The City of Unley is located immediately south of the City of Adelaide. It extends from Greenhill Road in the north to Cross Road in the south and from Black Forest and Everard Park in the west to Parkside and part of Glen Osmond in the east. Around 38,000 people live here and many share Focus’ concerns for the preservation of the character of the area, and particularly its many historic houses. We also have a history of strong community action, with some veterans of the the highly successful Unley Residents Society of the 1970’s.
In August 2003 Laura Pieraccini ‘persuaded’ two of those veterans, friends, Ros Islip and Val Nairn,to meet with Ron Green, the Unley CEO, on the 30th August 2003 to discuss the possible formation of a residents’ society. They were distressed about the indiscriminate demolition of historic houses in Unley with the consequent loss of heritage and character and they were angry that Council was powerless to stop it. A meeting at the Fullarton Park Community Centre on the 14th. October 2003 attracted key residents who prepared a draft vision for the preservation and enhancement of the unique historic character of the City of Unley including protection of buildings, houses and shops, open spaces, gardens, trees, streetscapes and general environment. The group agreed on the aim of making any new development sympathetic with the existing built and natural living environment.
The Steering Committee was formed and an amazing amount of energy, enthusiasm, and hard work by a small number of people ensued over the next few months. Submissions were written for the Reviews of Heritage, the Metropolitan Planning Strategy, the Development Act 1993 and the Economic Development Board. A flier was prepared and letter-boxed to known ‘hot spots’ of concerned residents to introduce them to FOCUS and invite them to the next meeting. A petition was drawn up with over 2,000 signatures asking the State Government to give Councils the power to control the demolition of buildings constructed before 1940. Minister White refused to accept petition as it was not in the right format but the Local Member for Unley tabled it in Parliament and media was aroused. Articles and photo shoots were arranged with the Eastern Courier and steps were taken to draw up a constitution and become an incorporated body.
44 people attended the first public meeting of FOCUS on 5-11-2003. The Mayor of Unley Michael Keenan assured those present that the Councillors supported the residents in their concerns about the planning matters in the Planning Review. The Eastern Courier’s interest in local affairs meant that letters to the editor were printed and their reporters delved into planning matters. FOCUS notices of meetings were also accepted for the free ‘Community Notice Board.’ The encouragement from Local Member Mark Brindall and help with printing for the membership brochure and the notices of meeting was greatly appreciated.
The Constitution was confirmed by the membership on the 29th April 2004 with 5 key aims and objectives:
- Promote planning policies that ensure retention of the existing amenity: character, gardens, open space, and trees throughout the City of Unley
- Influence development application assessment that insists on rigorous criteria to ensure only high quality and sympathetic development proceeds in the City of Unley.
- Seek Council control over demolition of buildings built prior to World War 11 and significant trees with consultative, transparent, and accountable decision making processes.
- Establish and maintain the Society as a force that asserts its view at every opportunity to all levels of Government that regulate development in the Unley area.
- Establish and maintain the Society as a force that, as a matter of course, all development authorities consult on the basis of good faith, before strategic development decisions are made.
In June 2004 FOCUS was officially launched. Work continued on the Constitution, with an initial membership of 115 confirmed and a web-site was set up at www.focusonunley.org
Over the years the FOCUS Committee decided to have fewer regular meetings and to have special meetings when issues occurred and appropriate guest speakers are invited. Since 2004, members have:
- Taken part in protests, silent as at the auctions of historic cottages in Parkside threatened by developers, and noisy as on the steps of parliament house with other groups highlighting the need to improve the proposed Sustainable Development Bill and on the corner of Cross Rd and Duthy St., waving banners ‘toot for heritage’ to save Burgess House.
- Assisted other groups opposing inappropriate developments in Unley, eg CRAG, the Commercial Rd Action Group, and the Arthur/Mary St Group by acting as an information resource and a group that can quickly swing into action with banking facilities and e-mail.
- Held membership drives on Saturday mornings outside the Unley and Goodwood shops.
- Conducted a survey of Local Government candidates with the results published in the Eastern Courier before each election.
- Established links to the curator of the Unley Museum and the Friends of the Unley Museum, the National Trust and Civic Trust, Save Our Suburbs and the Inner Urban Alliance.
- Advocated for Council Planning changes, eg the DPA 1 and continued the hard work of composing submissions to the Minister for Planning and Urban Development re issues of development planning, retaining the heritage and character of Unley and the inner suburbs.
- Appreciated the encouragement and support from Unley’s Local Member, David Pisoni.
- Initiated a “Signs of the Past” proposal to Council to recognise historic sites in Unley
There has been an encouraging degree of success in achieving the aims and objectives as set out in the Constitution. FOCUS will continue to work with members, residents, Councillors, Council staff, local politicians and like-minded community groups to advocate for Unley to be a leader in heritage conservation and sustainability while meeting the demands of the modern world.
President, Ros Islip,
Friends of the City of Unley Society Inc.
PO Box 172