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

Woolloomooloo NSW 2011, Australia

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

A Balcony View is one of eight murals painted on the railway pylons at Woolloomooloo, celebrating the history and people of this suburb.

It shows the area’s vibrant street life, and some of the unforgettable characters who have lived and worked in this community. A Balcony View reveals a time when community life was lived out on the street.

The mural shows two vivid scenes. The top half of the panel is a portrait of Woolloomooloo life in the late 19th century, based on cartoons published in the Sydney Bulletin. Look out for the larrikin and his moll – members of the Plunket Street Push, a street vicious gang that terrorised the area until World War I.

The bottom half shows images of residents at the time the mural was painted.

At the centre of this artwork is one of the balconied terrace houses that residents fought so hard to save. Many of those distinctive terraces were restored by the Housing Commission once the private developers had been defeated.

It’s only thanks to the determination of resident groups that they survive today – and that families can still afford to live in the suburb that’s always been their home. Through this artwork, the community’s efforts will always be remembered.


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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