Pave Paradise,  Put up a parking lot...

The Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Huskisson on Jervis Bay is just a little building. A little building with great charm, designed with attention to fine detail by famous architect Cyril Blacket and built in 1931 for a struggling little community during the Great Depression. The boat builders and timber getters of Huskisson bequeathed some lovely timber buildings to their community, and this is one of the few that remain. There is also an older church building, dating from perhaps the 1890s. This has been altered and extended over the years, but its steep roof and simple lines recall this earlier time. It stands on an old- fashioned block of trees, some of them up to 140 years old, many of them ceremonially planted by parishioners and dignitaries in the 1930s.

The Holy Trinity Church and grounds, Huskisson.   Save Husky Church   is campaigning to stop a very insensitive development on the site.

The Holy Trinity Church and grounds, Huskisson. Save Husky Church is campaigning to stop a very insensitive development on the site.

In its unmarked graveyard there are graves of an unknown number of people, including James Golding, also known as King Bud Billy II, King of Jervis Bay, who was given a Christian funeral and buried there in 1905.  Back in the late nineteenth century the colonial practice of designating local leaders as ‘Kings’ was often done without too much seriousness, and acts of kindness to Indigenous people were predicated on a belief that these people were dying out. The Aboriginal people took it seriously though, and those of the Shoalhaven have not only survived, but they are now proudly embracing this history. Today, respect must be given seriously.

Currently, the Shoalhaven City Council supports an increase in the density of buildings in Huskisson, now designated a ‘town’. There are plans to remove the Blacket church and cover the large block of trees and the gravesites with three and four storey apartments, shops, a conference center and car parking.  This is being resisted by a great many people who have a vision for something more sympathetic on this oasis of land that could form a wonderful historical centre to a denser, more populated Huskisson.

Check out the community position on Facebook at @savehuskychurch and for press coverage Google “huskisson church” and hit the news tab.

Posted on November 11, 2018 .

Back on deck, with a new book

Back on deck after some extensive travel and a heads down period writing a history of the Terminus Hotel, Pyrmont. With a million new experiences churning through the old brain, coming back to Sydney history was bit of a jolt, but as always, it did not fail to engage.  

The Terminus is my second pub history, but I’m not going to make a habit of it. They are fascinating places on which to hang some good local social history, however, and it would be difficult to find a place more interesting than old Pyrmont. 
Back in 1842 the Teetotal Society of Pyrmont was established, and according to its own propaganda, about 60 people attended its meetings at Bakers Temperance Coffee House on Harris Street.  Apparently its impact on Pyrmont was nothing short of miraculous. 

At the time there was only one pub in the area, Camerons Pyrmont Hotel, built on the site of the present day Terminus Hotel, and according to the Society, after a mere four months in existence, ‘nearly all who formally prostrated their souls and bodies at the shrine of intemperance are now members of our society. Drunkenness is now seldom seen.’ Accordingly, Cameron was going to abandon his trade for lack of patronage. 

Patronage continued however, and the number of pubs dotted across Pyrmont multiplied until there were more than a dozen by 1880. But for the last 35 years there has been no grog served at the Terminus, which was locked up and unused. Now all that is about to change and this book celebrates not only its history, but its reincarnation as a gastro pub and a social meeting place once more.  



Ventura Press


356 pages 

ISBN 9781925384352 | 

February 2018

AU$ 32.99


ISBN 9781925384369 | 

AU$ 9.99


Ebook on sale here

Posted on January 28, 2018 .

So what exactly was 26th January 1788 all about?

It’s about invasion, of course, but perhaps Australia’s Indigenous people have every claim to mark not just this day, but many days as moments of invasion. 

26th January 1788 wasn’t the day the first fleet arrived in Sydney. They got to Botany Bay on the 18th January. 
It wasn’t the day the first of the ships sailed into Sydney Harbour. That was on the 21st when they almost certainly camped at what is now known as Camp Cove. 
It wasn’t even the day Captain Arthur Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove. That as the day before, on the 25th. 
And it certainly wasn’t the day that the convicts came ashore. This happened over the next few days, with the women having to wait until February 6th to set foot on terra firma. 

On the 25th some men cleared enough ground to erect a flagpole. On January 26th, Phillip and a few marines came ashore to watch on while the British flag was raised and the new arrivals took possession in the name of the British government. Took possession of what, exactly? Not Australia. That name was not used until many decades later. 

Later, on February 7th, when at last all of the first fleet ha disembarked, Judge Advocate David Collins finally got around to reading the royal proclamation appointing Phillip as Governor of New South Wales. The extent of the territory being taken extended south from Cape York, but it excluded all of what became Western Australia and half of what eventually became South Australia and the Northern territory. Those British officials marines and those first peoples who watched the flag being hoisted on its temporary pole had little or no concept of Australia, and until it was ‘discovered’ the whities had little or no idea of what lay beyond the immediate vicinity of Sydney Cove and Botany Bay. 

Invasion as a slow burn that took place over the whole of the nineteenth century, and in some instances, well into the twentieth. Likewise European arrivals and footfalls and flag waving of various European nations had occurred for several centuries prior to Phillip’s big moment on January 26th 1788.

So 26th January commemorates only one thing – the raising of an imperial flag to claim possession of the land for Britain. Arguably it wasn’t even the day NSW became a colony. It is hardly an event on which to hang national pride. And until we jettison the last vestiges of our colonial relationship with Britain and become a republic in our own right perhaps there is no other day that could be used to replace the 26th. January. We can speculate that Aboriginal people will continue to mark the day as a day of mourning amongst many days of mourning, long after the rest of us have dropped this day as a vestige of our colonial mentality. We are not yet, in 2018, a fully fledged nation. When we are a republic, and when we have listened seriously to the desires and the rights of the country’s first people for genuine recognition and treaty, then a day will be found.  

Jan 26, 2018 Melbourne

Jan 26, 2018 Melbourne

Posted on January 28, 2018 .

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

lw cover5.jpg

I am very pleased this book is now published. As I said at the launch..

...we can be glad that this hotel has survived against the odds to become a heritage gem of Ultimo standing in this great community space here on Quarry Green.

When convict Thomas Leahy built it in 1878, there was a fairground across the road where strong men lifted blocks of sandstone from the nearby quarries and tightrope walkers strutted their stuff. They would have later drunk here and so did whoever was promoting ‘Tommy the Nut youngest clown in the world, aged two.’ There were the drunken cats. The evenings when the ladies parlour was transformed into a safe place for the local gay community to gather, long before anyone used the word gay to describe them. There was Billy Hughes declaiming from the upstairs balcony to the crowd below in Bulwara Road.  The husband of one of the licensees who went to the Randwick races and never came home. Old Bridget Tuite who ran the pub the longest and who gave so much information about it because she was always writing complaining letters to Tooths brewery, who owned it. Nobody liked the brewery, but they kept a marvellous archive which gives us a real insight into the brewing and hotel industries. 

The book runs to just over 200 pages with around 100 illustrations

If you want to buy a copy it is on sale at The Lord Wolseley Hotel, 265 Bulwara Rd, Ultimo NSW 2007 Phone: 9660 1736


Locals supporting the Quarry St Fair in 1989

Locals supporting the Quarry St Fair in 1989

A fairground across the road from the pub  may well  be why the hotel was built.     Sydney Morning Herald      1879

A fairground across the road from the pub  may well  be why the hotel was built.  Sydney Morning Herald 1879


I was honoured and thrilled that The Lord Wolseley Hotel A Social History of a Very Small Pub was shortlisted the NSW Community and Regional History category of the NSW Premier’s History Awards 2016.



Posted on April 4, 2016 .

Barangaroo: Nothing is right with it.

1. Millers Point is not Barangaroo Point.
2. Barangaroo is not an indigenous name for it.

Keith Vincent Smith was kind enough to copy me in to a letter sent the Sydney Morning Herald 9/6/2015 and to agree to me reproducing it.


Re ‘Barangaroo’s landmark public outing looms large’, SMH Editorial June 6-7, 2015.

  As curator of the MARI NAWI: Aboriginal Odysseys exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales and author of the history of the same title (Rosenberg 2010), I should be flattered by the suggested names of Nawi Cove and Marrinawi Cove at ‘Barangaroo’ or Darling Harbour.

  I prefer the original names given to these places by the Indigenous people of coastal Sydney (Eora). None of the proposed names are appropriate and they are disrespectful to Aboriginal people past and present, whose placenames have been ignored.

  The proposed ‘Barangaroo Point’, formerly Millers Point, is named Ilkan maladul by the linguist marine Lieutenant William Dawes on a sketch map inside the front cover of his first language notebook, dated to 1790. The Aboriginal placename for Long Cove, now Darling Harbour, appears as‘Go-me-ra’, while ‘Gomerigal.Tongarra’ is given as a ‘Tribe’ (clan) in the semi-official vocabulary kept by Governor Arthur Phillip and his aides (Vocabulary of the language of N.S. Wales in the neighbourhood of Sydney (Native and English, but not alphabetical)’.

  Both notebooks are kept at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In his despatch to Lord Sydney on 13 February 1790, now in Britain’s National Archives at Kew, Phillip listed ‘Gomerrigal’ with ‘other tribes that live near us’.

 The Eora called their stringybark canoes nawi and gave the name mari nawi (Big Canoe) to English sailing ships, particularly HMS Sirius, flagship of the First Fleet. There is no record of the Sirius anchoring in Darling Harbour.

  Bennelong, who provided these names, and his second wife Barangaroo frequented Memel (‘eye’), now Goat Island, which he claimed was his personal property, and which, wrote Judge Advocate David Collins, he had inherited from his father and would give to his friend Bigon. Bennelong was a Wangal from the south shore of the Parramatta River, while Barangaroo was a Gamaragaliang, a woman from the Gamaragal (Cameragal) of Manly and the North Shore.


 Dr. Keith Vincent Smith

The journal is online here and Jeremy Steele’s online interpretation of Dawes 1790 sketch map is here..

Posted on June 11, 2015 .

"Version of hell from the top of the Memphis pyramid..."

   Thanks to the  WestConnex Action Group  ( @westconnexag)  who tweeted this picture and Strong Towns link.


Thanks to the WestConnex Action Group (@westconnexag) who tweeted this picture and Strong Towns link.

Quote from the Strong Towns website in the US

"To interpret it for you: On the left you have the city with all its people, businesses, hopes and dreams. On the right, you have the great natural resource of the Mississippi river and all its potential to enhance the prosperity of the community. In between, you have the wealth of the community -- yesterday's wealth, today's wealth and tomorrow's wealth - - dedicated to moving cars and storing cars, culminating in the hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidy for the pyramid-shaped retail outlet from which the photo is taken.

What you see in this photo is the most valuable land in the city. There is no clearer explanation for why our cities are going broke than to see how this valuable resource has been squandered. There is no return here. No wealth. Just massive, ongoing expense passed from generation to generation.

This also explains why a great city like Memphis would feel compelled to gamble with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money instead of making small, incremental, low-risk investments in their core neighborhoods. They feel a desperate need to make up for the fact that their most valuable land produces nothing but expenses. That's an impossibly high burden they've placed on themselves.

If you want your city to be wealthy and prosperous, stop obsessing about cars and start obsessing about your people, your community's wealth and the taxpayer's return-on-investment."

And if you are wondering: This is what the Memphis Pyramid Bass Pro Shops Resort looks like.

Posted on May 14, 2015 .

The Uncertain Future of the Glebe Island Bridge

UrbanGrowth NSW held a Bays Precinct Discovery Day on Sunday April 12 on the shorelines of Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bay. It was very light on for information about what is planned for the area but the weather was good and the water was sparkling.  The best bits were the White Bay power station, the Sydney Heritage Fleet yards and the remnants of maritime industry still located in Rozelle Bay – the firms that build and repair the wharves and shore up the piles and generally keep the everyday micro-infrastructure of the harbour in good nick. Just a touch of the old ‘working harbour.’

Word on the street is that the government is pressuring these firms to move out so that all can be bland and pristine and hollow. Hopefully enough of us will press back for retention of these places that give interest and complexity to the place. Most of the industry has gone, but enough is enough.

And one more thing. The old Glebe Island Bridge was not featured at all, even though it would have been easy enough to do this. Everyone knows the government wants to get rid of it. And I have yet to speak to anyone who doesn’t think this would be a travesty. It was a world’s first state of the art when it was built in 1903 and even ignoring its heritage values, it’s current potential to become part of the traffic network for walkers and cyclists is enormous.

   When the bridge was built it was of such significance that it was featured in this 1904 Supplement to The Scientific American.


When the bridge was built it was of such significance that it was featured in this 1904 Supplement to The Scientific American.

 The Glebe Society has a Save The Glebe Island Bridge website with information and links.


Posted on April 14, 2015 .

Darling House, Millers Point facing Government assault

‘No public housing where there is strong market demand’. That is the philosophy of the present short sighted state government.   Community is not a word it understands.  

I’ve just heard that the next victim will be Darling House in Trinity Avenue behind the old Garrison Church.. This fine old building was in disrepair when, after years of community – that word again – action, it was converted into a respite hostel for aged residents in the 1990s.

 It is run by a Board of Management largely representative of the local community. The community the government is hell bent on destroying.  By introducing market rentals it will kill off the service and release another property for some wealthy person to buy. This all seems so logical to the government, and so destructive of community to others. But as I said, community is not in their lexicon.

And what do the locals say? Well, they have not just buried their head in the sand and argued for the status quo. Take a look at their independently commissioned report which argues cogently for a mixed residential mix which includes some private sales, some affordable housing (the City of Sydney at present has an abysmally low amount of this) and some social housing  - a community, in fact.

Click on image above to go to the report

Click on image above to go to the report

Click on image above to go to latest Millers Point Community Press release

Click on image above to go to latest Millers Point Community Press release

Posted on October 16, 2014 .

Millers Point again.

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I enjoyed participating with a stall in the first Millers Point Picnic on the green in Argyle Place on Sunday 14/9.

It was a great success and the crowds that attended showed that the Save Millers Point campaign has supporters all over Sydney. Well done organisers.

Thanks too to those who bought copies of Millers Point: The Urban Village. The proceeds from book sales will go to the Millers Point Community Association to assist their struggle.

When Chris Keating and I wrote it all those years ago the state had already sold off some of the commercial properties but the idea of socially cleansing the whole area was unimaginable.

Yesterday the lovely location reminded me about the person who wrote to the Herald in 1930 to say that the green was a ‘forlorn and neglected spot’, the houses were ‘mostly squalid’, and that the government should buy them – never mind that the government already owned them – and get ‘a wise architect to plan a scheme for little houses around the village green’.

The green is still there and no one got around to trashing the ‘squalid houses’ which are currently being sold off at gob smacking prices for short sighted, one-off gain to a sightless government that doesn’t understand this city and what makes a place like this valuable beyond dollars.

Posted on September 15, 2014 .

Aboriginal Tent Embassy, The Block, Redfern

Above photo (taken by  Peter Boyle ) of the 15th June Rally is from  Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy Facebook  page

Above photo (taken by Peter Boyle) of the 15th June Rally is from Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy Facebook page

The Aboriginal Housing Company was formed in the early 1970s to build houses for Aboriginal people on land that was slowly acquired at what became known as The Block in Redfern. Yesterday people who attended a rally at the well organised tent embassy that is growing in size daily at The Block heard the sad tale of black on black frustration as this same housing company readies to embark on a building project that does not ensure housing for the people it was formed to serve. 

In Millers Point the talk is of ‘social cleansing’.  In Redfern they spoke of ‘racial cleansing’ as gradual eviction and relocation of people from The Block has occurred over the past few years. Sydney is being impoverished in both places by the actions of those who understand only short term profit.

Hall Greenland's Watermelon Greenland Blog gives the background Requiem for The Block?

Posted on June 15, 2014 .

How sustainable is a city of housing available only to the wealthy?

The “NO SURRENDER!” T-Shirts designed by  Reg Mombassa  are available at the Captain Cook Hotel and  the The Hero Of Waterloo Hotel All proceeds of the sales go towards the Millers Point, Dawes Point & the Rocks Public Housing Tenants Group Fighting Fund.

The “NO SURRENDER!” T-Shirts designed by Reg Mombassa are available at the Captain Cook Hotel and  the The Hero Of Waterloo Hotel All proceeds of the sales go towards the Millers Point, Dawes Point & the Rocks Public Housing Tenants Group Fighting Fund.

With tough federal budget cuts flowing on to the states the pressure to sell off the public housing in Millers Point will only be increased. And then it will roll on to privatizing the next layer of inner city social housing in Glebe, Woolloomooloo, Newtown and so on ...and on.  And with this punitive budget, the stresses on public housing tenants will increase in  other areas of their lives as well. As it will for anyone else with a tenuous toe hold on inner city housing   We need to ask the question: How sustainable is a city of housing available only to the wealthy? The garbage still needs collecting, the offices cleaned, the hotel beds made, the cafes staffed. And when people who do all this essential work are  banished to outer Sydney and subjected to ever longer commutes then other problems multiply. It doesn't make much sense in plain economic efficiency terms, let alone in terms of environmental sustainability. And that's way before we get to the issues of social justice and just plain decency. Do we want to live in a place that is just for the wealthy that generates disasters elsewhere in the totality of the urban ecology of the city? 

Liam Hogan's piece in The Guardian is well worth a read. Click on image above.

Liam Hogan's piece in The Guardian is well worth a read. Click on image above.

Posted on June 5, 2014 .

The Mitchell Library fiasco

The Mitchell Library is a heritage site of the utmost significance.  – the building and its moveable heritage  -  its collections and artefacts. No state government should be allowed to circumvent the requirements that apply to the rest of us for an appropriate heritage impact study and wide public consultation.

A polite petition asking for a public meeting concerning the future of the Mitchell Library has gone feral as just about every writer, scholar, historian researcher and leading citizen you’ve ever heard of, and lots you’ve not heard of, has signed it. A polite request for some transparency has turned to a cry of rage and frustration. This is a big deal. This is a great public institution created by a public bequest that stipulated it remain a discrete collection.  This is a ‘one off’ library, the most important collection of the highest importance to all Australians.  No State Librarian should have the powers this one seems to be wielding without due restraint.

Let's have the public meeting.

And in case you haven’t signed it, here is the petition.

Posted on February 16, 2014 .