Author Archives

The Encyclopaedia Britannica was too big to throw away

In 1961, when I was 13, a man in a suit knocked on the door of my parents' Strathfield home and persuaded them to buy a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The 25 big books, plus a cheap plywood bookcase arrived within days. The EB itself comprised 24 books (one was the index) and there […]

He brought Kingsgrove to the world

Probably the first Sydney criminal of whom I was really aware, when I was growing up in Strathfield, was the notorious Kingsgrove Slasher. Nowadays, I live not 200 metres from where the Slasher and his wife lived, in Park Street Arncliffe, and along the route he must have taken on many of his nocturnal expeditions. […]

The last days of Rowe Street

Sydneysider: A personal journey Sometime in 1971, when I'd just graduated from Fine Arts at Sydney University, I started making silver jewellery and selling it on consignment at a trendy boutique jeweller in Rowe Street. Rowe Street was really just a lane, running between Pitt and Castlereagh streets, parallel to Martin Place. The shop was […]

Forgo the glory, declare the thing open, slip away

They opened the Dulwich Hill light rail extension at 7.15 am last Thursday. It was a sort of thief-in-the-night opening but set in the cold wet light of a sullen morning. I’m the co-convener of EcoTransit Sydney, and the project has occupied a big part of my life since May 2008, when we launched the […]

Anti-art for the birds and bats

Sydneysider: A personal journey One of my favourite pastimes is building up Sydney's housing stock. Not for people but for wildlife. You'll often hear ecologists talk about the importance of “old growth” forest. What this means is that there are lots of big, very old, and very damaged trees with a hollow trunk and plenty […]

I first got aloft on a wire and a prayer

Sydneysider: A personal journey The first time I ever took to the air was in a sailplane. It was sometime between 1956 and 1958 when I was seven or eight. The flight was over Camden Aerodrome and it lasted a whole thrilling 10 minutes. My father was an early member of the Southern Cross Gliding […]

This tram’s been a long time coming

Sydneysider: A personal journey They’ll be opening the Dulwich Hill light rail extension any month now. It was supposed to be opened on February 1, but the long-awaited day came and went because the whole job is being done in John Holland’s own sweet time – like some builder’s personal vanity project; the showcase home […]

We found Chippendale before it was ‘discovered’

Sydneysider: A personal journey My wife Ruth and I moved into 77 Rose Street Chippendale sometime in late 1968 or early ‘69. It was the first time we’d rented an entire house. We thought moving into a real terrace house was just the duck’s guts. It’s a very old, cheaply-built terrace, quite possibly dating from […]

Light the blue touch paper and stand well clear

Sydneysider: A personal journey Australia Day – or Bogan Day, as its political boosters have made it – is on an inevitable collision course with history. Annual celebrations and holidays begin for reasons of religious, ethnic, national or international solidarity but drift relentlessly toward being just another opportunity to party, or into fatal irrelevance. Very […]

The last time I saw Don Johnstone

Sydneysider: A personal journey I was a permanent seasonal ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the historic Quarantine Station on North Head in June 1985 when there was a big stranding of false killer whales at Crowdy Head. The senior ranger came looking for a volunteer to accompany ranger Keiran Murphy on […]