Amanda Barlow was born in 1943 into a wharf labouring family and has lived all her life in Millers Point. In her interview she recalls childhood, local playgrounds, women’s domestic work, school, hotels, unions, the various houses she lived in, life as a single working mother and changes in the built fabric and social mix of the area. In the excerpt below she recalls action taken by local residents with the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation of New South Wales to prevent demolition of historic buildings and new development in the early 1970s.
This interview is part of Housing NSW’s 2005 Millers Point Oral History Project. The City of Sydney acknowledges the State Library of New South Wales as the archival custodian of the project and digital preserver of the masters.
A couple of hundred [people] just went and sort of laid in front of the bulldozers and chained themselves to them and things like that, so as they couldn’t operate, and that is when the police came. There was big fights with [between] the militant unions and the police, but it was over fairly quickly, in a couple of weeks, I suppose.
So how long were people chained to bulldozers for?
Just a few hours but a few of us spent the night in Central Cells, so that was a bit interesting.
How many people were arrested on that occasion?
About twenty or twenty-five. Of course the Builders’ Labourers’ [Federation] – there was fights and things like that because it was a picket line. It was pretty exciting. It was only done to bring people’s attention to what was happening, or what they were trying to do. They’ve [developers] got smart now and they don’t let you know it is happening until it happens. We felt it was a victory; it was good because at least it made people aware. It hit the newspapers and that sort of thing, so it was good and that is what it was meant to do.
What sort of coverage did it get in the newspapers, what was the tone of the articles?
Oh well, union thugs trying to stop development and all that sort of thing, but I think people were pretty happy in the end that it was stopped. There would be nothing left today if it hadn’t been. The Builders’ Labourers of course copped a lot of flack but it made people aware of what was happening and people were horrified when they found out.