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Heroines of Heritage

‘Kelly’s Bush is a symbol of our lost land. Take away Kelly’s Bush and you take away one more assurance that in man is left a possibility for the future. The unborn Australian will ask for his birthright and be handed a piece of concrete.’ (Author Kylie Tennant, c1970)[1]

In 1970, 13 women gathered to start a battle that would last 13 years to save Kelly’s Bush, a 4.8-hectare piece of land on the Woolwich Peninsula, Hunters Hill. Significant to the Guringai-speaking Wallumedegal clan, the site is peppered with waterholes, middens and engravings. It is also a much-loved community space for ferry commuters, fishermen and families, but came under threat when a developer bought the land with a plan to build 147 residential units including three eight-storey buildings.

Opposition from the Hunter’s Hill Council and Hunters Hill Trust helped scale back the size of development but events gathered momentum when the 13 women, known as the Battlers for Kelly’s Bush, approached the Builders Labourers Federation for support. Their campaign instigated the first of the green bans which were to save so much of Sydney including The Rocks, Centennial Park and Woolloomooloo. Victory finally came for the Battlers when Premier Neville Wran announced on 4 September 1983 that the NSW State Government had purchased Kelly’s Bush for open space.

On International Women’s Day 2017, GML pays tribute to the women of Kelly’s Bush who were bold agents for change: Betty James, Kath Lehany, Monica Sheehan, Jo Bell, Kathleen Chubb, Dr Joan Croll, Christena Dawson, Mary Garrell, Marjorie Fitzgerald, Miriam Hamilton, Trude Kallir, Margaret Stobo and Judith Taplin.

We would also like to recognise and celebrate the many other women who are bold agents of change in heritage conservation in NSW and elsewhere.

Campaigners at Kelly's Bush

Campaigners Kath Lehany, Betty James, Miriam Hamilton and Monica Sheehan at Kelly’s Bush. (Source: Hunters Hill Trust)

Bruce Petty cartoon on Kelly’s Bush. (Source: Hunters Hill Trust)

Figure 3 Kelly’s Bush Campaign (Hunter's Hill Trust)

Kelly’s Bush Campaign. (Source: Hunters Hill Trust)

 

[1] Lehany, K 1992, ‘Kathy Lehany’s Perspective on Kelly’s Bush’, The Hunters Hill Trust Journal, http://www.teachingheritage.nsw.edu.au/section07/wd2_kellylehany.php, viewed 6 March 2017.