Jack Mundey – Changeing Rights in Australia

“I think the Green Bans were probably the most exciting innovation that the Builders Labourers became involved in. There was so much development taking place and at the outset there was this feeling that ‘all development was good – it was progress… ‘ But as historical buildings, and buildings worthy of preservation were knocked down, and whole neighbourhoods were disrupted – for example all the working class people in the rocks were going to be thrown out for high-rise development – a segment of the population said ‘well, we should be concerned about our vanishing heritage. – Quote by Jack Mundey Hello I’m Jack Mundey I was born in the end of 1929 – right in the heart of the Depression. I became a national figure in the early 1970s when as Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Builders’ Labourers Federation; I led the union’s famous ‘green bans’. This extraordinary conservation campaign redefined the progress of Australia’s major cities. The Builders’ Labourers Federation refused to work on developments thought to be destructive of the environment or requiring demolition of buildings considered part of our social heritage.

Under my guidance, they joined with local communities to preserve such significant sites as Sydney’s historic Rocks area, Centennial Park, Victoria Street in Kings Cross and the last stretch of public bush land on the Parramatta River. As a crusading unionist, I also fought for safety reforms on building sites and, from the 1960s, I helped usher in a new time of union activism for wider social issues, such as feminism and gay liberation to land rights and international politics. I’ve had a lifelong commitment to social justice. My early life was shaped by the death of my mother when I was only six.

My family of five children was then split up, spent the rest of my childhood with my father; he was an early influence on my political and social values. When I was 19 I went to Sydney to play rugby league, and that’s how I joined the Communist Party. In 1974 myself and other NSW leaders of the BLF were expelled from the union by the federal leadership under Norm Gallagher, who was later convicted of corrupt dealing with developers. During the 1980s, I became involved in local government, becoming a councillor of Sydney City Council. I was also a member of the Council’s Planning Committee in 1984-95.

In 1988 the University of Western Sydney bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters and the University of NSW also bestowed an honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of my many years of service to the environment. In 1982 my son Michael was killed in a car accident at age 22, the same age as my first wife stephanie when she died of a cerebral hemerage. I was made a Life Member of the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1990. In 1995, I was appointed Chair of the NSW Historic Houses Trust. I still have a continued deep interest in Sydney and it’s urban environment and heritage and I always will.

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