October 27 - November 2, 2013: Issue 134

Robert Dunn's Pittwater Uprising – A Secessionist’s View Launched on Pittwater Council's 21st Anniversary

Left to right: Councillors Sue Young and Kay Millar, former Councillor  and  Mayor of first elected Pittwater Council Robert Dunn, Councillor Julie Hegarty,  former Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Allan Porter, former Councillor  Patricia Giles OAM (also Former Mayor), former Councillor  Shirley Phelps OAM, former Councillor  Bob Dunbar, Councillor and former Deputy Mayor  Bob Grace, Councillor and Deputy Mayor  Kylie Ferguson, Councillor and Mayor of Pittwater Jacqui Townsend,  former Councillors  and Mayors Lynne Czinner and Harvey Rose.


Robert Dunn's Pittwater Uprising – A Secessionist’s View Launched on Pittwater Council's 21st Anniversary

…it is a colourful, entertaining, witty and fascinating insight into the forces that not only created Pittwater but then onto, and I found this particularly fascinating, the development of the culture behind Pittwater Council.
I have learnt through this because you see jurisdiction after jurisdiction which has a wonderful start in its existence, has a wonderful written constitution and thoughts behind it but then the culture hasn’t been developed to sustain the development of that organisation in the right direction. What we see with Pittwater and in its early days and the early fights detailed in this book, is the development of a culture that has created the local government area that we have today.
That is why the local community is so passionate about keeping Pittwater because it is a culture of openness, of good government in local democracy and where the people are truly listened to.
Rob Stokes, BA, LLM, PhD, MP
 for Pittwater

Pittwater Uprising – A Secessionist’s View - Robert Dunn’s personal memoir about the formation of Pittwater Council was launched on the 21st Anniversary of Pittwater Council's first election, Thursday evening hursday evening, 24th of October, 2013, at the place all great books are available, Mona Vale Library.

Filled with all the events and dramas that went on leading up to Pittwater becoming a local government area, this insider’s viewpoint from Pittwater’s first elected Mayor provides a record for those who remember and those who wish to recall the sparks that have created a permeable and permanent beacon for all communities everywhere.

We are privileged to share with you this week some of the words from those invited to speak at this dual celebration:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this double event: the launch of Robert Dunn’s book  Pittwater Uprising! and the celebration of Pittwater Council’s 21st anniversary as an elected council.
Rob Stokes, member for Pittwater
Jacqueline Townsend, Mayor of Pittwater
Deputy Mayor, Kylie Ferguson and Councillors Bob Grace, Julie Hegarty, Kay Millar and Sue Young
Patricia Giles OAM, former mayor of Pittwater
Robert Dunn and his wife, Carolyn and children Simon, Hannah and Angus.

My name is Tony Tenney and I have endured (I mean enjoyed) being Robert’s editor for Pittwater Uprising!

We have a real meeting of the clans here today. Not only is it a book launch but a party celebrating the 21st birthday of Pittwater as an elected council. Thank you for coming and joining in the festivities. It will be great to renew old friendships and acquaintances from the years of the struggle for Freedom for Pittwater.

Pittwater Uprising! is neither a family nor local history, but a personal memoir by the author of his public life, mainly as a councillor of Warringah Shire and later as the first elected mayor and councillor of the new council.

Far from being a work of egotism or self-aggrandisement, Pittwater Uprising! recognises the huge and sustained effort of individuals and groups to secure their own council. A glance through the Glossary reveals the hundreds of players involved in this local drama. Robert is particularly generous in giving recognition to the late Des Creagh who can rightly be called the Father of Pittwater, having campaigned for independence since 1966, and to the late Eric Green whose passion, energy and leadership did so much to secure the creation of this unique local council.

Pittwater Uprising! is a riveting read and I unreservedly recommend it to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, before I call upon our special guests to address us, I would like to record the following apologies for today’s function:

Hon Nick Greiner, former premier of NSW
Jim Longley, former member for Pittwater
Mark Ferguson, Pittwater General Manager and Council Officers Andrew Piggott and Chris Hunt.
Jim and Marie Baker
Stan and Colleen Brown
Ron and Jenny Chambers
Martha Gee
Ian and Yvonne Heard
John Ingham
Alan and Elizabeth Moore
David and Libby Palmer
Arthur Price
Tom and Jo Renton

And finally Ken and Pat Hughes. Ken was a campaign supporter of Robert’s and is currently fighting fires in the Blue Mountains. He has sent an email apology which I would like to read.

Thank you for the invitation to your book launch event. Unfortunately I will be unable to attend since, like many other RFS Officers I will be on other duties. We have already spent countless hours at the fires at Catherine Hill Bay, in the Southern Highlands and the Blue Mountains and I fear that this situation will continue at least into the near future.
I wish you every success with Pittwater Uprising. I’m sure it will be a huge contribution to the documentation of our local history. You can take great credit for the major effort you have made in ensuring that the Pittwater Local Government area became a reality. 

Pertinently, in his book Robert takes us on a diversion away from local politics and devotes a chapter to describing the 1994 bushfires and their effect on Pittwater and Warringah.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to call upon our local member Rob Stokes, to address us. Rob has always been very supportive of our community groups and Pittwater Council. Thank you, Rob.

Hon. Rob Stokes: I would like to acknowledge a number of former Mayors and Councillors who have served Pittwater and are here this evening – Emeritus Mayor, Harvey Rose, former Councillor Shirley Phelps OAM, thank you all for your service…

We’re here to launch this amazing and wonderful tome. It struck me when reading it that in many ways the process here in Pittwater in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was concomitant with the wave of freedom that was going around the world at the time in the Eastern Bloc, The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and so in many ways Robert is Pittwater’s answer to Mikhail Gorbachev.
(Laughter, applause)

Now to the book itself; I was initially concerned because the cover bears a startling resemblance to the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey….
(more laughter)

But freedom for Pittwater and indeed the heading Pittwater Uprising really captures the tenor and the white heat that is inspired and you can see still seeping through every sentence of the book.
No doubt when Sydney’s Legal Community heard that Robert was going to write a book there was a party at the Defamation Bar

I know that many of you may have bought the book to see your name in the Index and will read those sections, but it is a colourful, entertaining, witty and fascinating insight into the forces that not only created Pittwater but then onto, and I found this particularly fascinating, the development of the culture behind Pittwater Council.

I have learnt through this because you see jurisdiction after jurisdiction which has a wonderful start in its existence, has a wonderful written constitution and thoughts behind it but then the culture hasn’t been developed to sustain the development of that organisation in the right direction. What we see with Pittwater and in its early days and the early fights detailed in this book, is the development of a culture that has created the local government area that we have today.

That is why the local community is so passionate about keeping Pittwater because it is a culture of openness, of good government in local democracy and where the people are truly listened to. I do praise the Council, I think it is a very good Council. Of course, as Robert would say, I shouldn’t praise them too much, as just at a State level, we always have to ensure that we keep aiming for excellence. But certainly the development of the culture, of which Robert was such a critical part, has led to the creation of what is a wonderful, vibrant, successful and truly grass roots Council.

You see in so many of the values that informed the development of Pittwater Council much of Robert’s efforts and perseverance.

I remember as a legal clerk I had the wonderful opportunity to work in two environments. I got the opportunity to work with Robert in a small suburban law firm which was built as a family practice and built on love and built on compassion for clients, built on a real sense of obligation to the community with really really strong values. I also, at the same time, was able to work in a large multinational law firm in the city, which was cold and sterile and focused only on the bottom line. It was so clear to me to juxtapose that with this wonderful man with a wonderful family who was making a real difference in his community. I am very humbled and privileged to call Robert one of my political mentors. It is one of the greatest honours I’ve had so far in this job to be part of launching this book because what we see in Pittwater is certainly part of Robert’s personality that he has imbued into the culture of the Council.

I think a by-line for this book, as he kept saying it to me, “The Long way is always the short way”.

Time and time again in this book are details where Robert has seen something that is not quite right, it’s not wrong but may be heading in the direction of maladministration, so Robert stepped on it and stopped it. He has such a fine sense of justice – I find that compelling and I would encourage any student of Pittwater’s history to read this book.

I think it has wider audience too – anyone who is looking to set up a culture, to set that organisation with a culture that will sustain itself , this is a wonderful handbook in how to do that. Pittwater had a bumpy start and I think you can forget that now when you look at its success. Seeing what has been created, every one of the fights in this book was worth having, everyone in this book whom Robert praises deserves praise but of course the one person who Robert didn’t praise because he wrote the book, was himself.

So that is incumbent on us – to Robert, thank you for writing such a wonderful book to inspire us all about real democracy, about fighting for what is right and for having a fight that’s worth having. Thank you Robert.

Tony Tenney: Patricia Giles certainly needs no introduction. As a warrior for the Uprising she has played many roles within and beyond her formal positions of councillor and mayor (which she held for several terms). Friends, Patricia Giles OAM.

Patricia Giles OAM: When I first met Robert it was because I needed someone to help me. I decided to fight for my little patch which was down in Pittwater Grove. Our little patch of land was being eyed off and so I contacted our local Councillor, Robert Dunn, and he said ‘Form a group’ which I did and we fought for our little reserve and won.

Next, over the road, was block #100, next to the drain, opposite the school (Pittwater High School), lots of casuarinas, and the government decided they were going to put 39 medium density dwellings there.

I said “that’s flood prone!”. One night, hallelujah, someone let water out of Warragamba Dam. Well, let me tell you did we flood; block #100 was flooded, the street was flooded, the school was flooded, Yarran Close was flooded – they couldn’t flush their toilets. It was nine o’clock at night but who can see it at that time? Ahh! Robert Dunn!

He joined me and we were taking photos of all the eels coming up the drain holes – I took photos and more photos

Robert Dunn interjects: Kakadu! 

Patricia Giles: we sent this great package of photos to the government and said “this is flood prone”, and guess what they agreed.
And so Robert was batting 100 now; he’d helped me with my little reserve, helped me with Lot 100, and then he came to me and said “My wife says I need someone behind me when I run for this new Pittwater…and so Carolyn it was you who got me involved in politics!
I can tell you one thing; I met up with Sir Edward St. John when I was walking around the streets handing out pamphlets, he said “be true to yourself, follow your heart and never bother with the party line.”

I felt that that was something that Robert did. He never ever worried about the party line, he always was true to himself and he was true to Pittwater. I admire the training I got on the job with Robert, and yes, the long way was the short way and the short way was definitely very long but it was a lot of fun.

I think the fight for Pittwater was something we all enjoyed because we knew we had to win. Maybe some of you have not seen the cartoon that was circulating at that time – there was a great big lizard that was trying to swallow another poor little lizard, which was Manly, and while it was trying to do this, the tail dropped off, and that was us.

How it got done was because Robert Dunn was such a strong leader and I appreciate it – thank you Robert for inviting me along – I loved being part of your team.

Tony Tenney: I would like to call upon Jacqui Townsend, our current Mayor, and successor to Robert, Eric Green and Patricia, to talk with us this evening. Councillor Townsend.

Cr. Jacqui Townsend, Mayor of Pittwater: Before I speak about Robert I would like to assure him that the message and the Council that he set up still exists today.  As a new Councillor in 2008 the message that was presented by Patricia, by David James and continued through a meeting; “This is Pittwater Council. We’re lean, we’re green and we are independent.”

This was drilled into me at every meeting and we’ve drilled it into our new councillors who have come through the same channel that Patricia did and that’s through community campaigns and that this is already in them. So the Council that Robert set up still exists today.
It was a great pleasure to be asked to speak tonight at the launch of Robert’s book Pittwater Uprising! And a pleasure to be reminded of the first encounters I had with Robert.

I moved here in 1994 and wasn’t aware of the history of Pittwater. I moved from where I was the Chair of the White Bay Residents Committee and Pittwater to me was perfect, there was nothing for me to do here, so I just sat back and relaxed.
If my memory serves me correctly my first encounter with Robert was at a public meeting for the 2008-2009 Delivery Plan and Budget in Mona Vale Hall. I was a new councillor, had probably been there three weeks, elected on the tails of David James, and was slowly finding my feet on local matters.

Robert asked a question on the budget matters and in my usual haste I jumped up and gave him what I thought was the correct position on the matter. Later that night I was asked “Do you know who that was?” … ‘no’… “Robert Dunn” and I said, with all respect Robert, I hadn’t heard of him …but I was quickly informed that he was one of the Fathers of Pittwater and deserved respect.

From then on Robert and I have had many disagreements on many issues and I spent many hours appraising myself on the details of local issues through many papers. I also made sure I brought the Local Government Act to every meeting. Over time Robert and I reached a very healthy level of respect for each other. We lawyers love to argue, we’re known to turn a simple question into a long and drawn out debate for no other reason than to have the opportunity to speak for longer. We all know how much Robert loves to speak.
I would like to share with you one little story – I’m told that Robert has a reputation for being late. So often was he late that the then General Manager, Mr Gordon, would tell him that a meeting was scheduled 30 to 60 minutes before it began, just so he would turn up on time. He was known as ‘the late Robert Dunn’.

Mr. Dunn: I don’t want to be known as that in the future!

Cr. Townsend: So Robert I congratulate you on this fabulous book. It is a great accomplishment for you to become a published author and it is wonderful for our community to have this written and available to read.

To coin a phrase from a local resident this week which I’m told Robert will love; “I feel we might just manage to steer the Titanic off the iceberg after all.”
Congratulations Mr Dunn, I wish you all the best with your book.

Tony Tenney: In his public career, Robert has always acknowledged the sustained support of his family, particularly of his wife Carolyn and children Simon, Hannah and Angus who are with us today. I would like to ask Simon to speak to us on behalf of the family. Thanks, Simon.

Simon Dunn: Many of the former Councillors here tonight are like aunts and uncles to me. My siblings and I grew up in an atmosphere where local government infused many a conversation at the dinner table. We learnt some amazing things about how the community works. I recall learning about streets in Pittwater I didn’t know existed when every member in our the family would drop pamphlets into letterboxes when we were still A Riding of Warringah Council and seeking to become Pittwater. I remember Sunday afternoons after a round of golf being with dad as he dropped in to Eric Green’s house while he was trying to watch the football. I was lucky to sit on the lounge room floor and learn about politics from those discussions at a very early age.

I asked my mother and brother and sisters on whose behalf I am speaking tonight what they recall about those Council days;

They remember election nights and how I became an expert statistician. Angus recalls Saturday mornings where he was with dad at residents meetings and telling dad he had to get to his football or cricket match, he was going to be late, so please stop talking to that resident. So although much of his time was taken up with speaking with residents or meetings at night, he did turn up to a lot of our sports games and school activities.

Edwina recounted recently, with giggles, a phone call at home that she took as dad was at a meeting, and a lady who was complaining about the cicadas and all the noise they were making and could Robert please do something about the cicadas.   Edwina is still laughing about that, even from Berlin where she is at present.

Hannah recalls great confusion thinking it was often Christmas because Santa Claus was there of a Sunday morning on the front deck at Newport talking to Robert – and that was actually Eric Green with his great white beard. Hannah was ten years younger than me at that time and often thought Santa Claus was there. That is one of her fondest memories of those days.

The only comment my mother was prepared to make about those days was “never again!” and I think if people read the book and understand the struggle we all went through to create Pittwater Council there won’t need to be an ever again.

In all seriousness though, all of my siblings and my mother are very proud of Robert. We are now very appreciative of how hard it must have been for my mother to raise the four of us without having Robert there in the evenings as three of us now have children of our own and understand how difficult it is being a parent.
You only realise a generation or so later how wonderful and how dedicated my mother was to support Robert through all that..

Robert Dunn: Hear hear.

Simon Dunn: so we’d like to give a round of applause for my mother.
We know now how many Council Meetings and community activities dad had to attend when Mayor and a Councillor but he always made time for family and was a great father. We also know now how hard he worked in motivating people.

Australians may be quick to criticise but are essentially laid back, particularly on the Northern Beaches where there is so much natural beauty to enjoy, time that could have been spent on the golf course or beach. To take up a fight for the community, to take up a cause and run with it that future generations that myself and my siblings benefit from really makes me appreciate that it takes a special person to have that unselfishness and commitment to see it through in the long term.

It also takes a very rare person to motivate others and the people here tonight are a testament to that. All of you here are committed to Pittwater. To go out and create a positive change is quite remarkable and has been sustained for 21 years.  So I would like to say we’re immensely proud of you dad, we love you and in closing would like to propose a toast to the author of Pittwater Uprising! – Robert Dunn!

Tony Tenney: And now to the master: Robert will now make a BRIEF reply. Thank you, Robert.

Robert Dunn: I would like to see this party go on a bit longer and have said all I need to say in the book. Only one bit of advice – the book was bound at noon and is meant to sit for 24 hours before you open it so the glue does not disintegrate and the book fall apart – so please be careful – Pittwater itself will never fall apart.

May I just say when looking around this room at my colleagues, Shirley, Bob Dunbar, Trish, it’s such an honour that you have come – thank you so much. I know what Simon is saying about how hard it can be to motivate people to a cause, but as Australians once we’re decided on a matter, no one can stop us.

To all of you, the new Councillors, to all of you here, it’s such an honour that you have come tonight – enough has been said, let’s all have a drink together, this is a reunion, not a book launch – so let’s make it a reunion. Thank you so much.


* Please note, Mr Robert Dunn would like it acknowledged that Eric Green was the first Elected Mayor of the Provisional/Appointed Council in September 1991, and is considered the first Mayor of Pittwater. Mr Green was one of  the three A Riding representatives who had been elected to Warringah Council earlier that month (Councillors Robert Dunn, Eric Green and Ron Starr). This Provisional Council also included three appointed community representatives (Edith Lincoln, Allan Porter and Max Radmanovich), and three ‘professional’ members with expertise in engineering, finance and administration (Ross Bonthorne, Stan Brown and Eric Warrell).

Pittwater Council finally became a reality on 1 May 1992 when a simple ‘Constitution Day’ ceremony was held and a ‘welcome to Pittwater’ sign was unveiled just north of Narrabeen Lagoon.

The first Elected Council as a result of elections for Pittwater Council on 24 October 1992, comprised Ross Bonthorne, Lynne Czinner, Robert Dunn, Patricia Giles, Eric Green, Allan Porter, Max Radmanovich, Ron Starr and John Winter. Robert Dunn was elected mayor, with Allan Porter his deputy.


1992 was a remarkable year. On May 1st a new Pittwater Municipality was proclaimed by the Governor of NSW. This new local government area was excised from Warringah Shire on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. This was the only occasion since the 1890s that a new council area in NSW had been created through secession.

Robert Dunn has written an engaging account of the struggle by the people of the northern peninsula to have their legitimate aspirations recognised in the formation of their own local council.

Pittwater Uprising! is neither local nor family history but the personal memoir of a man who played a most significant role in finally securing municipal independence from Warringah.

Pittwater Uprising! is a unique personal record, related from the inside, of the many events, dramas, characters, situations and behind-the-scenes deals and goings-on in the period before and after the proclamation of Pittwater Council.

For those who were in the battle-lines at the time of the struggle, Pittwater Uprising!, with its cast of hundreds, will prove a riveting read.

For those who have since come to live in this most beautiful part of Australia, the book will reveal new insights and perspectives.

And for the general reader and those interested in the history of local government in NSW, Pittwater Uprising! will fascinate and inform.

A huge debt is owed by the community to former Councillor Dunn for his personal integrity, his respect for all people (but not necessarily for their views), his commitment to fairness, truth and justice, his generosity and sheer hard work over many years.
Read the book!

Purchase online at: www.pittwateruprising.com.au/

 Robert and Carolyn  Dunn.

Left to right: Councillor Sue Young, former General Manager Angus Gordon, Councillor Kay Millar, former Councillor Mayor of first elected Pittwater Council Robert Dunn, Councillor Julie Hegarty, former Councillor  Patricia Giles OAM (also Former Mayor),  former Councillor  Robert Porter, former Councillor  Shirley Phelps OAM, former Councillor  Bob Dunbar, Councillor and Mayor of Pittwater Jacqui Townsend, Hon. Rob Stokes MP for Pittwater, Councillor  Bob Grace, Councillor Kylie Ferguson, former Councillors and Mayors Lynne Czinner and Harvey Rose.

Report and Pictures by A J Guesdon, 2013.