On 19 March 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was officially opened, after some 20 long years of planning, delayed by a world war, eight gruelling years of building and reportedly 56 years to pay off.
Originally proposed in 1815, the Bridge opened up the northern side of Sydney to development and was a symbolic achievement for our nation during a time of hardship. The Bridge has come to be a globally-recognised icon of our nation and centrepiece for New Year's Eve celebrations.
Prominent Australian civil engineer, Dr John Bradfield, and his team at the NSW Department of Public Works oversaw the entire bridge design and building process. Bradfield’s leadership of, and contribution to, the project earned him the legacy as “father of the bridge” and the road approaching and crossing the bridge was named the “Bradfield Highway”. He is also renowned for other Australian engineering projects, both completed and proposed. (See further details below.)
Celebrate this anniversary of great advancement and achievement for the city of Sydney, NSW and Australia by:
- if you’re in/near Sydney, walking or climbing this majestic bridge of Sydney Harbour, or driving it instead of taking the tunnel
- picking out a vantage point to marvel at this icon and signature of Australian nationhood (as well as the nearby Opera House)
- watching these documentaries on our world-renowned giant “Coat-hanger”
- reading further about the bridge, its conception, construction and history
- pondering the challenge and enormity of this engineering feat
- honouring the bravery and toughness of the Depression-era workers, 16 of which died during construction (but only two from actually falling off the bridge), and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family and friends.
Further details – the opening ceremony
On the opening day, before NSW Labor Premier Jack Lang could cut the ribbon, Captain Francis de Groot – an active member of a strongly pro-monarchy political party, the New Guard – rode forward on his horse and slashed the ribbon with his sword. He and his party believed that the bridge should be opened by a Royal family member or the Governor General, the King’s representative in Australia instead.
As he slashed the ribbon, Captain de Groot declared the bridge open in the name of “the decent and respectable people of NSW”.
After de Groot was arrested and taken away – charged with offensive behaviour in a public place and fined five pounds – Premier Lang arrived to give the re-tied ribbon the official cut.
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