Woolloomooloo (or the Loo) is an inner-city harbour-side suburb adjoining Sydney’s central business district. It has traditionally been a working class residential suburb housing waterside workers and their families – a latter days version of the Rocks, if you like. Of late, gentrification has taken place.
By the 1940s the Loo had developed a reputation for poverty, gangs, prostitution and crime.
By the end of the 1960s the suburb was firmly in the eyes of developers who basically want to rip it down and push the low income workers into council tenements in the outer suburbs. Government planning bodies and private developers were buying up properties wholesale and demolishing them or boarding them up and letting them decay.
By the mid 1970s, 40% of the houses that had been there 10 years before had been demolished, 50% of what remained were empty and the population was at its lowest level in decades. This spurred remaining residents into forming an action group to prevent the total destruction of their suburb.
The action group was powerless against the developers and vested interests in Government so they turned to the Trade Unions for help. A ‘Green Ban’ was declared over the Loo with union workers stopping all demolition and building work. A long battle, which at times turned violent, ensured but in the end the residents won and the Loo was saved.
One of the ‘developments’ that did proceed, in the 1970s, was the Eastern Suburbs Railway which cuts through the Loo. Rather ironically, in 1979 the railway pylons became a mural gallery, celebrating the area’s history and the residents battle to save the Loo from reckless development.
Of 16 original murals 8 remain today and are preserved by the City Council. These are certainly worth a look if you find yourself in the Loo.
Getting there from the City
Bus 311 – alight Bourke Street.
Address: Around Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo
Directions: On the underside of the Eastern Southern Railway Viaduct.