Victoria St

    Joe Owens (Secretary of the NSW BLF who took over from Mundey in 1973) negotiates with police in Victoria Street, Kings Cross, January 1974 (source: Kurt Iveson, originally supplied by Meredith Burgmann)
    115 Victoria Street, Mick Fowler’s home: In April 1973, Mick Fowler returned home to find his house boarded up. He returned some days later with 50 members of the BLF and they barricaded themselves in. He refused Theeman’s money to move, stayed put and legally contested the eviction. Thugs harassed him and services were cut off. His courage rallied others to protest the banishment of working people from the inner city. In 1973 squatters moved into the next-door houses but seven months later Theeman’s thugs, watched by several hundred police, evicted them. Mick was the sole tenant for 3 years until they finally got him out in 1977. He left his house at 115 Victoria St in May 1976 after staging a mock burial and moved to Dowling St. His band Mick Fowler and the Fowl House Five played regularly at the Rock and Roll on Cowper Wharf Rd including Mick’s green ban songs. He called for a Royal Commission into Juanita Nielsen’s disappearance but died at age 52, two years after his eviction. Victoria Street was closed for his funeral as the massed Jazzmen playing “his soul goes marching on”, led hundreds of seamen, conservationists, labourers, lecturers, musicians, public servants, anarchists and activists. Plaque on McElhone Stairs, Victoria Street leading down to Woolloomooloo reads: “Memorial Plaque/to/Mick Fowler/Seaman, Musician & Green Bans Activist/ 1927-1979/For his gallant stand against demolition / of workers homes with the Builders /Labourers Federation Green Bans/ They were hard old days, they were battling days they were cruel but then in spite of it all, Victoria Street will see low income housing for workers again from his friends." Biography at Australian Dictionary of Biography.
    In Victoria Street after a brutal struggle, low-cost housing was lost with some heritage gain. Juanita Nielsen was murdered in mid-1975 and Mick Fowler, the other key leader, died an untimely death.

    Epitaph to Juanita Nielsen


    Plaque outside her home and office at 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross reads:

    “Not afraid whose toes she tramped on”.

    On July 4th 1976 Juanita disappeared. Her body has never been found. Officially declared a murder.

    Thanks to her and others involved in the struggle the nineteenth century heritage of Victoria Street was largely retained.

    Juanita Nielsen (b. 1932) edited and published her local newspaper NOW from her house at 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross. Her father’s mother was a sister to Francis Foy who founded Mark Foy’s in Sydney in 1885 and built the Piazza Store (now the Downing Centre) in 1909 (architects McCredie and Anderson). At first she wasn’t impressed by the Victoria St squatting campaign undertaken to protect buildings from fire. By 1974, her position changed and she and merchant seaman and jazz musician Mick Fowler carried on a highly effective battle with developers. Nielsen was seriously concerned that her activism was putting her in danger. Despite this, on 4 July 1975, Juanita Nielsen went to the Carousel Club on Darlinghurst Road (now the Empire pub) as the club wanted to advertise in her newspaper. The Carousel Club was owned by Abe Saffron and managed by James Anderson, a violent man who shot and killed a man in 1970, but no charges were laid. Abe Saffron owned a lot of property on Victoria Street. Juanita's disappearance was at the tail end of the Victoria Street struggle. A special issue of NOW was published after her disappearance. The inquest concluded that 38-year old Juanita Nielsen was murdered. Edward Trigg who worked at Carousel and two others were charged with conspiracy to kidnap and jailed in 1983. A week after her disappearance they signed the tripartite agreement to restore Woolloomooloo as a model for medium density residential housing. The strain of the battle told on Mick Fowler who died in 1979, aged 50. In 2013, after a local campaign. Juanita Nielsen's home and office at 202 Victoria Street was added to the State Heritage Register in 2013.

    See: Peter Rees, ‘Killing Juanita: a true story of murder and corruption’, 2004.
    Mick Fowler joined the green bans movement in April 1973 and was still living in his room at 115 Victoria St in 1975 despite the harassment. Peter Manning: When you are “in” Mick Fowler’s home in Victoria St you are in a room about 14 ft square. It is lined with posters, photographs, poems, blow ups, calendars, letters, newsclips, mirrors and memorabilia of any and every kind. All four walls are a living history of Mick Fowler … When he left his home, they held a mock funeral for the death of low-cost housing in Victoria St. Mick Fowler died in 1979.

    A plaque to Mick Fowler’s memory is on the pillar at the top of McElhone Stairs and reads: “Memorial Plaque/to/Mick Fowler/Seaman, Musician & Green Bans Activist/ 1927-1979/For his gallant stand against demolition / of workers homes with the Builders /Labourers Federation Green Bans/ They were hard old days, they were battling days they were cruel but then in spite of it all, Victoria Street will see low income housing for workers again from his friends.”
    Green Bans Art Walk, Woolloomooloo to Victoria Street, 2011. Stencil artwork by Mini Graff. Original stencil designed in 1975 by art historian Barbara Hall and artist Peter Kennedy
    ‘Juanita’ editor’s graphic, NOW magazine. Juanita Nielsen (b. 1932) edited and published her local newspaper NOW from her house at 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross. Juanita and merchant seaman and jazz musician Mick Fowler carried on a highly effective battle with developers.
    Juanita tribute gathering, July 4th 2001 with Juanita’s former work colleague. Juanita Nielsen's home and office at 202 Victoria Street was added to the State Heritage Register in 2013 after a local campaign. A plaque on the footpath outside 202 Victoria Street, Kings Cross reads: “Not afraid whose toes she tramped on”. Juanita disappeared on July 4th 1976 after a meeting at the Carousel Club on Darlinghurst Road. (Corner Roslyn Street).
    A special issue of NOW was published after Juanita Nielsen's disappearance. The inquest concluded that 38-year old Juanita Nielsen was murdered. Her body has never been found. Mick Fowler, the other key leader and the last squatter, died an untimely death in 1979, aged 50. They closed Victoria Street for a Jazzman’s Funeral.
    Squatters moved in to protest Frank Theeman's plans for Victoria Street and offered fierce resistance to being evicted.(ABC News)
    Half a dozen fire trucks arrived at Victoria Street that morning.(ABC News)
    Esther George's death was a turning point for Juanita Nielsen in her campaign against a proposed development for Victoria Street. (Supplied: David Farrell)
    The disappearance of Juanita Nielsen in 1975 remains one of Australia's most notorious true-crime mysteries. (Supplied)

    Links

    SMH, 13 July 2021, ‘Behind the Juanita Nielsen mystery is another, forgotten cold case’, by Michael Dulaney for Unravel: Juanita an ABC new true-crime podcast.
    At – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-07-13/behind-juanita-nielsen-mystery-forgotten-aboriginal-death/100283926

    Listen to Podcast: Unravel: Juanita and subscribe on the ABC listen app.

    About

    On the 50th anniversary of the Green Bans, the ideals of their struggle to protect heritage and environmental amenity for all to enjoy are more urgent than ever. In 2011 the Green Bans Art Walk and Exhibition (in two parts at The Cross Art Projects and The Firstdraft Depot Project Space), told the story of an inspired period, its charismatic leaders and grass-roots heroes. The project comprised a series of public guided walks between the exhibition venues functioned as a living instruction manual and moral compass charting stories of good and evil, creativity and conflict. Read more

    Now

    The Powerhouse Museum Alliance is a group of concerned citizens working to save the Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo. The Alliance includes longstanding benefactors of the museum, former trustees, design and heritage experts and senior museum professionals. Read more