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Joy Cummings – Australia’s first female Lord Mayor

Joy Cummings – Australia’s first female Lord Mayor



Joy Cummings was Australia’s first female Lord Mayor and the Lord Mayor of Newcastle from 1974-1984. She had
many achievements during her time in office and left a tremendous legacy to the city after her death in 2003. Her
interest in politics began in 1938 at age 15 when she joined the ALP. Whilst maintaining her involvement in ALP
politics, Joy married Ray Cummings and raised four children. Her political life began in 1968 as the first woman to win
a seat on Newcastle City Council, when she was appointed alderman of the city’s East Ward.
Joy’s first political venture was campaigning to save Moreton Bay Fig trees in Islington. During her political career she
was known for her many environmental achievements in Newcastle including the preservation of Blackbutt Reserve
and its extension to include Richley Reserve; the saving of Civic Park, the establishment of the world-renowned
Shortland Wetlands and Glenrock state preservation areas, and perhaps most particularly, the development of the
Harbour Foreshore.
There were very few women in politics in Australia in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and Joy served as a strong role model
for them. Not only was she the first female Lord Mayor in the country but she was also the first woman to be elected
to the Hunter Conservation Trust and the Hunter Water Board. She was also the first woman to enter and address the
Newcastle Business Men’s Club and the Newcastle Club, paving the way for other female politicians in the region.
As a passionate sponsor of the arts and an active patron of the Hunter Orchestra, she identified closely with the
creative members of our community. Council support and sponsorship of the arts were very important to Joy, and her
grand-daughter Sarah Wynter (also a Novocastrian) has gone on to become an internationally successful actress.
Joy Cummings was a politician for and of the people and her genuineness, warmth and compassion for all citizens of
Newcastle made her a popular Lord Mayor and much-loved member of the community. She was re-elected for three
consecutive terms before she retired after a stroke in 1984. Joy could often be found joining in singalongs at elderly
citizens’ clubs or enjoying a cup of tea at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. She embraced the ethnic and aboriginal
members of the community and was the first Lord Mayor to raise the indigenous flag over a town or city hall and to
hold a civic reception in honour of indigenous peoples. A proud Novocastrian, Joy ensured the preservation of many
iconic heritage buildings such as the old police station, City Hall, Civic Theatre, Fort Scratchley and the streetscapes
of Cooks Hill and Newcastle East.
Joy Cummings was a woman with abundant energy and a wonderful spirit whose love of and life long dedication to
the city of Newcastle and its people made her a truly outstanding individual. Through her governance of the city and
great compassion towards its community, she reshaped the role and image of the Lord Mayor and left a remarkable
impact on the city of Newcastle.

Zaara Street Powerstation

Zaara Street Powerstation

Photo from Lost Newcastle member Muz Anderson

Photo from Lost Newcastle member Muz Anderson

From Wikipedia:

Zaara Street Power Station was situated on Zaara Street, in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. It was built to supply power for the New South Wales Government Railways (NSWGR) in 1915, when the first turbo-alternator of 2.5 megawatts was commissioned. The installation of additional plant in 1920 led to a generating capacity of 28.5 megawatts (MW).

Surplus capacity in the Railway Commissioner’s power grid was sold to municipal councils and other bodies responsible for the supply of electricity to the general public. Zaara Street Power Station was connected to the grid of the Electricity Supply Department of the Newcastle Borough Council in 1917, and supplied much of Newcastle’s electricity needs throughout the 1920s. Later known as the Newcastle Electricity Supply Council Administration (NESCA), the Newcastle Borough Council also operated a small power station with two alternators and a capacity of approximately 2.6 megawatts. Built in the 1890s, ‘NESCA’ Power Station was situated approximately one mile from Zaara Street, and closed in 1953.

Control of Zaara Street was transferred from the NSWGR to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales on 1 January 1953. The new entity continued to operate the power station until circa 1971.

Zaara Street Power Station was demolished in 1978, and all railway facilities in the vicinity were redeveloped into what is now known as The Foreshore. No traces of the power station have survived on the site.

Frank Hendry

Frank Hendry

Photo from Lost Newcastle member Nadine Rothapfel

Frank ‘Doc’ Hendry – Science Master at Newcastle Tech High in the 1950’s/60’s.

Comment by Lost Newcastle members:

David Schofield He was feared and respected by the students. At assembly, he wore his graduation gown and looked very imposing. During my Intermediate Certificate year I decided that wopping school to go to the beach was the better option. Consequently I missed a lot of lessons and I am sure my certificate results were extremely poor. Doc Hendry played bowls with my father and although I never asked , I’m sure that he may have made a few “adjustments” so that I was able to get an apprenticeship.

In those days it was common to give your teacher or Master a derogatory nickname so I think that “Doc” shows the respect that students held for him. I’ll give you a little glimpse of how it was at Tech’ High in those days. Weekly assembly was held in the main hall. Seats were set out on either side of a centre aisle leading to a stage. Your Grandfather , the headmaster and all the other Masters then paraded to the stage (some in graduation gowns) to give their reports on the efforts of the students and the sports master Bob Snape gave a report on the sporting achievements. No student was allowed to talk during this presentation. It was all very formal but there was one Master on stage who kept an eagle eye out for miscreants. If he spotted you the whole event was stopped while he said ” YOU ” third row down, second seat to the left ,next to the boy with red hair, Deputy Principles office NOW ! I saw you talking. And no, it wasn’t “Doc”.

Stuart Alderman Doc taught me a couple of years, 1965 & I think 1969. He wasn’t so much feared as respected…….schooling in those days had discipline and with discipline comes respect. Doc’s respect came from the cane he used for discipline. I think in 5th year (1969) he became ill and had quite an extended time off. Another science teacher was ‘Hippo’ and Joe Connelly whose after lunch practicals seemed to always fail because of his visit to The Premier. Good days at Tech High.

Doc Hendry used to have a beaker of water heating over a bunsen burner to make tea. He would then drink from the beaker while walking around the lab. The french on the board could have been by ‘mousey’ Allen or ‘chasbo’ Hocking.

George Hotel

George Hotel

Photo University of Newcastle Cultural Collections

Newcastle City Council Hunter Photobank
Newcastle City Council Hunter Photobank