Glebe Town Hall, August 20, 2017

It’s been a busy year for the Society, with many notable achievements, but we’re not sitting on our laurels, there are ongoing issues that require continuing attention.  I thank all the members of the Management Committee for their hard work on a range of issues of concern to our community, and also the members of the various sub-committees for their valuable contributions to our work.

One of my tasks this year has been to help with digitising and uploading past copies of our Bulletin to the Glebe Society web page, and for someone who is a relative newcomer to the Glebe Society that has been entertaining and informative.    As I looked back on over 400 issues of the Bulletin I learned a great deal about the history of our community and the members of the Society who have played a significant role as wardens of its wellbeing.   Sadly, some of those members are no longer with us, and I want to acknowledge the passing this year of Albert Mispel, Peter Travis, Roelof Smilde and Noel Prosser.

The very first edition of the Bulletin in July 1969 proclaimed “the Society will concern itself with the problems threatening Glebe as a pleasant place to live.  Our approach will be two-pronged; to ensure that adequate thought and planninq goes into new projects in the area; and to preserve and conserve what is good in the already existing buildings and places of historic interest.”   It’s interesting that a survey of our members this year (48 years later) put the preservation and conservation of Glebe’s historic buildings as their top priority.

But that survey showed that our members have more on their minds than the built environment.  Another clear priority was “the welfare and social cohesion of all residents in the local community” and I think the Society can be proud of its activities this year in that area.    Our Vice President John Gray has been engaged with the GlebeCAN project, a joint venture that includes local groups and Sydney University with the objective of identifying how social services in our community might be made more effective by closer liason.

On another front, the convenor of our Community Subcommittee, Janice Challinor was the driving force behind last October’s Centipede soiree that raised over $6000 for the before and after care service for children operating at Glebe Public School.      Janice also organised for families at the Elsie refuge to receive Christmas gifts donated by members and the Christmas appeal is now firmly on our community calendar.   More recently Janice has raised the possibility of a Glebe Exchange Platform aimed at recycling domestic items to needy families with the help of local social service organizations.   That’s a work in progress, and the Community subcommittee has now added Diane Hutchinson and Nick Hespe to its membership making it a high powered trio.

It would be impossible to move on from the work of the Community subcommittee without mentioning the fantastically successful Tram Mural on the corner of Glebe Point Road and Hereford Street.   It was unveiled by the Lord Mayor in March to wide acclaim, and again it was the driving force of Janice Challinor that saw this project come to fruition.  She was helped by some community elders who recorded their memories of this unique aspect of our heritage, turning the project into a multi media event.  Special mention also has to be made of Kelly Wallwork, the talented artist who made the mural look so real I was worried it might cause a traffic accident.

The Tram Mural was an achievement of the Community Subcommittee and might more strictly have been in the portfolio of the Heritage Subcommittee.    But it’s a measure of the peace and harmony that prevails within our ranks that it was not the cause of subcommittee rivalry. In any event, the Heritage subcommittee has also had a productive year, in the face of what its convener Ted McKeown describes as “the abject willingness of the government to abandon their own heritage principles and conservation areas and displace long standing communities in order to “cut through”.

In his President’s Report last year Ted foreshadowed the need for a subcommittee to deal with what he described as “that extraordinary example of bungled planning – WestConnex”.    WestConnex has certainly grabbed the attention of not just the Heritage subcommittee, but also the Planning and the Transport and Traffic subcommittees.  The Society strongly objected to the proposal for a portal near Parramatta Road that would have had major impact on the heritage listed sandstone retaining wall, and considerable flow on effects for traffic congestion. That proposal was abandoned, but the Society remains vigilant about future plans for WestConnex. 

We worked with No WestConnex Glebe and Forest Lodge Group to organise public meetings in opposition to the project and the Convenor of the Transport and Traffic Subcommittee, Murray Jewell, met with the WestConnex Project Manager to voice our concerns.   Murray has also expressed the Society’s concern about the placement of ventilation smokestacks in any development of roadworks around Rozelle Bay.   Murray has also been busy on two other fronts – letting the Council know our views about the need for better cycle amenities in our suburb, and questioning the government’s decision to privatise our bus services.

Another issue that has involved both the planning and heritage subcommittees has been the development application for Bidura, the former home of the colonial architect Edmund Blacket on Glebe Point Road.  The Society made a submission to the Land and Environment Court which focussed on the need to protect the curtilage and integrity of this wonderful building and to protect it from overshadowing by any proposed new development.  We won that battle, but the war isn’t over.  A revised DA is now before the court and we have again expressed our strong opposition to any inappropriate development. 

Another historic building facing redevelopment is the Record Reign Hall in Saint John’s Road -last month Neil Macindoe organised a public meeting for residents to have their say on the childcare centre that’s planned to be built there. Neil has been a diligent watchdog of all development applications for Glebe and Forest Lodge, ensuring that the Society’s views on preserving heritage and preventing inappropriate development are acted on by Council.

The Convenor of our Bays and Foreshores subcommittee, Dr Lesley Lynch, has had an extremely busy year.  None of us could have missed the headlines about plans for the redevelopment of the Fishmarkets, but as so often is the case the devil is in the detail and at the moment there isn’t much detail, like for example any plans for the management of the vast increase in traffic.  As our delegate to the Community Reference Group Lesley has attended a number of meetings with Urban Growth to discuss issues dealing with development around Blackwattle and Rozelle Bays.  She reports that Urban Growth has demonstrated an inability to provide meaningful participation or access to information.   Our most recent concern has been the so called “modification” of the Sydney Heritage Fleet facility at Bank Street Pyrmont which is in fact a drastic change to the existing approval and which could mean the site would be locked up from public access.  Oh, and there’ll be a sewage pump out facility.   Both Lesley, and the Convenor of our Environment subcommittee, Asa Wahlquist, have written letters of protest about this to the State Government.

Asa has also been working on a project to encourage the use of re-usable coffee cups in our community.  The ABC’s “War on Waste” has reminded us that the takeaway cups provided by cafes are not easily recycled, and Asa has proposed that the Society buy a quantity of so-called “Keep Cups” and make them available to members.   That’s a contribution we could make to cutting back on the 60 tons a year of plastic waste that goes into landfills from used coffee cups.

Perhaps the most visible presence of the Glebe Society is our monthly Bulletin and I feel special thanks are warranted for its editor, Virginia Simpson-Young who is also the Convenor of the communications subcommittee.  The Bulletin is always a good read, thanks to Virginia and also to Lyn Collingwood, Liz Simpson-Booker, and many others for their contributions during the year.   The communications subcommittee organised the highly successful meeting called “Get more out of your Smartphone 101” in October last year, and they’re planning another get together this November, this time the topic is “Researching your house online”.

Another well attended meeting was organised in May by the Blue Wrens subcommittee, when Professor Chris Dickman from Sydney University gave a talk about the impacts of cats dogs and foxes in our urban environment.  I was surprised to hear about the prevalence of foxes in the suburbs, and I learned about a vest you can put on your pet moggy that will give the birds a chance to get away from a sneak attack.  The Blue Wrens also saved a dying Morton Bay Fig in Jubilee Park from removal, by suggesting to the Council that a heavy pruning would allow it to still have a function as a bird habitat.  Mention should also be made of a generous bequest to the Blue Wrens from the estate of Jan Craney, a former convenor.

That members survey I mentioned earlier showed a strong desire by members for the Society to organise tours of historic buildings in our community.  Our Events coordinator, Judy Vergison, took that on board and together with the Secretary organised a new regular event on our calendar – called “Our House”.  Last month Louis and Patty Patsalos hosted members for afternoon tea at their house in Mary Street with a fantastic view of the Bays- we’re going to have another “Our House” in November at Rothwell House in Ferry Road.    Other events on our calendar have included our regular Thirsty Thursdays where members get the opportunity to experience what our wonderful local restaurants have to offer, and the always interesting Glebe Voices meetings, which over the last year have seen talks given by the Herald journalist Ross Gittens  filmmaker Pat Fiske and activist Meredith Burgmann.   Our new webmaster Andrew Botros spoke last month about the fascinating world of Artificial Intelligence.

And speaking of our new webmaster, it’s time to talk about some departures from our management committee and subcommittees.  Andrew Botros replaces Phil Young who has served nobly as our webmaster for seven years, and Liz Simpson -Booker has retired as convenor of the heritage subcommittee. Sadly, Carole Herriman is standing down as organiser of Glebe Voices and also from the management committee.  John Gray is stepping down as Vice-President, and Rozzie Hecker is retiring as our minutes secretary.  I think it might be appropriate to thank all of them for their contribution by acclamation.

They will all be hard to replace, and this might be the time to say that the management committee is always pleased to hear from members who have the inclination to take an active role in the Society’s affairs.   I’m pleased to say that Nick Hespe who retired this year from his role with the Council and will be well known to members has agreed to join the management committee.  Diane Hutchinson has nominated for the position of Vice-President, and Janet Wahlquist has nominated to join the management committee. We’ll conduct those elections next.

In 2019 the Society will celebrate its 50th anniversary- and the management committee is discussing a number of projects to mark the occasion.  The communications subcommittee has suggested a special bumper edition of the Bulletin between hard covers that includes articles and photos from past issues and interviews with contributors and previous office bearers.  The heritage subcommittee is proposing a publication recording Glebe’s vanished buildings with stories of the people who lived in them.   And although it’s only in a very early stage Lyn Collingwood is thinking about an ambitious theatrical project with the working title “Glebe-The Musical”.   There has been talk of Neil Macindoe and Larry Hand reprising their roles in “Rats in the Ranks”.

Are there any questions arising from my report?

So much for the past year – now to the year ahead of us.  And the first task is to elect our office bearers and management committee members.   At this stage I’ll hand over the chair to the Secretary.