A Brief History of Millers Point
Millers Point is an isolated community. It has been this way since the 1820s when it was home to the Colony’s maritime trade. Throughout the nineteenth century it developed into a lively and chaotic collection of wharves, ship building, repair and maintenance shops, warehouses and bond stores. Millers Point was home to the working harbour and home to traders, sailors, wharf owners, waterside workers and their families.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the government took over the private wharves of Millers Point to embark on a rebuilding program to create some of the most modern and efficient wharves anywhere in the world. At the same time, larger warehouses were needed to cope with the demands of the wool trade, and a harbour crossing was planned (and realised more than thirty years later when the Harbour Bridge was opened). An outbreak of the Plague provided an opportunity. The government declared that it had to clean up the area and resumed every house, shop, warehouse and wharf in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks. Whole streets were demolished. New government-owned finger wharves were erected along the waterfront from Cockle Bay to Dawes Point. Rows of modern terrace houses and flats were built for maritime workers, and the grand old houses of Millers Point and Dawes Point were converted into ‘residentials’.
In the 1960s, the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority proposed demolishing The Rocks for high-rise office buildings, but the plans were thwarted by the unions and the community. This was the Green Bans Era described below under the heading Millers Point Resident Action Group.
Towards the end of the twentieth century, waterside activity moved to Botany Bay and Maritime NSW transferred ownership of its buildings to Housing NSW. The community had a new landlord, but Housing’s stewardship of Millers Point has not been good, and it has looked after neither the buildings nor the community of Millers Point.
Many residents of Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks were forced from their homes following the resumptions of 1900. More were forced out during the 1970s Green Ban Era. More again when the government wanted to evict residents in the late 1980s. In 2014, the government was yet again forcing people from their homes in Millers Point, Dawes Point and The Rocks.
It seems extraordinary that both the buildings and the community have survived, and together they are an important connection to the early years of the Colony. When the people of Millers Point are gone, we will have lost a little of who we are.
The Millers Point Resident Action Group
The Millers Point Resident Action Group is an active community organisation representing residents of Millers Point, Dawes Point, The Rocks and Walsh Bay. All residents are welcome. The RAG meets at 6.30pm on the second Tuesday of each month in the Harry Jensen Centre in Argyle Street. There is a RAG website but note that its home page has not been updated with the current meeting place (as of 18 February 2017). Contact the RAG by emailing its chairman John McInerney on [email protected].
The Millers Point Action Group formed in 1969, and soon after an allied group was formed – The Rocks Resident Action Group, which was led by Nita McRae and formed to fight against the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority’s plan to demolish the historic buildings of The Rocks and replace them with high-rise office buildings. Nita McRae enlisted the support of the Builders Laborers Federation, which led to Jack Mundey, leader of the BLF, announcing a Green Ban to bring work to a halt. This was when the Battle for The Rocks began in earnest. The campaign continued from 1971 to 1974, and eventually many of the buildings in The Rocks were saved, but some were still lost in the redevelopment. Similarly, may residents were able to stay in the area, but some were moved on.
Ultimately it was Jack Mundey who announced the lifting of the Green Ban and the construction of the Sirius apartments, which were built especially for those displaced by The Rocks redevelopment and for the Millers Point community. In 2017 the Sirius Foundation has supported the nomination of Sirius for national heritage listing as well as challenging in the courts the NSW Government decision not to list Sirius on the state register which was against the recommendation of its own Heritage Council.
The Friends of Millers Point
This website’s main purpose is to document and make available a record of the Sydney locality Millers Point, its history and its residents.
We do this not to create an archive to substitute for the living community, but to reflect that community as vibrant and multilayered, where the residents should have the right to continue to live and extend the deep history of the place.
This right has been ignored and over-ridden by the 2014 Government of NSW, which has uprooted public housing residents in order to make millions of dollars by selling the residents’ homes to the highest bidder.
While it’s not the role of this website to protest against that policy, other than by illustration of what will be lost if it continues, there are ways you can support this community.
Contributing to this site
Contributions are welcome and thank you to those who have contributed to the site already. Apologies to anyone if material is used before confirming it is OK to do so. Amendments and comments welcome via email.
What is happening in Millers Point?
The introduction below was written in mid-2014. Since then, the O’Farrell government became the Baird government and then the Berejiklian government, Pru Goward’s portfolio was passed to Gabrielle Upton, then to Brad Hazzard, and has now returned to Pru Goward. Return to the home page to read about these changes, or read below to see how this story has developed.
The NSW Government is evicting the social housing tenants of The Rocks, Dawes Point and Millers Point. Most are on low incomes and vulnerable, many are elderly. See the Daily Life story about Millers Point.
The O’Farrell government ignored advice from its own consultants on how to evict vulnerable tenants from Millers Point public housing with minimal damage to their health and wellbeing.
A planning expert who reviewed the study said the relocation appeared “clumsy” and “driven by people trying to get their hands on some quick cash”. But Community Services Minister Pru Goward said the government must balance the needs of Millers Point tenants against those of 57,000 families on the social housing waiting list.
Check out the excellent presentation on the Sydney Morning Herald Millers Point site.
You can help to save this community from eviction by signing the petition to save Mary Vo.
From March 3 there will be new petitions for Myra and Flo. There will be links here and on the Save Millers Point Facebook page.
Myra, Flo and many other residents are introduced in the section on People on this site. The people in this section appear many other places on this website, for example, Myra introduces the people who lived in Trinity in 1970 here.
If you would like to look around this website without losing your place here, go to this link.
Or you might be interested in Exploding the myths about Millers Point.
WHO HAS THEIR EYES ON MILLERS POINT?
See a Lifestyle Guide on Millers Point targeting Sydney’s most affluent residents, or read how John McGrath said Millers Point real estate was about to explode and was his ‘top pick’ in the company’s annual report.
Ponder … the real agenda at Millers Point is to free up housing stock around Barangaroo for gentrification and to create a Paris Quarter … a touch of Montmartre.
Take the Headland Park Interactive Tour. The suburb fronts the park … highly sought after.
The majority of Millers Point public housing tenants live in the modest flats that were purpose built for maritime workers, or in the Sirius apartments that were built when local residents and the BLF saved The Rocks from high-rise development in the 1970s. Although the government is not offering for sale these properties that do not fit the government spin of public housing tenants living in multi-million-dollar homes, nonetheless the government is clearing out these properties. Read about them here:
The respected SGS economic group has produced an independent financial report on the government’s plan to sell Millers Point. It advises an alternative way forward for Millers Point. Here is a link to their full report:
The latest Millers Point news is in the News section of this site, or check out the two Facebook pages for supporters and tenants: