Bob Connolly was living across the road from the Hereford Lodge YHA in the early 1990s. Our editor interviewed him about action taken by a group of locals to address the problems arising from a large YHA in a residential street:

We spent a year in Niugini, shooting Black Harvest. When we left the previous year, Hereford Lodge was a long-term residential hostel for Colombo Plan students. (If it wasn’t the Colombo Plan it was a related government thing that involved mature aged students). 1

I think there were something like 100 beds. The Youth Hostels Association bought the place and without putting in a DA (as I understand it), transferred it to a 350-bed2 youth hostel! Our bedroom was the front room, and at about half past five in the morning, these two huge busses turned up and spent about 20 minutes disgorging 100 people, kept their motors running for about 40 minutes; and that’s when we realised this had happened.

The street was basically split down the middle about it. The usual thing was happening, the joint was gentrifying and so you had, across the road, the Professor of Anthropology of Sydney and down the road, a teacher at TAFE, and we lived in this house. But there were three, four or five houses belonging to the old working-class Catholic population that were here – salt of the earth – but they couldn’t see anything wrong with it. I think they thought it was ok because we didn’t. There was a little bit of that going on.

Anyway, we started a battle. We probably had 20 meetings about it; they were mostly over at the Youth Hostel itself. Nothing moved until Larry Hand came on the scene – September 1991, he got elected in his first term as Mayor. None of us knew anything about council politics, I thought councils did the garbage and cleaned the road. I had absolutely no idea that they were so involved in that sort of thing. Basically, there was a huge amount of conflict over the built environment of the municipality and what it was going to turn into. We dealt with the Council officers and they attempted mediation but got nowhere. It turned out that, at the time, the Mayor, a guy called Brady, was very pro-development and he thought it was great. It was only when Larry got elected – he came on the scene and took one look at the situation and said to YHA, ‘No, you’ve got to put in a DA’.

The Council voted 12-0 for the DA to be approved but with a limitation on the number of beds. There had been either one or two beds in these rooms because the Colombo Plan people are in their mid-20s and the YHA just overnight dumped them full of as many bunks as they could! I mean, I’ve been to Youth Hostels all around the world, but this was a residential street. YHA took it to the Land and Environment Court and lost, basically.

Bob Connolly is a film-maker and author who lives in Hereford St Glebe. Bob and his late wife, Robin Anderson, made the Highlands Trilogy; the three films of which have won over 30 international awards. Amongst his other films is the remarkable Rats in the Ranks.

Bob spoke at the Glebe Society’s ‘Glebe Voices’ on 5 September 2018 at Glebe Town Hall. The transcript of his talk can be read here:

  1. Bob Connolly refers to the hostel’s former use for students on the Colombo Plan. For some time in the 1970s and 1980s, the hostel housed students enrolled in the International Training Institute program which provided management training for professionals from developing countries in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Accommodation at Hereford Lodge was funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Australian Development Assistance Bureau (Sources: Wikipedia, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 22 August 1978, Issue No. G33, p.68; Commonwealth Accommodation and Catering Services Ltd 30th Annual Report 1980-81); 2. In the history, Beds, Boots and Backpacks, the hostel is described as having 250 beds.
Larry Hand and Bob Connolly inside the Leichhardt Council Chambers (photo: Steven Siewert, SMH, 8 June 2006)