AMELIA TAYLOR | REGULARS
Prior to colonisation, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation lived in Pirrama, known today as Pyrmont. While many indigenous sites were destroyed by the development of quarries and factories, researchers understand that the land was carefully managed, and the Eora people relied heavily on the abundant fish and seafood available in the harbour. The Eora people lived in Pirrama up until the 1870s, when they were displaced by European colonisers. By this time, due to the introduction of colonists’ livestock and windmill traffic, the previously well-managed soil became compacted, turning Pirrama into a swamp. While Pirrama was later renamed to Pyrmont, remnants of its indigenous roots remain, such as the naming of Pirrama Park and Pirrama Road.
Over time, Pyrmont became home to a working-class community. There were many quarries in the area due to the high quality sandstone, which was used in the construction of Sydney’s most significant buildings. CSR Pty Ltd opened a major sugar refinery in Pyrmont in 1900, followed by the construction of Pyrmont Power Station in 1904. The station was driven by steam, and was responsible for powering Sydney’s first electric street lights. At its peak, Pyrmont was home to around 30 000 workers and their families. However, after World War II, many industries closed down, leading to its residents moving to the suburbs. By 1978, Pyrmont was considered a slum with a population of only 1 800. In the 1990s, the government initiated the Better Cities Program, whose mission was to facilitate the urban renewal and development of Pyrmont. Through the investment in public infrastructure, Pyrmont once again became an attractive suburb to live in.
Today, Australia’s most densely populated suburb rests two kilometres west of Sydney’s central business district. I am one of the 12 000 people that call Pyrmont home. I moved to Pyrmont in July 2020, right before Sydney entered another lockdown. Instead of familiarising myself with Pyrmont’s bar and restaurant scene, I discovered Pyrmont on foot through my daily walks to escape the boredom of lockdown.
I grew up in Chatswood, which borders Lane Cove National Park, and was used to having a nearby wilderness that offered an easy escape from everyday life. It was definitely a difficult transition to move from having the wilderness at my doorstep to living in the centre of a concrete jungle. However, through my many explorations of the suburb, I have begun to appreciate its eclectic mixture of historical and modern developments. For example, Pyrmont Power Station’s façade remains, and sits on the west side of the Star Casino. Across from it rests the site of Sydney’s first presbyterian church, neighboured by small historical cottages. A walk five minutes east and you hit the water – with views across Darling Harbour to the bustling central business district. I love living in a suburb where, in as little as ten minutes, there is such a wide variety of architecture and history to appreciate. On the face of it, such contrasting features may not work together. However, in Pyrmont (don’t ask me why), it just works.
There are definitely drawbacks to this neighbourhood. The footpaths often smell of piss, and I’m pretty sure there are regular drug deals taking place at the underpass across from my apartment.