SHIRLEY FITZGERALD B.A. Hons, Dip T. (Adelaide)  PH.D. (Macquarie)  


1987-2009: CITY HISTORIAN: City of Sydney.

1996-99: PRESIDENT: History Council of New South Wales. 

1992-95: PRESIDENT, Professional Historians’ Association of NSW.

1994-1997: MEMBER, History Advisory Panel of the Heritage Council of NSW.

1996-1998: TRUSTEE, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales. 

1999-2002: History & Civics Committee, NSW Centenary of Federation .

2001-2006 CHAIR: State Records Authority of New South Wales.

2006 -2009 Inaugural Chair, Dictionary of Sydney Board of Trustees.

Awarded  the Centenary of Federation Medal, 2003, for ‘services to heritage’.


Professional  Member, Professional Historians Association, NSW Inc.

History Council of NSW –life member, 2004

Royal Australian Historical Society – awarded Honorary Fellow, 2007

City of Sydney Historical Association – life member, 2005

International Society for the Study of the Chinese Overseas

Society for the Study of Labour History


1970-1971                 Teacher, N.S.W. Education Department

1972-1976                 Ph.D  Macquarie University.   Part-time university teaching.

1976-1986                 Researcher, then Lecturer, Department of Economic History, University of New England, Armidale, N.S.W., teaching Australian and British social and economic history, demographic history and comparative world urban history. Worked on various departmental faculty committees, including the university’s inaugural Equal Opportunity Board and the Staff-Vice Chancellor’s Consultative Committee.

 1987-1992               Sesquicentenary Historian, City of Sydney.   In the first instance, the position was established to produce a book to mark 150 years of City government.   The eventual outcome included the publication of six books, severalco-authored, or published under my professional supervision.

1993-1995                 Lecturer, Department of History, University of Sydney.   The primary focus of the appointment was to establish a Master of Letters in Public History developing courses with the intended outcome of producing postgraduate historians who were skilled and knowledgeable in a wide range of professional areas, including research and publication, the legal framework and practice of heritage work and museums practice.

1994-1996                Consultancy, City of Sydney.   Continued inputs of historical advice to the organisation and supervision of the City’s ongoing historical publications programme.

1997-2009                 City Historian, City of Sydney. The position is responsible for delivering the City’s History Program of publications and web presence.  Itpromotes awareness of the City’s history through public speaking and a media presence,  provideshistorical advice and information across the organisation, expert advice in legal cases and contributes generally to the cultural and intellectual development of the City through liaising with professional and cultural institutions. 

In this role I initiated the digital Dictionary of Sydney project and chaired its trust 2006-2009. 

2009 – present         freelance historian.


This list is not exhaustive. I referee articles and review publications for academic journals on the subjects of urban and public history, contribute to professional newsletters and magazines and write occasional articles and reviews for the general press. Prior to 1986 publications were in the name S.H. Fisher.


Rising Damp: Sydney 1870 – 1890, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1987, pp xv+ 264. The book establishes a detailed reconstruction of the urban environment, the state of public health, conditions of work and the chances of occupational mobility in late nineteenth century Sydney.   The conclusions arrived at were at odds with much of the received wisdom about colonial conditions. This book is frequently cited in the literature as having a significant impact on Australian historiography and on the development of Australian urban history.

with Christopher Keating: Chippendale: beneath the factory wall, Hale & Iremonger, for the Council of the City of Sydney, 1990, pp 124. 2nd edition, Halstead Press, 2008.

Millers Point: the urban village, Hale & Iremonger, for the City of Sydney, 1991, pp. 128. 2nd edition, Halstead Press 2009.

Sydney 1842 – 1992, Hale & Iremonger, for the City of Sydney, 1992, pp. 324. 

with Hilary Golder: Pyrmont and Ultimo: under siege, Hale and Iremonger, for the City of Sydney, 1994, pp. 134. Second edition, Halstead Press, 2009.

with Garry Wotherspoon (joint editors): Minorities: Cultural Diversity in Sydney, State Library of NSW Press, Sydney, 1995, pp. 290.

Sydney’s Streets, Sydney City Council, 1995, pp. 126.

Red Tape, Gold Scissors: the story of Sydney’s Chinese, State Library of NSW Press for the City of Sydney, 1997, pp. 206.   Chinese translation, (Zheng Wei), 1998. 2nd edition, English, Halstead Press, 2008.

East Circular Quay, (booklet), City of Sydney, 1998.

Sydney: A Story of a City, City of Sydney, 1999. Companion book to an Imax film of the same name.

Strip on the Strip, booklet 2007, to accompany installation of 100 plaques on Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, 2005.

Darling House 1975-2015: A Community Achievement, Darling House Aged Care Association, 2015

The Lord Wolseley Hotel: A Social History of a Very Small Pub, Lord Wolseley Hotel, 2015

Terminus:The Pub that Sydney Forgot, Ventura Press, 2018


‘Women and the Workforce, Sydney 1870 – 1890’ in M.J. Kelly, ed. Nineteenth Century Sydney, Sydney University Press, 1978

‘An Accumulation of Misery?’ in Richard Kennedy, ed. Australian Welfare History: Critical Essays, Macmillan, 1982, pp. 32 – 50. Reprinted from an article of the same title, Labour History, No 40, 1981

‘The family and the Sydney Economy’ in Patricia Grimshaw et al., eds. Families in Colonial Australia, Allen & Unwin, 1985. pp. 153-62

‘The Garden Palace’ in Lenore Coltheart, ed. Significant Sites, a history of Public Works in NSW, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney 1989

‘The City’ in Patrick O’Farrell & Louella McCarthy, eds. Community in Australia, Community History Programme, UNSW, 1994

‘Community, politics and work in the inner city, 1900 – 1970’ in Shirley Fitzgerald & Garry Wotherspoon, eds. Minorities: Cultural Diversity in Sydney, State Library of NSW Press, Sydney, 1995

‘So do we care?’ in Joy Hughes (ed.),  Demolished Houses ofSydney, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales, 1999

'Hewers of Stone' in Gary Deirmendjian, ed., Sydney Sandstone, Craftsman House, 2002


“Social and Cultural History of Chinatown / Haymarket precinct” for the Chinatown Haymarket Urban Design Study. Mitchell / Giurgola & Thorp, Architects, for Sydney City Council, 1994

Update, 1994 CMP Scott Street group of cottages, Pyrmont, O & P Phillips, Architects,  for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, 2010.

Historical research and Expert Evidence for City of Sydney, Meriton Apartments v's Council of the City of Sydney, case no. 10887 of 2010, NSW Land & Environment Court, Sydney, 2011 and case no 10812 -14, NSW Land & Environment Court, 2012 & 2013.

Thematic Interpretation Master Plan for the Rocks, for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, 2011

Survey and Review of Heritage Significance: Chinese Market Gardens, 1-39Bunnerong Road, La Perouse, for Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW, 2012.

Overview History for the block bounded by Suez Canal, Harrington, Argyle & GeorgeStreets for inclusionwithin the CMPs for the state heritage registered items situated on this block, for Sydney Harbour , Foreshore Authority, 2012.

Historical research and Expert Evidence for City of Sydney, City of Sydney Vs Wilson Parking Australia, case no 40203, NSW Land & Environment Court, 2013

‘Sydney’s historic industrial and warehouse resources: overview of historic development’ for City Plan Heritage, Industrial and warehouse Heritage study, City of Sydney, 2014.  


‘The Mobility Myth: some Sydney Evidence’, Australia 1888, Bulletin No. 2, 1979.

with R.S. Neale et al “Life and Death in Hillgrove, 1870 – 1914”, Australian Economic History Review, Vol XXI, No. 2, 1981.

‘The Family and the Sydney Economy’, Australia 1888, Bulletin No. 9, 1982.

‘The Pastoral Interest and Sydney’s Public Health’, Historical Studies, Vol 20, No. 78, 1983.

‘Writing a history of the City of Sydney’, Working Papers in Australian Studies, Paper No. 45, Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, University of London, 1988.

‘Palace of Democracy’, in The Role of History in Conservation Work, Professional Historians Association NSW Inc., Monograph No. 1, 1990, pp. 37-40.

‘The City we had to have’, The Australian Planner, Proceedings of the Planning History Conference, UNSW, 1993, pp. 231-6.

with Paul Ashton ‘Public History in Australia’, Public History News, National Council on Public History (USA), Vol 14, No 3, Spring 1994.

'Inauthentic City', Architecture, 1997.

‘Modernism Meets Suburbia’ in Sheridan Bourke, ed. Fibro House to Opera House, Conserving Mid –Twentieth Century Heritage, Conference Proceedings, Historic Houses Trust, July 1999.

'The Chinese in Sydney with particular focus on the 1930s', Proceedings of International Symposium, The Overseas Chinese in Australasia,  National Taiwan University, Taipei, January 2001.

'The Past is a Foreign Country': A brief history of Jackson's Landing, for Lend Lease, Pyrmont, 2012

UNPUBLISHED PAPERS (short selection):

 ‘City Government by Commission, the First Experience, 1853 – 57’, Administrative History Conference, Sydney, 1987.

‘Why Write the City’s History?’ Australian Historical Association Conference, Sydney University, 1988

‘A Den of Incompetent Robbers’, City Talk, Sydney Town Hall, December 10, 1992.

‘The historian’s role in policy making within the bureaucracy’, Australian Historical Association, Perth, September 1994.

‘Sydney’s Chinese’, Foreign Affairs Office, Guangzhou Municipal Peoples’ Government, Guangzhou, China, December 1994

‘Early Lessons of Consolidation’, National Trust Symposium, ‘Conservation v’s Consolidation’, Parliament House, NSW, May 1995

‘Hua-shang / Hua-kung – Chinese workers and merchants’, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Sydney Branch, June 1995

‘An Embarrassment of Riches – Sources for the History of Sydney’s Chinese’, Chinese Studies Association of Australia, Macquarie University, July 1995

‘Historical Overview- Pyrmont / Ultimo’, Urban Design Symposium, Architecture, U.T.S., August 1995.

‘Can there be a Urban Community?’ Museum of Sydney, September 1995.

‘ “A Thoroughly Modern City:” Planning Circular Quay: A History of Good Intentions’, RAHS Symposium, The Rocks Visitors Centre, September 1998

‘The Women of Macquarie Street’, Jean Arnott Memorial Lecture, Parliament House, February, 1999

‘Sydney’s Chinese’, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History Conference, Women’s College, Sydney University, September 1999

'Whose history is it anyway? Chinese in Australia and New Zealand Conference, UNSW, February 2000

‘The Value of Teaching History’, History Teachers Association Conference, Parramatta, April, 2000

‘History? You Must Be Joking’, 5th Annual Lecture of the History Council of NSW, Government house, June, 2000

'The More Things Change - the relevance of Molnar Today', City Exhibition Space for exhibition Human Scale in Architecture, June, 2001

'Yet Far from being Accomplished'. Occasional Address on the Centenary of the Royal Australian Historical Society, NSW Parliament House, June, 2001

‘Sydney in Wartime’, National Conference of History Teachers Association, Australian Maritime Museum , October, 2002

‘Botany Bay, Lovely but unloved’, Revisiting Botany Bay Forum, Museum of Sydney, November, 2002

The Land of Opportunity? Controversies in Australian History Series, State Library of New South Wales, September 2003

‘The Role of History in Interpretation’, Australian ICOMOS annual conference, Sydney, November 2003

‘A History of Sydney Harbour’, 3rd International Conference on High Resolution Surveys in Shallow Water, Department of Defence, Sydney, November 2003.

‘Writing local history in a global world’,  Joint Study Institute, hosted by Australian Law Librarians Group, Women’s College, University of Sydney,  February, 2004

‘Quong Tart’s Sydney’ , Keynote Address, International Conference: ‘Quong Tart and his Times, 1850-1903’, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, July 2004

‘Visions of Sydney’, keynote address, History Council of NSW symposium, Museum of Sydney, May 2010


 ‘Namings, Streets and Spaces, Pyrmont & Ultimo’, for City West Development Corporation. July 1995

Contributions to the text to accompany the exhibition and book Sydney Vistas: panoramic views, 1788- 1995, Museum of Sydney, November 1995-April 1996

The National Trust of Australia (NSW).   Finger Wharves for Sale.   Trust Alert, 1994 (pamphlet)

State Projects (Public Works Department) Sydney Town Hall: Conservation Management Plan – Senior Historical Consultant, 1996

Delegate, Working Harbour Summit: The Future of Sydney Harbour, National Trust, NSW, 24th October, 2003

Strip on the Strip: words for an installation of over 100 bronze strip plaques along Darlinghurst Road, 2005

Visions of Sydney, 2008 exhibition for City of Sydney’s Sustainable Sydney 2030 (text and images)

Participant, Heritage interpretation of Darling Harbour, for SHFA, December, 2009.

Member of co-ordinating committee and speaker at NSW Writers Centre History Festival,’ Writing the Past.’ 2011

House History Project – preparation of training material and teaching guide, presentation workshops, case studies, For City of Sydney, 2013-14


Sydney 1842-1992 ‘highly commended’ by the Victorian Fellowship of Writers,1993

The whole of the City’s ‘Sydney History Project’ received a National Trust Heritage Award 1994, in the category ‘Publications’

Sydney A Story of a City, National Trust commendation, 2000, in the category ‘Tourism’

Strip on the Strip – street installation andbookNational Trust commendation, 2008, in the category ‘Tourism’