Jack Mundey

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Jack Mundey (born 17 October 1929 in Malanda, Queensland[1]) is a distinguished Australian union and environmental activist. He came to prominence during the 1970s for leading the New South Wales Builders' Labourers Federation (BLF) in the famous Green Bans, whereby the BLF led a successful campaign to protect the built and natural environment of Sydney from excessive and inappropriate development. Mundey is now Chair of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.

Early years[edit]

Jack Mundey was born on 17 October 1929 in Malanda 100 km west of Cairns on the Atherton Tableland in far north Queensland and one of five children. His mother died when he was six. He was educated at Malanda Primary School and St. Augustine's Cairns from which he ran away, due to their 'authoritarian methods' of discipline. Mundey came to Sydney in the early 1950s when he was 19 and became a metalworker and later builder's labourer joining successively the Federated Ironworkers' Association and Builders Labourers Federation. It was during this period in heavy industry that he 'became ... concerned about the lack of safety, about the paucity of conditions and where my interest in trade unionism and egalitarian attitudes really developed.' In that time he also played rugby league for Parramatta under coach Vic Hey for three years. He joined the Communist Party of Australia in 1957.

During the 1960s Mundey was a crusading unionist, an advocate in a wide range of issues, from safety reforms on building sites to wider social issues, such as feminism, gay rights, and the impact of international politics. Mundey considered all of these matters appropriate targets for union activism. His second wife Judy joined him in these campaigns and later rose to national president of the CPA.

The Green Bans[edit]

In 1968, he was elected secretary of the NSW Builders' Labourers Federation (BLF). From this position, Mundey became the highly visible individual who, with his union and supportive community members, was responsible for the green bans that saved much of Sydney's heritage and built environment. He insisted that the priorities of development be reversed such that the open community spaces and heritage buildings be preserved and that affordable public housing was more important than accumulating empty or underused commercial buildings.

In 1975 Mundey and other NSW leaders of the BLF were expelled from the union by the federal leadership under Norm Gallagher, who was later to be convicted of corrupt dealings with developers (but subsequently overturned on appeal).[citation needed]

A plaque in Annandale commemorating the work of Mundey and the union

Later life[edit]

In April 1979 he began an affair with Jennie George, which continued for some months. Her husband Paddy George moved out of the marital home after the affair came to light, but returned in November 1979 when he became ill with cancer. Jennie put her relationship with Mundey on hold to care for Paddy, until his death in June 1980. Mundey continued to provide support for her, but when he ultimately chose not to leave his wife, she terminated their relationship.[2]

His autobiography Green Bans and Beyond was published in 1981.

In 1982 his only son Michael was killed in a car accident.

In 1988 the University of Western Sydney bestowed an honorary Doctor of Letters and also an honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of his years of service to the environment for the last 30 years.

Mundey was made a Life Member of the Australian Conservation Foundation in the 1990s. In 1995, in keeping with his continued deep interest in Sydney and the state's urban environment and heritage, he was appointed Chair of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales.

In February 2007, the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales renamed a portion of Argyle Street in The Rocks "Jack Mundey Place" in recognition of his leadership 'in the fight to preserve such significant sites in the historic Rocks area'. [1]

Mundey continues to act in development issues, and in 2012, joined the action to preserve Windsor Bridge from further development.[3]


Jack Mundey Green Bans and Beyond (1981)

  1. ^ Toby Creswell and Samantha Trenoweth (2006). 1001 Australians You Should Know. Australia: Pluto Press. p. 555. ISBN 978-1-86403-361-8. ISBN 1-86403-361-4. 
  2. ^ Brad Norington, "Unions of the Heart", Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum, 7 November 1998, p. 7s
  3. ^ Machado, Lawrence (31 July 2012). "Eureka! The fight to save Windsor Bridge heats up". Rouse Hill Times. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 

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