The Rocks, New South Wales

The Rocks is a suburb, tourist precinct and historic area of Sydney's city centre, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the southern shore of Sydney Harbour, immediately north-west of the Sydney central business district.

 A dwelling in an unidentified street at The Rocks, 1910s. City Freeholds, George and Harrington Streets, 1907

The Rocks became established shortly after the colony's formation in 1788. It was known as Tallawoladah by the Cadigal people.[1] The original buildings were first traditional vernacular houses, of wattle and daub, with thatched roofs, and later of local sandstone, from which the area derives its name.[1] From the earliest history of the settlement, the area had a reputation as a slum and the arriving convicts' side of town, often frequented by visiting sailors and prostitutes.[1] After November 1790, many of the inhabitants were also Aboriginal. In 1823, the district had a population of about 1,200. During the late nineteenth century, the area was dominated by a gang known as the Rocks Push. It maintained this rough reputation until approximately the 1870s.[2][3]

By the early 20th century, many of the area's historic buildings were in serious decay. In 1900, bubonic plague broke out, and the state government resumed areas around The Rocks and Darling Harbour, with the intention of demolishing them and rebuilding them.[1] More than 3,800 houses, buildings and wharves were inspected and hundreds demolished, but the continuation of these plans were brought to a halt due to the outbreak of World War I.[4] During the 1920s, several hundred buildings were demolished during the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

 Campbell's Cove ASN Co building, Hickson Road

Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, with the intention of demolishing most of the original buildings, re-developing them as high-density residential dwellings. In February 1971, a group of local residents formed the Rocks Residents Group to oppose the plans.[1] They felt that the new dwellings would result in increased rents, which would force out the traditional residents of the area. The residents' group requested a green ban from the Builder's Labourers Federation, who had become increasingly active in preventing controversial developments over the previous four years.[5]

 SIRIUS apartments, a residential public housing development

By 1973, the union had imposed the ban, and after discussions with the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority, a 'People's Plan' was developed.[6] By October 1973, it appeared that the redevelopment would proceed as originally planned, using non-union labour.[citation needed] For two weeks, demonstrations by local residents and unionists followed, with numerous arrests being made.[citation needed] Liberal Premier Robert Askin was in the midst of an election campaign, and used the protests as a means of conveying his law and order message to voters.[citation needed] However, the green ban stayed in place until 1975 when the state union leadership was overthrown and was ultimately successful, as can be seen in the buildings that survive today. Instead of demolishing The Rocks, renovations transformed the area into a commercial and tourist precinct.[1]

Today the Rocks is a partly gentrified area, but still contains a significant proportion of Housing Commission properties, and there is still a significant problem of urban poverty and street crime in this district.[citation needed] As housing stock becomes dilapidated, government policy is to sell the now extremely valuable public housing units to private owners, in the expectation that they will restore the properties. The Sirius building and the associated "Save Our Sirius" protest group was formed to protest relocation of its residents.[7] Overall, The Rocks continues to be an important part of Sydney's cultural landscape, offering a fascinating glimpse into the city's rich history and vibrant contemporary scene.

^ a b c d e f Karskens, Grace (2009). "The Rocks". Sydney Journal. 2 (1) – via UTS ePress. ^ "Heritage & History". The Rocks. Retrieved 22 December 2012. ^ Grace, Karskens (2008). "The Rocks". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 11 July 2013. ^ How plague almost demolished historic Sydney, Australian Geographic, 16 August 2010. ^ Burgmann, Verity and Meredith (2011). "Green Bans movement". ^ Green Bans Art Walks Project (23 June 2023). "Green Bans Timeline: 1971-74". The Commons Social Change Library. Retrieved 9 July 2023. ^ "save our community". save-our-community. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
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