Nita McCrae and Jack Mundey are the two people most responsible for saving The Rocks and Millers Point from destruction in the 1970s. It was Nita McCrae who contacted unions and anyone she thought might lend support to save The Rocks, but no-one responded until she wrote to the Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation. Jack Mundey replied and together the unions and the community placed a Green Ban on The Rocks and changed forever the way urban design occurs in our city.
There is a plaque on the 1870s terrace where Nita lived at the top of George Street and a glass panel about her in the Playfair Street square. Last century, major constructions were named after important men: Walsh Bay, Hickson Road, Bradfield Highway. Nita McCrae’s family lived in The Rocks from 1805 until she died in 1995. She is celebrated in this community and now there is an opportunity to do something about this. Under construction in front of the Harry Jensen Centre is a playground in the Heart of Millers Point that could be known as the Nita McCrae Playground. You can support this proposal by emailing [email protected] until Friday 19 May.
What was Nita McCrae like? Read on and make up your own mind.
In March 1978 the National Trust announced it was taking a stand to protect The Rocks. Nita McCrae, The Chairperson of The Rocks Resident Group wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald…
The National Trust are to be congratulated for speaking out at last.
The Rocks Residents Group, (RRG), formed in 1970, have been going it alone, so to speak. Since our formation, we have been saying many of the same things that appeared in the article. Unfortunately, we do not enjoy the same respectability as the National Trust.
For our efforts to ‘Save The Rocks’ (our motto), members of the group have been given such titles as communists, ratbags, people with vested interests, low rent payers trying to preserve the status quo, trouble-makers and many other paranoid statements.
In 1973 we were literally at war with the Askin government and the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA), with green bans, confrontation, arrests … THE LOT. Residents with unblemished characters are now convicted persons because they dared fight to save their heritage and try to save their community which is their heritage.
The National Trust has our respect for classifying the many historical buildings in the area … residents do live in some of them, but the sad part is that SCRA was formed in 1968, and in ten years a lot of damage can be done.
In 1968 the residential population was approximately 200 families, in 1978 less than 70 families, brought about by such processes as eviction, natural deaths and ‘encouragement’ “You would be so much better off, dear, in a Housing Commission unit” – and then their homes are turned into offices, shops and bistros.
The Residents Group have also protested to the present state government in respect to the demolition of the George Street Edwardian Era shops and hotels.
The state cabinet set up a three man inquiry and the cabinet made the decision to demolish these buildings … without any consultation or participation of the local community. We have lodged further protests to the Premier and his ministers, Mr. Jensen and Mr. Landa. We have requested that no further decisions of this type be made without public scrutiny.
No replies yet.
The Director of SCRA, Mr Magee, was quoted as saying that SCRA had consulted with the National Trust and that SCRA had no plans for the buildings listed – it should be clearly spelled out SCRA have NO PLANS for anything except to demolish.
For the past 6–9 months that is all the RRG have been told, “We intend to demolish”; we have lodged our protests to the Premier and his ministers, to protest to SCRA is like belting your head against a brick wall… “We are the experts, dear, you’re wrong.”
Since its formation SCRA have borrowed $44 million, more than enough to buy back the few freehold properties and rehabilitate the whole East and West Rocks Area – this is Public Property; the $44 million is Public Money a but the Public have NO SAY.
So, Royal Naval House is to be saved. Where are the sailors who stayed at John… Where are the police from the vacant George Street station? We could use them to control the pub crawlers on Friday and Saturday nights. And what about the Sydney Sailors Home, founded in 1863? SCRA, by law, resumed the building for $1.3 million. The 40 residents of the Home have received their marching orders from the Sydney Sailors Home Council – although some are old and in ill health – but I suppose they could be carried out.
What are SCRA plans for the site? To demolish? What are the Sydney Sailors Home Council plans for the 1.3 million dollars? Who knows?
In 1972 the Residents Group, with voluntary academic assistance, prepared a ‘People’s Plan’ for The Rocks. It simply said: leave it alone; restore, retain and rebuild on the vacant sites.
The state government should call a Public Inquiry and not a three-man inquiry that makes secret decisions to demolish history.
I was always taught ‘It’s never too late’.