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About Transforming the Local

Former NSW Premier Neville Wran once boasted "Balmain boys don't cry" in reference to the famed toughness of the suburb he grew up in. Unless they understand how much Balmain has changed, today's Sydneysiders would find his comment mystifying.

Transforming the Local aims to help preserve what Wran meant in an oral history project that will capture the stories of the people who have seen the Cinderella transformation of the inner-west suburbs of Balmain, Annandale and Leichhardt.

Transforming the Local calls on the community to take part as story collectors as well as story tellers in charting the social and economic revolution that has swept across this part of Sydney since the 1960s.

Transforming the Local was launched in 2007. It is an oral history project designed to explore the experience of gentrification, particularly responses to social and cultural changes, in the Leichhardt municipality since the 1960s. Funded through Leichhardt Council's Local History Grants Scheme, it is a joint project between oral historian Paula Hamilton of the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS and Leichhardt Library's Local History unit.

20 oral history interviews were undertaken between 2007 and 2009 and we invite you to access the sound files and interview transcripts in the ARCHIVE section of this site.

Principle Themes

  • Networks - based on gender (male and female), kinship or local activities - sports, clubs, social groups, role of churches, etc and how these have changed over time.

  • Political role of locally based organisations - eg. Labor Party branches and social activism (eg. green and open space, anti-pollution, heritage, battles, anti-aircraft noise action, gay and lesbian activism).

  • Decline of Industry and its impact - in 1970 Balmain had boat-building business, soap factories, a 24/7 container terminal and Power Stations, etc. Leichhardt was home to small manufacturing industries, railway goods yards cut through Lilyfield, and Rozelle Bay was a major timber handling site. What happened when people lost their jobs? How did these neighbourhoods change physically and socially?

  • Role of the senses (esp. smell and sound) in changing local landscape (and also triggering memories of landscape) - for example the smell of soap factories, power station sound and belching fumes; increased aircraft noise, routine journeys across landscape. What do people remember of walking around the suburb?


Transforming the Local - An Animatic