the long history of Pitt Street Church and its well-known members. She also discusses the church’s relationship with contemporary politics and its human rights activism.

Listen to the full interview

The City of Sydney History Team has been conducting interviews since the 1980s as part of a vigorous program of publications, research, websites and exhibitions. The Sydney Oral Histories website displays some of the team’s interviews and makes them easily accessible to both the specialist researcher and casual browser.

Browse the entire collection

History Week is September 2nd through September 10th. Check out the events happening in Sydney.

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