Paul and Anne Coghlan


Download the Transcript: FHS-AnnePaul-Coghlan-2015

Paul and Anne Coghlan lived in North Fitzroy and Fitzroy in their early family life. They became very involved in community matters and in 1974-75 Paul was Mayor of Fitzroy. Anne was instrumental in the reshaping and relocation of the Isobel Henderson Kindergarten among other community educational improvements.

The interview describes the community of Fitzroy and North Fitzroy in the early 1970s, the expansion of St Vincent’s Hospital and the nature of Gertrude Street.

There is a wide range of Council improvements discussed. These include the opening-up of meetings to the community, the struggle to save Brookes Crescent from Housing Commission demolition, the dilemmas with old planning laws and developments, improvements to road and traffic management, Edinburgh Gardens, the F19 freeway, the transformation of the local library and the establishment of community based child care.

Discussion of Paul’s Chinese ancestry and beginnings in Creswick are also interesting.


Barry and Margaret Pullen


Download the Transcript: FHS-BarryMargaret-Pullen-2016

Barry and Margaret Pullen talk about their house purchase in North Fitzroy in 1971 when a young married couple. Significantly they discuss their involvement in the community response to residents’ fear of losing homes through imposed demolition orders from the Housing Commission. They also discuss the nature of the surrounding community and their actions to improve facilities and democratise council meetings.


Brian and Renata Howe


Download the Transcript: FHS-BrianRenata-Howe-2017

Brian and Renata Howe arrived in Fitzroy following their University years and study for the Ministry in Chicago. Interested in Saul David Alinsky and community organisation, Brian began to apply these teachings when appointed to the Ministry in the Methodist Church. The interview describes a wide range of consequential influences and changes within the community, including negotiation between the Presbyterian and Methodist churches forming the Uniting Church.

The interview describes the congregations and the Hungarian refugee presence in the 1950s, their needs and the services provided by the church. The conditions of schools, especially North Fitzroy Primary School and resourcing are discussed.

While at the Napier Street church Brian and Renata set up CURA (Centre for Urban Action and Research) and with assistance of grants and donations they provided analysis to support community organising for the creation of services to be run by the local community.

This included assistance with saving Brookes Crescent, establishing the Housing Commission Tenants Association, ethnic groups and the Italian community in Coburg, the Eastern Freeway and a Migrant Women’s Unit within the Trade Union Movement. In addition, they produced an ABC Four Corners Program on women’s working conditions.


Bruce Pitts


Download the Transcript: FHS-Bruce-Pitts-2016

Bruce Pitts opened the first specialized exhaust workshop in Melbourne in the mid-seventies at 67 Johnson Street, Fitzroy where he still operates, making good use of the laneway system behind the building.

His vantage point, repairing neighborhood cars and motor bikes, employing mechanics and apprentices, allows him to acutely observe the local scene and his changing industry.

His wife’s first job was at Moran & Cato’s in the next block. Bruce vividly recalls the days when the pubs and cafés were run by Italian and Greek families, before the arrival of flash food and speeding bicycles, when the coppers had annual wind-ups in the lower Town Hall and the bank manager came to visit.


Chris Friday


Download the Transcript: FHS-Chris-Friday-2017

Chris Friday was a teacher at North Fitzroy and Fitzroy Primary Schools in the 1970s and later trained in Special Education. Chris talks about her time teaching in Fitzroy schools and also about the changes that have taken place in street-scapes and businesses and the general gentrification of the area, including housing and demographics, over the last 45-50 years. She was also heavily involved with the Fitzroy History Society from its inception in 1982 and has lived and owned houses in the area since the 1970s.


Dorothy McInroy


Download the Transcript: FHS-Dorothy-McInroy-2015

Dorothy McInroy’s mother left an unhappy marriage in the country and moved with her six children into Argyle Street, Fitzroy when Dot was eleven. She tells of her family, her schooldays and her working and social life, and of the local characters she met during her long and happy marriage to Mac – and the tragedy that exploded into all their lives in 1962.


Ivy Dawson


Download the Transcript: FHS-Ivy-Dawson-2016

Ivy Dawson has lived in Fitzroy for 74 years, moving into 62 Gore Street at the age of 12 (a house which she and her husband eventually bought for £1500). She left school at 12 and kept house for her father and by 14 was working in the first of a variety of jobs, including cleaning, cooking, child-minding and waitressing, until she retired at the age of 62. She speaks about raising her four children in Fitzroy and the positive changes brought to the suburb with immigration.

She also talks of some of the old Fitzroy characters, and the general hardness of life back when she was young. While she speaks about the men drinking and domestic violence, she feels herself fortunate to have had a good man, and raised their four children successfully where they could see “the other side of life” and realise that life for everyone “wasn’t all stars and roses”.


Laurie O’Brien


Download the Transcript: FHS-Laurie-OBrien-2015

Laurie O’Brien lived at 35 Hanover Street from 1957 to 2002. Laurie is a foundation member of the Fitzroy History Society. The architecturally significant House at 35 Hanover Street with a National Trust Heritage Register State Classification BO 167, came under Housing Commission demolition orders yet it was saved. This is that story.

She also talks of some of the old Fitzroy characters, and the general hardness of life back when she was young. While she speaks about the men drinking and domestic violence, she feels herself fortunate to have had a good man, and raised their four children successfully where they could see “the other side of life” and realise that life for everyone “wasn’t all stars and roses”.


Menka Simmonds


Download the Transcript: FHS-Menka-Simmonds-2015

Menka Simmonds arrived in Australia in 1948 from Macedonia and due to the need for her mother to work, left school after only two and a half years to look after her little sister. One of her early employments resulted in Menka organising acceptable working conditions for her work colleagues.
In 1964 her father was purchasing the contents of houses when residents moved out and opened a furniture restoration shop in Gertrude Street. Menka became the accountant and then managed the shop. Despite the very hard and long working days, she enjoyed the work and the personal interaction with both those customers selling and those buying in the shop, which developed into an antique boutique.
Menka’s family life for many years was strongly influenced by, and had influence in, Melbourne’s Macedonian community. She now puts a great deal of effort into raising money for Rotary by organising of functions, one of which is her annual cooking of a Macedonian meal. She has won an award from Rotary, their highest honour, for her long-standing efforts.


Michael Gawenda


Download the Transcript: FHS-Michael-Gawenda-2016

Michael Gawenda, a journalist and former editor of The Age, spent his early childhood in Gore Street, where his parents owned a corner store. He particularly remembered the freedom allowed the children, with all parents keeping an eye out for them. Games were played in the street; they were introduced to new foods when they ate at their friend’s homes. Fitzroy was the only place where he has lived where there was such a sense of community. Everybody knew each other, and there were many nationalities and different groups of people. “They were the greatest years of my childhood.”