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Sir William McKell was a boilermaker who rose to become premier of NSW from 1941 to 1947. While premier, he started the Housing Commission that built the landmark accommodation towers in Waterloo. McKell resigned as premier in 1947 after 29 years in the NSW parliament, and shortly afterwards was appointed governor-general of Australia. Summary by Damien Parer.
The documentary is one of Tom Zubrycki’s earliest. His skill as a documentary filmmaker is evident in his ability to clearly outline the story. Zubrycki’s credits include Molly and Mobarak, The Diplomat, Exile in Sarajevo and Billal.
The film outlines the history of the redevelopment of the Sydney suburb of Waterloo. Residents are interviewed and archival footage is used to outline the history of change in the area. The documentary emphasises the need for consultation and shows the results of more recent residents’ action groups.
Notes by Damien Parer
This clip shows former premier of New South Wales Sir William McKell on a visit to Waterloo, an inner-Sydney suburb. McKell describes how he set up the NSW Housing Commission, which built high-rise accommodation towers for public housing tenants in Waterloo. A Waterloo resident recalls that McKell was a local boy who rose to become NSW premier and later governor-general of Australia, and refers to McKell’s support in the 1930s for the NSW Labor Party’s push for 'slum’ clearance and redevelopment. The clip includes shots of the high-rise towers and black-and-white archival photographs of McKell during his political career.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
Images of Waterloo: police horses, the locals and the Housing Commission, intercut with McKell in voice-over or interview.
Sir William McKell This area today is a very, very different area to what it was when I first went into Parliament in 1917. In 1941 I set up the Housing Commission and the Housing Commission was responsible for all these magnificent blocks of units. If there hadn’t been any Housing commission, there wouldn’t have been this great development. So that basically, I suppose I am entitled to take credit for making some contribution, at any rate, you know, to the development of the area. And I suppose, when it’s all said and done, these people are probably living under better housing and finer housing conditions today than they’d known in the past.
Music and then footage and photos of McKell with the following voice- over.
Waterloo resident McKell was a major figure in our area. He worked as a boiler-maker and was an active trade unionist, moving quickly through the ranks and up through the party ranks at the same time. In 1941 he became the Premier. McKell didn’t stop there either. Ten years later he became Governor-General of this country. McKell always liked to feel he was a man of the people but he was a servant of the party machine. And it was the party machine, with the unions and the other socialist organisations, that responded to the ’30s calls for better planning.