Artist
Artists: Merilyn Fairskye, Michiel Dolk
Date Installed
Installed 1982
Location
Cathedral Street, Woolloomooloo (between Bourke Street and Forbes Street
Project
Project: Woolloomooloo Murals
Tag
Tag: Wall work

Artwork Description

We tried to remain true to the history and consulted a lot with residents. Once the community felt we had the right narrative they left us to work out the compositions.

– Michiel Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye

FEDFA Green Bans is one of eight murals painted on the railway pylons at Woolloomooloo, showing the history and people of this suburb.

It celebrates the role played by the Federated Engine Drivers and Fireman’s Association (FEDFA) in Woolloomooloo. Without their staunch support, residents may never have been able to save their suburb from destruction.

In 1973, Woolloomooloo’s people were locked in a desperate battle to protect their homes. The State Government had approved plans to clear out the working-class residents and replace their terraces with lucrative high-rise apartments and offices. With the might of both government and developers against them, the residents seemed doomed to fail..

When they turned to the unions, Woolloomooloo’s residents found the help they needed. Since FEDFA members included bulldozer and crane drivers, developers couldn’t demolish buildings or clear land without their labour. When FEDFA and the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation agreed on a ‘green ban’ for the area in 1973, they brought all demolition and construction in Woolloomooloo to a grinding halt.

FEDFA Green Bans features the local heroes and union champions who changed the course of the suburb’s history. These people included FEDFA leaders Jack Cambourn and Vic Fitzgerald, public housing activist Colin James, and Father Edmund Campion, the first secretary of the Woolloomooloo Resident Action Group.

ARTISTS

The Woolloomooloo murals were designed and painted by local artists Michiel Dolk and Merilyn Fairskye.

Wanting to preserve and celebrate the suburb’s unique history, the artists approached the Woolloomooloo Resident Action Group with the idea in 1979.

Before putting paint to panel, Fairskye and Dolk spent a full year piecing together the real story of Woolloomooloo from archives – and the memories and photos of the families who lived it.

Hundreds of donors and community groups raised funds for the materials, but the artists worked for free. The murals took three years to create.

Woolloomooloo Murals

Woolloomooloo was traditionally a suburb for waterside workers and their families. In the 1970s, the area was under threat from developers, who wanted to construct high-rise developments.

Residents refused to leave and, with the support of their unions, managed to save many homes. The Woolloomooloo Mural Project was conceived by activist artists Merilyn Fairskye and Michiel Dolk in 1982 to celebrate the suburb’s people and history.

There were a total of 16 murals commissioned by the Woolloomooloo Residents Action Group.

The murals were originally intended to last 10 years and have now been on display for over 25 years.

With extensive consultations, eight of the sixteen murals were identified as being of high historical significance and aim to become an active link to people’s memories of the area.

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