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Vale Dr Jack Mundey AO

The Harbour Trust would like to express our deepest condolences to the family of Dr Jack Mundey AO ( 1929 – 2020). Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this time.

Jack was a great advocate for the protection of historic sites across Sydney, including Harbour Trust sites. He participated in campaigns to save Defence sites on Sydney Harbour being sold off and was involved in the Defenders of Sydney Harbour Foreshores – a collective of community organisations committed to protecting public lands from redevelopment.  

The Harbour Trust had the privilege of hosting Jack as a guest speaker at the opening of Cockatoo Island’s Shipyard Stories exhibition in 2014. His speech summed up his passion for the trade union movement as well as heritage preservation. We invite you read his words and reflect on his accomplishments...

"Although I never worked on Cockatoo Island, it is an important symbol of two of the dominant themes of my life: my commitment as a trade unionist and my commitment as a heritage activist.

The Cockatoo Island Dockyard was a highly unionised workplace. At its peak, the dockyard had 21 unions with 3000 members. The work here at the dockyard was tough, hard, physical work. The workers were defined by a close sense of community. By working together through their unions, they improved the quality of their working lives.

The size of the workforce and the dockyard’s unique relationship with the government meant that the island was an important benchmark of our industrial relations system. If an award or conditions were changed at Cockatoo Island, they were changed everywhere.

What the unions and the workers did here at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard played an important role in improving the wages and working conditions of workers around Australia.

The other theme of my interest in being here at Cockatoo Island today is heritage preservation.

Over 100 heritage buildings stand in Sydney today because, back in the 1970s, my colleagues and I imposed a green ban on any building that the National Trust considered worthy of preservation. Heritage buildings that were under threat were preserved for posterity.

The green bans were also important for two other reasons. First, they brought diverse groups of people together to bring about social change. Sydney would be a very different city if it hadn’t been for the green ban movement. Second, they brought about a qualitative change in our society’s attitude towards historic buildings. The spirit of the green ban lives on in our program of heritage legislation.

The spirit of the green bans also lives on here at Cockatoo Island. Rather than selling off the land for private development, the Australian Government created the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to preserve and restore the island’s heritage and open it up to the public.

The history of this great dockyard has now been preserved for all to enjoy. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its convict history and heritage. It is also on the National Heritage List and Commonwealth Heritage List. It is a particularly satisfying example of how the spirit of the green ban has changed this city for the better." 

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The spirit of the green bans... lives on here at Cockatoo Island.

– Jack Mundey