Australian Workers Film Guide


This grassroots film documents the bitter struggle by residents of Woolloomooloo, a working class inner city suburb of Sydney, to save their community from large-scale redevelopment. Faced with the demolition of working class homes and the construction of high-rise towers and busy express ways, local activists enlist the support of the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (BLF) and the Federated Engine Driver’s and Firemen’s Association of Australia, resulting in site green bans that thrust the issue into the national spotlight.

Filming events as they unfold and from the activist’s perspective, the film is a frontline account of the tumultuous events that unfolded across Woolloomooloo and Victoria Street during the early 1970s in a brutal confrontation that saw defiant protests, clashes with police, violent evictions and arrests, harassment by developer thugs, abductions, arson and even murder.  

The footage is raw and immediate and has the feel of newsreels, heightening the drama, conflict and tension. Some of the most compelling footage is of the Victoria Street Action Group, as squatters, local residents and union activists manned the barricades in a pronounced rejection of oppressive housing and development policies. The film is a rallying call for a wider struggle for the rights of the poor against powerful interest groups and government authorities. This is symbolised in a compelling scene in which activists bury a coffin, inscribed with the words, “THE RIGHT OF LOW INCOME EARNERS TO LIVE IN VICTORIA ST”.

While the film does attempt to present the views of developers and public authorities through interviews, the film quickly retreats to the perspective of the residents, a sentiment that is evident from the very first scene, which shows a group of boys playing in a deserted street. Asked by the filmmaker, one boy points out a boarded up house with the word ‘Shame’ graffitied on it and that’s where he used to live. The filmmakers paint a picture of poverty and class conflict that is more akin to the troubled streets of Northern Ireland that a glittering Sydney Harbour.

A low budget, trailblazing film, it would inspire later incarnations of a similar theme and provide much of the raw footage for subsequent films such as Waterloo (1981) and Rocking The Foundations (1985).

Special Notes/Achievements

Produced with assistance of Australian Film Commission’s Creative Development Branch.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 74 mins

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Film Director: Pat Fiske, Denise White, Peter Gailey,

Film Producer: Pat Fiske, Denise White, Peter Gailey,

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Film Cinematographer: Lee Chittick, Mike Edols, Peter Murphy, Jon Rhodes, Pat Fiske, Peter Gailey, Fabio Cavadini, Tony Gailey, Brendan Ward, Tom Zubrycki,

Film Editor: Peter Gailey, Denise White, Pat Fiske,

Film Sound Recordist: Pat Fiske, Peter Gailey, Milena Damianovich, Jeff Doring, Peter Cherny, Jon Murray, Les McLaren,

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