Hello! I’m Ellie, a life-long Highgate Hill resident who will be bringing to you historical tales of notable people, places and events of our glorious 4101 postcode. You might know the stories, you might not – but, either way, I hope you enjoy!
October 22, 2012 marked the 10-year anniversary since the residents of Highgate Hill lost their battle with developers over the Gully, a 5-acre patch of bushland that was once nestled quietly behind Dauphin Terrace and Brydon Street. Although many 4101 dwellers may not know the Gully’s story, those who experienced the passion of Gully protection advocates and protesters can testify that the passion of the community in trying to save this remnant rainforest was absolutely remarkable.
In 2002, what locals had feared and fought against for nearly a decade started to become a reality – the application by the owners of the bushland to develop it and construct 29 houses on the site was approved by council. The response this sparked in the community was extraordinary. Community campaigning included public meetings, festivals, petitions, meetings with politicians, appeals to the Planning and Environment Court and furious fundraising in an attempt to buy the Gully back.
The desire of the community to save this land went far beyond the fact that they were about to lose extremely precious green space in an area that only had 30 per cent of the recommended quota for a community of its size. One Brydon Street resident described the Gully as “the heart, soul and lungs of our suburb”. As my 9-year-old eyes witnessed my 16-year-old neighbours sitting up trees for days on end and people that didn’t even live in the suburb crying hysterically as construction trucks paraded down my street, I could tell this was true.
October 22, 2002 – or D-Day as some might not-so-fondly refer to it as – saw the biggest concentration of police in Queensland at any one time since the Springbok race riots in 1971. 41 people were arrested. The fire brigade had to be called in after protesters lit a ceremonial fire on the site. To a wide-eyed child of a usually very quiet neighbourhood, this was war. And it was GREAT.
My neighbours and I watched on fondly as people who had no connection to the land or suburb sat up trees for over two weeks to try and save the patch of bushland my friends and I loved to run amok and play in after school. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.
My dad, an environmental engineer heavily involved with the Highgate Hill Protection Society’s efforts to stop the development, remembers standing next to a senior policeman who asked the question, “Why are we here? Why are we doing this? I thought we were supposed to be trying to save inner-city bushland”.
Ultimately, we lost our battle to the Goliath council members and developers. It’s an absolutely devastating reality that, after all this effort, our beloved rainforest was destroyed.
But the stories I’ve been told by my neighbours and protesters reminiscing on those events of a decade ago do spark a little ray of sunshine and hope. It seems that most of those involved in actively opposing the development didn’t actually think they were going to succeed in stopping it. One Dauphin Terrace resident has told me he didn’t think anybody ever held out any hope that the council would compromise, with another admitting that by the time the protests began the development was just unstoppable.
Although the Gully was ultimately lost, it seems to me it’s not a failure to have that kind of community action occur. And although 4101 residents hope never to face an issue like this again, they’re confident that, if they have to, they will be able to rally the troops and meet the battle with just as much hope and fervour as before.
Photo via Helen Abrahams website