Cyprus-Hellene Club | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Cyprus-Hellene Club

Item details

Name of item: Cyprus-Hellene Club
Other name/s: Australian Hall; Aboriginal Day of Mourning Site; Concord Club;
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Aboriginal
Category: Hall Public
Location: Lat: -33.8778791227 Long: 151.2097810700
Primary address: 150-152 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
Parish: St Lawrence
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Sydney
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP881869
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
150-152 Elizabeth StreetSydneySydneySt LawrenceCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Indigenous Land CorporationCommunity Group15 Apr 99

Statement of significance:

The Cyprus-Hellene club holds State social significance for at least three groups of people. Firstly, the building holds social significance for the Aboriginal People for its role in the 1938 "Day of Mourning" meeting. This event was the first protest by Aboriginal people for equal opportunities within Australian Society. It was attended by approximately 100 people of Aboriginal Blood and was the beginning of the contemporary Aboriginal Political Movement. Among those who contributed significantly to the movement generally and particularly to the event in the Australian Hall were Mrs Ardler, J Connelly, William Cooper, William Ferguson, Tom Foster, Pearl Gibbs, Helen Grosvenor, Jack Johnson, Jack Kinchela, Bert Marr, Pastor Doug Nicholls, Henry Noble, Jack Patten, Tom Pecham, Frank Roberts and Margaret Tucker. Secondly, it holds significance for the German and Greek-Cypriot communities in Sydney as it allowed visitors and migrants to enjoy cultural and social events. The building also has an association with Australian national and political history in its ownership (1920-79) by the Knights of the Southern Cross, a Catholic fraternal lay group linked with the Catholic Right and, ultimately with the split in the Labor Party in the 1950s.

The building was initially built to be used as a meeting place for cultural and social activities and was continuously used for these events including cinema and theatre. It is a rare example of a purpose built building in Sydney continuously used for its initial purpose.

The building holds architectural significance as it still contains some examples of original architecture. It is a good example of Federation Romanesque style. The interior also contains examples of certain features that could date from the original construction in the 1920s and also has features from each of the renovations since.
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: G.L. Grant
Builder/Maker: J. Ptolemy
Construction years: 1912-
Physical description: Exterior
The building was constructed on the full site area, has three storeys above ground and a basement and has facades to Elizabeth Street and Nithsdale Street.

The Elizabeth Street faade has a suspended steel awning above which fabric is intact. The faade has the characteristics of Federation Free Style as identified by Apperley, Irving and Reynolds. In consistency with the style it features two contrasting materials, face brick and rusticated sandstone. The sandstone has all been painted and the brick left unpainted.

There are three entrances. The cinema entrance has marble steps and timber floors which are glazed. The club entrance has terrazzo steps with aluminium edge strip. The club doors are of solid timber. The fire exit, constructed during the 1980s has white terrazzo steps and standard fire door.

The Nithsdale Street Faade walling is rendered and painted. The two windows at the second floor have segmental arched face brick heads. Two windows behind the Mandolin cinema screen and part of the opening which was probably a fire exit or receiving dock have been bricked up.

The roof is corrugated asbestos above the western part of the building and corrugated iron above the hall.

The basement extends for half the depth of the building and the ground along the northern and southern site boundaries is un-excavated at basement level.

The ground and first floors extend the full depth of the site with the former Australian Hall occupying the rear half of the first floor. Main access to the hall if from Elizabeth Street. The second floor extends for half the depth of the site.

Two isolated stairs and one lift provide access to all levels of the building. The lift dates from the 1960s alteration. The stair has terrazzo steps. The other fire stair, located in the former light-well, was constructed in the mid-1980s and has tiled steps.

The basement comprises of store rooms, cool rooms and toilets. Cool rooms and store rooms have cement floors and cement rendered walls. Although the spatial arrangement and much of the visible fabric date from later alterations, some wall sections appear to be original.

Ground Floor
The main entry to the former Cyprus-Hellenic Club opens into a foyer and reception office. The major part of the ground floor is occupied by a large bar/club with games area and a restaurant/auditorium with a small stage and dance floor. Also located on this floor is a kitchen, cool room, toilets, storeroom and an exit passage to Nithsdale Street.

The club premises were completely refitted in the mid-1980s and most of the finishes date from this latest alteration. Original elements include the plastered and painted side walls, recessed alcoves and original ceiling panels.

The main spaces on the ground floor have carpeted floors while the cinema entrance foyer features black and white lino tile flooring, papered wall and decorative plastered ceiling with cornice and brackets.

First Floor
The front part of the first floor comprises the board room, snooker room, bar area, a small kitchen and toilets. Original elements surviving timber floor structure, the arched and square timber windows to Elizabeth Street and joinery such as frames, shashes, architraves and surviving skirtings.

The rear part of the first floor is occupied by the Mandolin Cinema, the former Australian Hall. The cinema is accessible by a narrow foyer which is adjacent to the northern wall of the building.

The first floor cinema foyer and amenities retained much of their original features such as the original floor structure, marble stair and billboard frames. The ceiling, cornice frieze and ceiling roses appear to be original too.

The former dance hall, which was adapted to the use as a theatre in 1961 and to the cinema use in 1974, retains much of its original fabric. These are the wall fabric to external walls, the surviving original wall detailing such as blind arches and remaining wall decoration, hidden behind false walling and the suspended ceiling. Other original elements include the timber floor structure, windows in the rear wall, mouldings, skirtings and architraves. However, nothing remains of the original stage.

Second Floor
The second floor is occupied by a large function room, toilets at the rear, a kitchen and an unused board room along the northern boundary wall. Surviving original fabric includes timber floor structure, original wall surfaces along the southern and northern walls, timber windows, window joinery, architraves and skirtings. The acoustic tiled suspended ceiling above the board room is ruined. Similarly to the first floor, the finishes and fit out of the toilets dates from an earlier (1970s) alteration.
Current use: social club, theatre, hall
Former use: offices


Historical notes: The land was originally part of two grants. The Elizabeth Street end of present property issued to John Wylde on 30 June 1823 and Nithsdale Street portion was part of grant to Thomas McVitie on 19 October 1831.
Western Portion, Fronting Elizabeth Street. (Brooks et al, 1998, 2.0)

Wylde built a house on his land facing what is today Liverpool St. Land sold in 1829 to Sergerson brothers and then re-sold to John Watson on 18 September 1858.
In 1856 a map of Sydney sketched by Edward Burrow shows only a fence around a property and no sign of the original house built by Wylde.
1865 Trigonometrical Survey map shows a building and outhouses on this portion of the site. House probably built around 1865 - because name of John Watson first appears in the Sands Directory in 1866. House described in rate assessment books as 3-storey building with twelve rooms and slate roof.
Property again sold to William Chandler Eldridge in March 1885.
Property purchased by representatives of German Concordia club on 14 June 1905. The block bounded by Elizabeth, Nithsdale, Goulburn and Liverpool streets was focus of the German Community in Sydney. The Concordia club founded in 1883 was one of a number of German cultural and social organisations as German immigration and economic activity expanded.
1905 sees erection of hall and club premises. Foundation stone now located at 231 Stanmore Rd Stanmore carries the date 29 July 1905.
With the outbreak of the plague in The Rocks in 1900 there were calls for reform in Sydney. In 1908 there was the appointment of a Royal Commission for the improvement of the City of Sydney and its Suburbs. The commission recommended the widening of Elizabeth Street.
Prior to the necessary demolition Milton Kent took photographs of the property. Plans were prepared by G.L. Grant for the replacement of the German Club Concordia and they were approved on 5 December 1910.

Eastern Portion, Fronting Nithsdale Street.

Thomas McVitie arrived in Australia in 1816. When he died in 1833 his property was subdivided but only sold once his widow died in 1875.
2 houses built on this particular grant in the early years. A three-storey mansion fronted Hyde Park and was probably built in the early 1830s. The other on the southern half of the grant. Nithsdale St is names after this Cottage (Nithsdale Cottage) and was built around the 1840s. Described in the 1845 rates assessment records it appears to have been a stone building with 12 rooms on three floors. These properties also featured stable and coach house.
The block continued as a subdivision until 1910 when the Council resumed the block.
The council sold this land to the German Club Concordia on 11 February 1913.

Erection of the German Concordia Club, 1912.

According to the centenary history of the Concordia Club the new building at 150-152 Elizabeth Streets was completed and occupied by March 11, 1912.
The buildings had rooms to be used for social functions and also encased a committee room, bedrooms, bathrooms, stewards quarters, banquet room, and an area for a bar and billiards.
A building on the Nithsdale property was constructed sometime toward the end of 1911, although the property was not sold back to the Concordia until 1913. It is assumed that this second stage was completed based on mutual trust between the state and Concordia. This building would be known as Australian Hall.

First Period of Occupancy.

The club was influential to the large German community in Sydney and was the focal point for local and visiting Germans.
In May 1915 the Club along with several other German institutions was closed by the authorities as part of war time security, and between 1917-1921 the building was occupied by the Universal Church with a cafe opened on the ground floor.

Knights of the Southern Cross

Following the war, the German Concordia Club met in 1920 and found they could not pay back interest on the large overdraft. Premises were sold to the Southern Cross Hall Ltd, a company of the Knights of the Southern Cross (KSC).
The KSC promoted Catholic employment prospects, assisted major church functions and maintained a large network of parish branches.
Alterations to the building were made to accommodate an additional entry and a more functional use for the organisation to the large room previously built for the bar and billiards.
The hall on the property officially had its name changed to Australian Hall in 1923 and it was a site for wide range of popular activities at the time including dancing, cinema shows and live radio broadcasts from radio station 2UE. Also, the state lotteries were drawn each weekday morning in Australian hall between 1933 and the 1940s.

26th January 1938 - "Day of Mourning"

26th January 1938 was the 150th anniversary of the landing of the first fleet. Australian Hall was used by the Australian Aborigines' League and the NSE Aborigines' Progressive Association for the purpose of a meeting of Aborigines known as the "Day of Mourning" conference
The conference was the first national Aboriginal civil rights gathering, brings together 100 Aboriginal men and women from all over New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
Although in 1938 it brought about little change, it was a turning point in the evolution of a national struggle by Aboriginal people to gain full citizen rights.
The building is very important to the Aboriginal community's sense of its history and their struggle for social justice.

The Phillip Theatre 1961-1974

The next significant change to the site on Elizabeth Street was the Phillip St theatre. It remodelled the interior of the building to turn it into a theatre capable of seating 453 with a raised area at the back to give a balcony effect.
The Phillip Theatre broke away from traditional Australian Theatre and became a significant force in Australian Theatrical History.

The Cinema 1974
In the early 1970s the theatre was the only exclusively live theatre remaining in the city but it was hard to find shows suitable for a venue of its size.
The site became the Rivoli Cinema in 1974.
Changes were made to the auditorium and foyer to make it more of a cinema rather than a live theatre venue.
With Haymarket being identified with the Chinese community, the Rivoli was let to Chinese interests who reopened in 1976 as the Mandarin Cinema, showing Chinese language films.

The Cyprus-Hellenic Club

In 1979 the Knights of the Southern Cross sold the building to the Cyprus-Hellenic Club Ltd. It was a Greek organisation offering cultural and social links for its members. The club was and still is instrumental in promoting and maintaining the Cypriot culture in Australia.
The Cyprus club and use of the building have been directly involved with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia in the support of charitable organisations, particularly those associated with the Greek Welfare Centre. The Cyprus Club owned the property until 1998.
Similarly to previous owners, the Cyprus-Hellenic Club used the premises for their cultural and social activities while still sub-letting the old hall, which continued as a cinema with various owners and names until 1988.
Over the years, the building accommodated a restaurant, dining and community facilities and the interior of the building was altered on a number of occasions.

Site (as the then Hellenic Club) of the first national conference of the Australian Federal Labor Party, called the "Inter-Colonial Conference of Labour" held in January 1900, which formally established a federal party and platform, and adopted the "maintenance of a White Australia" and the "total exclusion of coloured and other undesireable races" as the first plank in the new federal party's "fighting platform" and its "general platform".

Site in 1965 of the 26th national conference of the Australian Labor Party when it abolished the White Australia policy from its platform (Ramsay, 2004)

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - living under the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1969-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All Nations - Developing and maintaining civil rights movements-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All Nations - Maintaining Aboriginal communities-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Maintaining German communities-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Maintaining Greek Cypriot communities-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. Performing theatrical entertainments-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Religion-Activities associated with particular systems of faith and worship (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Australian Hall is of State siginificance as the site of the National "Day of Mourning" - the first organised Aboriginal Civil Rights protest. They met in 1938 to debate a ten point list of demands aimed at changing the then current disadvantages to Aboriginal People.

The list was presented to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons four days later and formally began the struggle for indigenous rights.

A theatre, art-house cinema and club houses operated from the building until 1999 when it was purchased by the Indigenous Land Trust to house a museum of Aboriginal heroes.

The site is important in the Aboriginal and Political history of Australia and is significant for its association with the beginning of the continuing struggle for the rights of Aboriginal people.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Cyprus-Hellene Club is of State significance as the site of the 1938 Day of Mourning, which sparked the modern Aboriginal political movement.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Cyprus-Hellenic Club is of State significance for its strong connections with several groups throughout its history.

Firstly, the German Concordia Club used the building for cultural and social events allowing their culture to continue outside their homeland and providing German migrants and visitors to Sydney a touch of home. Similarly thus can be said for the Greek-Cypriots who later used the club for its cultural and social events.

Secondly, the Aboriginal people of Australia have a strong connection to the building for its use in the first organised Aboriginal Civil Rights protest in 1938.

Thirdly, and to a lesser extent, the building has a connection with the Knights of the Southern Cross and even the Asian Community of Sydney. Both these groups found a purpose to use the building. The KSC used the building as a place to find employment for Catholic people and also as a call in centre, while the Asian community of Sydney have links to the cinema for its dedication to showing Asian films. Once again, providing a cultural group with a sense of identity outside their homeland.
SHR Criteria f)
The building is a rare example of a Eurpean building that is of heritage significance to both Aboriginal and European communities, but particularly to Aboriginal people.

It is of State significance as a rare example of a venue for club, social, recreational and entertainment purposes which was in continous use for that purpose since its erection until recently. It is rare for the use by a number of social instiutions related to ethnic groups.

Graham Brooks & Associates (1999:92)
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0077302 Apr 99 271546
Heritage Act - Permanent Conservation Order - former 0077301 Nov 96 1227308
Heritage Act - Interim Conservation Order - Lapsed  02 Sep 94   
Local Environmental PlanCSH LEP 4 07 Apr 00   
National Heritage ListCyprus-Hellene Club 20 May 08   

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenDebra Jopson2003Blood feud over black Australias city icon (SMH article)
WrittenGraham Brooks and Associates1999Conservation Management Plan and Heritage Impact Assessment: 150-152 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
WrittenRamsay, Allan2004Whatever you do Mark dont talk of unions

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5045005
File number: S91/02004

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