Remembering Nita McCrae


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 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’.

Nita McCrae




12 Responses to Remembering Nita McCrae

  1. Graeme Brown 19 May 2017 at 5:27 am #

    Yes , It’s Great Idea to Name The Play Ground After , Nita ,

    • j kovalevsky 19 May 2017 at 9:54 am #

      wonderful idea

  2. Graeme Brown 19 May 2017 at 5:28 am #

    Great Idea

  3. Andrew Jakubowicz 19 May 2017 at 10:11 am #

    As one of the convenors of the “volunteer academics” that helped the residents prepare the Peoples Plan for the Rocks (with my dear friend and colleague Zula Nittim), I applaud this goal of remembering Nita McCrae through the shape of a children’s playground. What better statement about her belief in the future? I well recall her repairing a pair of my trousers in her kitchen, overstretched in some dramatic moment! From the small caring to the large struggles, she encompassed them all. She was one of the greatest people I have known, sharp and fierce and loving.

    • John Dunn 19 May 2017 at 10:52 am #

      “Sharp and fierce and loving” – yes, that’s how people describe her.

    • John Dunn 21 May 2017 at 6:41 am #

      Thank you for sharing this memory. Local records had Nita’s name spelt ‘McRae’. While I was checking this spelling II found this letter which brought Nita to life for someone like me who had not met her. Do you have more material about Nita that might be appropriate for our community website? Any pictures?

  4. Lynda Kay 19 May 2017 at 10:27 am #

    Dear Nita,
    I am sorry to write that your battle is still having to be fought. Unfortunately we don’t have you or Jack Mundy to help this time. A playground named after you is deserved, saving the area from government vandals would be nearer your heart though

    • John Dunn 19 May 2017 at 10:56 am #

      Thanks Lynda. Losing Nita at a relatively young age was a terrible blow for this community, but the good news is that Jack Mundey continues to support the campaign for Sirius and its residents. He announced the Green Ban on Sirius in December 2016 as he stood beside community and union representatives once more.

  5. Kieren Neill 31 May 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Apologies for replying all too late, as I have just seen this.
    I remember Nita from my days as a pre teen in the 70`s. Her eyes saw right through you, with what I would recognise nowadays as wisdom.
    My mother held her in the highest regard, and me tied to her hip would run busy messages for Nita in those days before mobile phones and email.
    I hope this playground being named after Nita is approved, as I remember that lady as selfless in the way she poured energy into the Green Ban days.

    • John Dunn 31 May 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your recollections of Nita McCrae and let’s hope the plan to name the playground succeeds.

  6. Frances McCrae 26 July 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    Hi John and everyone reading this article, I’m Nita’s daughter Frances, I only just saw this article as a cousin sent me the link (thanks Annette xx), it would be wonderful for mum to be honoured in this way, she definitely was sharp, fierce and loving, a very appropriate description. I may have some photos that could be used for the community website, where should I send them?

    • John Dunn 12 September 2017 at 10:24 pm #

      Great result yesterday. Council voted unanimously to adopt the name Nita McCrae Park.

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