Urban Life/Urban Culture

Urban Life/Urban Culture

To what extent are the residential areas of the rich and poor separated in Australian cities? Are people disadvantaged when they live in poor neighbourhoods or suburbs? How and why? Should governments promote ‘social mixing’ by breaking down residential concentrations of affluence and poverty? How can this be achieved?


It aims to develop students’ ability to respond to a question about an urban problem; to search and review relevant literature; to discuss key concepts in relation to historical and contemporary examples; and to undertake critical scholarly writing.

Assessment Description

In 2000 words you must answer this question using your independent research and analysis and incorporate with the readings given to you below.

Assessment Requirements

· Provide a clear answer to their chosen question.

· Write concisely and clearly with sound grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling.

· At least six academic sources will be used as references.

· All ideas, quotations and other information will be correctly referenced.

· The writing here will not be purely descriptive. Students will undertake critical analysis.

Assessment Criteria

· Provide a clear response that demonstrates an understanding of the essay question they have chosen.

· Make correct use of concepts from the course.

· Make use of examples and evidence to support their arguments

· Undertake independent searches for/ reading of academic sources and correctly reference these sources

· Clearly and concisely.


1. Spearritt, Peter (1978). Sydney since the twenties. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger.
2. B.Gleeson (2006) ‘Siege of the Realm’ in Australian Heartlands. Making Space for Hope in the Suburbs (Allen and Unwin, Sydney)
3. Connell, John (2000) Sydney. The Emergence of a World City (Oxford University Press, Melbourne)
4. G.Gwyther (2006) ‘The allure of the master planned community on Sydney’s urban fringe’ in R.Freestone, B.Randolph and C.Butler-Bowden (eds) Talking About Sydney. Population, Community and Culture in Contemporary Sydney (UNSW Press)

Reviewed Work(s): Sydney since the Twenties by Peter Spearritt
Review by: Bede Nairn
Source: Labour History, No. 38 (May, 1980), pp. 118-120
Published by: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27508418
Accessed: 05-04-2017 04:28 UTC
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted
digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about
JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,
preserve and extend access to Labour History
This content downloaded from on Wed, 05 Apr 2017 04:28:20 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Book Reviews
internal peace and order by creating effective mechanisms of social control.
Just as Michael Roe’s Quest for Authority focused on the pundits of small
town Sydney because their shaping influence largely determined intellectual
patterns for later generations, so Stannage provides a kind of companion piece
for the West. He advances the view that the social controls forged during the
first half-century of European settlement survived the massive influx of new
comers during the 1890s gold-rush to become deeply entrenched in Western
Australian society up to the present day.
Readers of Labour History will not find much about the organisation of
trade unions in this book, but they will discover a wealth of information about
working-class living conditions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,
much of which provides a basis for comparative analysis with other Australian
cities. Home ownership, for example: Stannage suggests that around 1900
Perth had the highest rate of home ownership of any capital city in Australia,
but that during the following decade the proportion of owner-occupiers fell off
somewhat. This is surprising, but it parallels what Weston Bate tells us of
Ballarat, another community founded on gold-rush prosperity: Is there any
connection? Or consider sanitation. British officials in the 1870s, goldfields
journalists in the 1890s alike sneered at the stench of Perth, but Stannage
appears to uphold the city fathers in their belief that Perth’s sanitation was not
too disgraceful by contemporary Australian standards. Until we know what
similar communities in the late nineteenth century thought reasonable, we must
suspend judgement. What is clear is that Perth’s authorities addressed them
selves to the problems of water supply and sanitation only in so far as it was
believed that their absence promoted the spread of typhoid and other diseases
which might strike at the affluent as well as the working-class. It would be
interesting to make comparisons with other Australian cities.
In short, a stimulating and lively account, which breaks a lot of new
ground (particularly through the discovery and quarrying of rare books) and
represents a contribution to Australian urban history of considerable importance.
My main regret is that only eleven of Stannage’s 345 pages are devoted to
Perth since 1918. But there is always room for a sequel.
Murdoch University G. c. BOLTON.
Peter Spearritt: Sydney Since the Twenties. Hale and Iremonger, Sydney, 1978.
pp. 308, $22.00 cloth, $11.95 paper.
The first thing that strikes you about this book is the excellence of its
production and presentation. Its dimensions are 7? in. by 91 in. (18 cm by
25 cm), bigger than an ordinary book, smaller than a coffee-table one. It is
liberally supplied with photographs, maps, drawings, cartoons and tables, most
of them slotted integrally into the appropriate pages; so far as I could discern,
only one is captioned aberrantly?on page 219 a photo purports to show ‘Rose
Bay and Potts’ Point houses, with their attendant yachts, from the heights of
Clifton Gardens’; but it is Point Piper, and there is only one yacht in the picture;
in any case, Balmain and even Glebe houses are likely to have ‘attendant yachts’
now. Not a serious, though an unlikely topographical slip, but the ‘yachts’ say
something about Spearritt’s wry and perceptive use of some of the captions of
his illustrations, as a means, I take it, of moderating the specialities of his work.
For it is partly a technical book. And the second thing that strikes you about
it, long before you are finished, is that it is very pleasant to read, despite its
urban studies texture.
Indeed, the book says something impressive about the value of systematic
study of the problems of urban areas. Popularly, this work is believed to be
This content downloaded from on Wed, 05 Apr 2017 04:28:20 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Book Reviews
confined to the contemporary scene, emphasising traffic and road engineering,
with sidelong glances at housing and associated topics, all aimed at viable town
planning. And the brimming difficulties of programming new towns and
readjusting old ones, against immense social, political and economic pressures,
have resulted in a certain amount of scepticism as to the contribution that
students of towns and cities can make to modern democratic communities. The
odds are stacked against the urbanists, who are recruited from many fields,
mostly professional. And they don’t make it any easier for themselves by writing
highly technical treatises for their colleagues to read. But Spearritt shows in his
work that there is more to urban studies than town-planning, and that it is
possible to write books (even if based on theses) that mix expertise effortlessly
with a pleasing literary style. More of these would inform ‘the public’ and
enhance urban studies.
Spearritt’s comprehension of urban technicalities shows convincingly that
a social scientist, and an historian, can master them sufficiently to complement
his/her special insights. So the book combines analysis, and relevant data, on
the economic geography, the economic history and demography of Sydney
with informed comment on the problems of road-making, house building and
traffic engineering. But Spearritt, it seems to me, is a cross between a social
historian and a political scientist, who shows signs occasionally in his work of
joining the sociologists; so, although the book is almost entirely free of the trade
jargon that would have muddied its satisfying style and restricted both its
readers and its healthy influence, he all but undoes the good by the use of one
word, ‘gentrincation’; for light relief, he substitutes ’embourgeoisement’ for it.
I think these words refer to the process by which suburbs, which were once
occupied predominantly by working-class people, are substantially changed by a
continuing influx of middle-class: Paddington (which claims Rushcutters Bay
Park), Balmain, Glebe . . . acquiring ‘attendant yachts’.
Generally, the social historian in the author governs his work. The result is
a lively picture of Sydney from the end of World War I to the 1970s with the
mechanics of urban growth kept in their place, although by no means ignored.
Indeed, Spearritt has written the best book available on Sydney, and in the wider
area of international histories and studies of cities his achievement ranks very
high in a competitive field. A main reason for the success is his skill in keeping
his narrative proportionate to his technical analysis and comment. A tale of
one interesting city does emerge. One useful technique he uses is to pause
briefly when significant people appear on the stage, and to present at least a
sketch of their individuality as a means of keeping his history moving: but I
think he could have made more of John Daniel Fitzgerald (1862-1922), one of
Australia’s most intellectual radical liberals?he certainly should rank high in
any history of town-planning, but it was only one of the areas in which he made
an important contribution. Among others, Spearritt includes J. J. C. Bradfield
(1867-1943), engineer, J. S. Purdy (1872-1936), health officer, and J. Sulman
(1849-1934), architect and town-planner. His references to the Sydney Harbour
Bridge are an intriguing preface to his graphic chapter, ‘Opening the Sydney
Harbour Bridge’ in Australian Popular Culture (eds. Peter Spearritt and David
Walker, 1979).
Spearritt has some valuable things to say about the relationship that exists
between different types of people and different types of suburbs?’The Dress
Circle and the Stalls’. He starts his discussion with a passing shot at W. K.
Hancock who in his book Australia, 1930, argued that ‘Society in Australia is
not yet fixed and formalised’; not so, says Spearritt, ‘by 1921 it was pretty well
fixed: there have been relatively few changes since’ (p. 191). In the main he
relates class to income and occupation; he then spreads his categories over the
This content downloaded from on Wed, 05 Apr 2017 04:28:20 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms
Book Reviews
suburbs of Sydney and discovers that as a rule the rich middle-class have the
best houses in the best suburbs and the poor working-class have the worst
houses in the worst suburbs.
This tells us what we already know and hardly touches Hancock’s point:
he was saying that ‘Men do not find it difficult to change their house or town
or class’ (p. 224, 1945 ed. ). While much refinement of both historians’ argu
ments is clearly necessary on this point, I think Hancock’s balance of accuracy
is higher than Spearritt’s, although most of what the latter says in this chapter
(nine) does not depend on his basic approach to ‘a class structure of suburbs’.
There are, and have been, very many mixed (in terms of income and occu
pation) suburbs in Sydney and, no doubt, in other cities. In the 1880s George
Reid and other professional people lived at or near the Rocks; up to 1920 many
‘mansions’ existed in Redfern, especially in and near Cleveland Street; likewise
with Newtown and other inner-city suburbs. And there were, and are, some
peculiar fringe-dwellers on the North Shore railway line, and even near St. Ives.
Of course, slums existed, then and now. But as Spearritt points out more than
once in his book, many people who live in what some other people regard as
‘slums’ are happy enough, even if not, in many cases, healthy enough. Many of
them do move.
Much greater precision is needed in discussions about social mobility especi
ally in relation to a very large and complex city such as Sydney. Spearritt is
aware of the changing nature of Paddington, Balmain, Glebe and the area
around Forest Lodge and other parts of Sydney; not only some yachts, but also
many cars (occasionally even Mercedes Benz) are acquired there. Even in the
region around Liverpool and Ingleburn there are explicit signs of houses, at
least, being changed: Green Valley is not the whole area. He quotes with
approval (p. 192) H. Stretton’s remarks, ‘Out of sight to the south and up river
to the west there is duller land for industries, rail networks and so on, with slums
and suburbs for the workers and clerks’. The south of Sydney, around the
Botany Bay littoral, includes Brighton-le-Sands, Monterey and Ramsgate as well
as Botany, La Perouse and Matraville?and the latter suburb would yield much
to a closer look. And the teeming area way up the Parramatta River includes
Winston Hills as well as Greystanes, Carlingford as well as Granville; not to
mention Parramatta, a city in its own right, with its own suburbs, pleasant and
otherwise, with mixed and moving populations.
Readers of Labour History should be well aware of the racism of the
working-class, if only because of some articles in the special issue, Who Are Our
Enemies? (No. 35, 1978), which renounced at least one of the old-fashioned
approaches to the writing of the history of the working-class :
Shame on the mouth
That would deny
The knotted hands
That set us high
(Mary Gilmore, quoted in R?ssel Ward: p. 13, The Australian Legend, 1978
edn.). It is noteworthy that in such a book as Sydney Since the Twenties,
the author extends, fairly, the guilt to all of the classes: ‘White Australian
society had always been racist’ (p. 92). When will it be extended to all
mankind and womankind? There are ‘gringos’ as well as ‘dagos’, ‘white devils’
(and the Chinese Boxers knew what to do with them) as well as ‘chows’,
‘whities’ as well as ‘darkies’ . . .?racist words, all with reasons acceptable
to those who use them.
Australian National University bede nairn.
This content downloaded from on Wed, 05 Apr 2017 04:28:20 UTC
All use subject to http://about.jstor.org/terms

find the cost of your paper