In presenting this report I wish, as outgoing President, to summarise some of the highlights of the past year and to reflect on whether or not we are making progress in relation to our goals as a Society.

Paraphrasing our Objects, we aim to improve the amenity of Glebe; preserve and enhance the natural and architectural character of the suburb; and stimulate interest in the history and character of Glebe.  So, how did we go in 2011/12? To work towards an answer to the question I shall mention some of key achievements of our subcommittees, then discuss the work of the project teams and also the Society’s officers who, as a team, keep the Glebe Society ticking over, engaging members and generally enabling our activities.  Finally I’ll make a few comments on some long-term issues for Glebe and the Society.

Starting with the subcommittees, a number of the subcommittee (and working group) reports were published in the July/August Bulletin and the remainder are provided here at this meeting. The backbone of the Society, in terms of its primary goals, is the set of seven subcommittees that provide the expertise for the substantive matters within our ambit.  I commend you to read their annual reports if you have not already done so.  I expect that like me, you will be in awe of their work and achievements.  It never ceases to amaze me that these groups, based in what is a volunteer organisation, work so effectively in, for example, preparing high quality submissions to go to the Council, State Government and other bodies.  These submissions exert a great deal of influence on behalf of Glebe.  The combined subcommittees, if you will pardon the cliché, are what allow the Society to punch well above its weight.

Looking at highlights from the individual subcommittee reports, the single most significant matter for the Bays and Foreshores subcommittee, convened by Bruce Davis, was the resuscitated State government Bays Precinct Task Force.  This Task Force was given the job, with one community representative on a group totally dominated by government agencies, of crafting a framework or principles to guide the development of the Bays including consideration of the future of Glebe Island Bridge; access to the foreshore in White Bay; length and future of leases; uses of Glebe Island and so on. Jane Marceau, the sole community representative, and Lesley Lynch (one of our Past Presidents) who was Jane’s doughty and effective alternate on the Task Force, led a long hard  battle to get the community perspective heard.  In addition to Task Force private meetings, there was a series of three organised ‘community consultations’, the first two of which our members found deeply frustrating basically because, as Lesley said, the government agency positions were presented as ‘immutable and unchallengeable’. Consequently, Jane and Lesley were hugely handicapped in the battle to get a genuine hearing for the community position but persisted to the bitter end. At time of writing, the Task Force report is with Minister Hazzard. Sadly, there is not much optimism that many of the planning principles developed through genuine community consultations in the lifetime of the earlier manifestation of the Task Force will be reflected in the final outcome.

The Blue Wrens subcommittee had, for a time, been a subgroup of the Environment subcommittee, but returned to subcommittee standing during the year with Andrew Wood and subsequently Jan Craney as convenors. The group participated in a wide range of workshops and consultations and also organised a series of plantings to develop habitats friendly to small birds. The group also organised the planting of a fine Angophora at the Paddy Gray Reserve as a memorial to the late David Mander-Jones, who had been their first convenor.  A number of members of the Blue Wrens group also played a role in the discussions around the City of Sydney decision to initiate a community garden at the John Street Reserve with the debates going back and forth over several months. Given the diversity of opinion among the Management Committee the Society itself did not form an official view on the appropriateness, or otherwise, of the Council decision.  This strategy was in line with established practice when there is not an agreed perspective. It is understood that Council has held further community consultations about what should happen in the John Street Reserve and surrounds and that a detailed plan for the area will be released shortly. Meanwhile there continues to be differences of opinion within the Society about the matter, particularly about the interpretation of the original concept plan circulated by Council.

The subcommittee for Community Development endeavours to foster communication between the diverse community groups in Glebe. Robyn Kemmis led the group but sadly (for us) is likely to be on ‘higher duties’ as a City of Sydney councillor from September.  The group initiated a wide range of activities including a community art project ‘Love your Park’, the naming of Elsie Walk to commemorate the nearby Elsie centre which was the first women’s refuge in Australia, and some very successful NAIDOC Week activities including a tour of Glebe sights significant to Aboriginal people.  The intention is to use this tour as a launch pad for a new Glebe Walk to be added to the existing suite of Walks.

The Environment subcommittee was reconfigured during the year and introduced more focus on broad environmental issues such as sustainability, water and air quality in addition to parks and gardens, making Glebe more pedestrian-friendly and so on. The subcommittee prepared submissions on proposed Council policies namely the Tree Management Master Plan and, with input from the Blue Wrens, a proposed Generic Plan of Management for Parks.  The net result was the incorporation into the final policies of most of the suggestions for amendments. The subcommittee has also been to the fore in initiating a new community garden in the area between Benledi and St Helen’s on Glebe Point Road. Some 20 enthusiastic gardeners are designing the garden and are optimistic that they will receive Council funding on time to allow them to plant in the Spring.

John Gray, in addition to his role as Vice-President, took up the role of convenor of the Heritage group which had not been active as a subcommittee for a couple of years although heritage projects had continued. The subcommittee’s activities this year have included an extensive series of consultations with like-minded organisations and with city, state and federal agencies. The subcommittee also prepared a solid submission to the Australian Heritage Strategy being prepared in Canberra and lives in happy expectation of running a number of themed heritage events in the re-opened Glebe Town Hall.

Planning is the subcommittee that, surely, has the most to do in terms of the sheer volume of matters within its portfolio.  Neil Macindoe has continued as convenor of the group which monitors what is occurring at State and City levels.  This has meant looking at all Development Applications and occasionally drafting objections for the Management Committee to consider where proposals appear to impinge on the character of the suburb, are overblown or simply do not meet planning requirements The Society’s input to the new City Plan was extremely effective with almost all amendments proposed adopted by the City. This was a major achievement for the Society and we can be very proud of that outcome given the high level of significance of the City Plan for the future development of the City including Glebe.  The early stages of the Harold Park development are now under way with no resolution from our continued push to reduce the heights of buildings to below the cliff line on the Glebe side.  This is disappointing and we will continue to take every opportunity to continue our lobbying towards that end. Finally, in relation to the Planning subcommittee, I would like to place on the record the delight of the Management Committee that Neil has been awarded an OAM for his services in maintaining the character of Glebe.

Transport and Traffic has been led by Andrew Craig and, more recently, Murray Jewell has put up his hand to lead this group next year. A major issue in this area is focused on the impact of the Harold Park development and the subcommittee has been monitoring the traffic studies and modeling work being undertaken by Council. Despite best efforts and planned mitigation strategies there is not a lot of confidence that the traffic impacts will be as minor as have been estimated. The subcommittee has also been part of discussions about the trams stored in the Tramsheds but there is as yet no resolution of how these might be restored and used. Two submissions were prepared by the subcommittee: one on the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan and the second in response to the City of Sydney transport strategy Connecting our City.

Moving from the work of the subcommittees, I would like to give you an overview of some of the work done by project groups and individuals in the past year. You will see the names listed in the back of your Bulletin along with regular reports on activities. Several members are working in the history area: Max Solling is Glebe’s own encyclopaedist;  Lyn Collingwood publishes items of historical interest in the Bulletin on a regular basis; Carole Herriman has been involved in a history project in Eglinton Road and Jeanette Knox is compiling a history of the Society. Peter and Erica Robinson have listed over 200 plaques in Glebe and this list will be contributed to the City of Sydney plaques project.

Oversight of all Glebe Society activity rests, as you know, with the Management Committee. We have met each month apart from January and worked to support our teams and keep channels of communication open with you. There is a Website group led by Phil Young and, I think you will agree that the new Glebe Society Update, coordinated by Phil for distribution by email, is an excellent innovation that allows us to send our Committee minutes, urgent messages and time-sensitive alerts.  The print copy Bulletin continues as a mainstay of member benefits and we are told, again and again, that you read it from cover to cover.  I would like to acknowledge today the extraordinary work of Edwina Doe who has told us that at the end of this year she will have been Bulletin Editor for ten years and that she will be putting away her metaphorical editor’s red ink pen.  We will greatly miss Edwina in her role as Editor and Chief Nudge for copy. There is a strategy group currently looking to see how we will continue with the regular newsletter.

Those of you who have looked at the end of year reports in the July/August Bulletin will have seen the overview of the work being undertaken by our Archivist Lyn Milton, who is currently dedicating a great deal of time to indexing and upgrading the management of our  records. Dorothy Davis has reported on the very wide range of social activities steered by her team ranging from a presentation on Douglas Mawson’s expeditions to Antarctic to the beer and wine tastings.  An innovation this year has been the Glebe Voices series led by Carole Herriman drawing on the knowledge and expertise of people living or working in Glebe, held in informal conversational settings. Our Treasurer, Bruce Davis, supported by Murray Jewell, continues to do an extraordinary job, as he has for over 10 years. We are very sorry indeed that Bruce has nominated the end of 2012 as his retirement date from this position and hope we can find someone of his calibre to keep us on the straight and narrow. Bruce not only does the financial work but lends a hand across many activities including bays and foreshores matters.  I would like also to acknowledge the support given to us in this past year by Vicky Marquis who has the fastest turnaround on preparing draft minutes of any Secretary I have ever encountered. Other ‘back-room’ support is provided by Cheryl and Brian Herdern who ensure that new members receive their welcome kit.

To finalise this review of the year here are some of the other activities that the Management Committee undertook in the past year:

  • Liaison with other community groups and representatives – the Wentworth Park Games Committee; Blackwattle Bay Coalition (BCC); Coalition of Glebe Groups (CoGG); Jamie Parker MP; FLAG (community development project); FLAG – Harold Park (residents opposing HP development)
  • The Meet the Mayoral Candidates session on August 21 organised to give an opportunity to the community to see and hear the candidates;
  • Attendance at openings, receptions and so on organised by the Council as well as more formal meetings with the Lord Mayor in relation to the Bays Precinct Task Force
  • Participation in City of Sydney consultations: master plan for Parklands at Johnston’s Creek; and 2030 in Your Village
  • The Bays Precinct Task Force Community Consultations – a series of three meetings
  • Anzac Day – laying of wreath at the Glebe War Memorial
  • Attendance at a memorial service in Melbourne for the late Bernard Smith and naming of a Society walk in his and Kate’s honour
  • Participation in Glebe Street Fair 2011
  • Review of Glebe Society Subcommittees and Delegations policy

In looking at the range of activities undertaken during this past year I am very proud of what has been achieved on your behalf through the commitment and energy of the Management Committee and our helpers. And to answer the question I posed at the outset – How did we go in 2011/2012 – I think you will agree when you read the reports we have provided to you that the Society has continued this year as a strong and effective organisation functioning squarely within the parameters set out in the Constitution and with prudent management of its resources.

Looking ahead, as we begin our 44th year as a Society, I believe we can take nothing for granted with the changing social and political environment that are bringing pressures and challenges to Glebe and shifting the ground rules for dealing with issues. It was interesting to note that when the Management Committee was discussing what questions we would pose to the candidates for the Meet the Mayoral Candidates session on August 21 we noted that the issues this year were not that far removed from the issues we raised with Mayoral Candidates in 2008. Contexts have changed but we still need to focus on several ongoing challenges for Glebe: protection of heritage; environmental sustainability; affordable housing; Harold Park and support for our local businesses.

I would like to finish by giving personal and heartfelt thanks to the members of the Management Committee, the project teams and individuals who have pitched in to support the work of the Society. And thanks to you, the members, for your support and your confidence in the team. We hope that we have met your expectations and that you will continue to support us through your membership and participation in activities.

Mairéad Browne