Sydney’s first Conservation Protests – Woolloomooloo, 1957

Save St Kilda House in Cathedral St, from demolition and its residents from eviction.

Sydney's Little World of Woolloomooloo by historian Isadore Brodsky, Old Sydney Free Press, [1966]

In 2011 for the Green Bans Art Walk and the 40th Anniversary of Union and Community action, sought important sites and the authorities respected in communities; turning fragments from an intense 4 year fight into a monument. The campaign failed, but is not forgotten. In 1975 a new St Kilda, a seniors housing building in Cathedral Street, was named in honour of the St Kilda protest.

In 2011 the Green Bans Art Walk led by Jim Donovan remembered their important initiative. Photographer Michelle Blakeley presented scans from Isadore Brodsky’s book History of the Loo. Guide Jim Donovan, secretary of the Woolloomooloo RAG, whose family was the last to leave Rowena Place after Juanita Nielson “disappeared”, turned up with the same book. Jim showed art walkers the site where his mother organised a tenants’ resistance in the mid-1950s. The “Battle to Save St Kilda in Woolloomooloo”, a Georgian mansion divided into boarding house rooms, was the first urban heritage uprising. (Now Cross City Tunnel HQ.)

Jim Donovan became secretary of the Sydney Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, Woolloomooloo being Sydney’s major port. (Re-located in the late 1979s.) The Wharfies work gangs had black and white, left and right, respectful of the fact that Woolloomooloo is Gadigal land and a land grant given to Aborigines.

Images: Images from Sydney's Little World of Woolloomooloo by historian Isadore Brodsky, Old Sydney Free Press, [1966]. Copied by Michele Blakeney. 2011 photos by Michele Blakeney.
Jim Donovan, former secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, uses historian Isadore Brodsky’s book, Sydney's Little World of Woolloomooloo, to talk about past conservation campaigns. Jim’s mother played a lead role. At corner of Cathedral and Stanley Sts. Photo by Michele Michele Blakeney, 2011.
1880c: Nell Gwynne nestles near the Domain trees in this view towards the eastern heights of Woolloomooloo. Hordern Stairs are rising to the cliff top.
Time has removed all but the trees in this picture of half a century ago. Sydney sacrificed the horse, Plunkett Street School and the Corporation Market.
1957: Residents of St Kilda show their resentment at the threat of eviction.
1965: The voice of Woolloomooloo raised in protest.
1965: The voice of Woolloomooloo raised in protest.
Pavement signature of the Eternity man, Arthur Stace, on a rare visit to Woolloomooloo.
Chief Justice Sir Francis Forbes.
Chief Justice Sir James Dowling.
Sir Charles Nicholson.
Dr William Bland.
1966: A montage of names that conjure many a story not only in the history of Woolloomooloo but also in the wider sphere of Sydney herself.
1934: The roadmakers reconstitute Forbes Street during the depression. The view is to the north from near William Street.
Sunshine has come too late to this tiled veranda in Forbes Street. The stump of what was a fine tree stands in silent protest by a gas meter.

Documentary Films on the History and "Spirit of Kings Cross" and Woolloomooloo

The Glittering Mile, a Film 1962, is an important resource on the history and "Spirit of Kings Cross" and Woolloomooloo.


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


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