Triple zero

Our latest Snapshot exhibition Triple Zero reveals stories of local tragedy and community spirit while exploring the development of emergency services in the Georges River area and coincides with History Week 2018: Life & Death.


The establishment of our police force began after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788. It was initially the responsibility of the Royal Marines to police the colony; however, this was a duty they resented. In response, Governor Arthur Phillip selected eight of the best behaved convicts in the colony to become the Night Guard.[1] Policing units were self-managed and grew, spreading widely across the area. It wasn’t until 1862 that the Police Regulation Act was introduced which amalgamated all standalone units into one cohesive organisation. This was in response to a bloody riot at Lambing Flat goldfields which highlighted the inefficiency caused by a fragmented police force and required both a police and military response.


Hurstville Police Station, MacMahon Street, Hurstville NSW, Georges River Council Local Studies collection, c. 1912.

As the townships of the Georges River Area began to expand so did the need for services which would provide assistance and ensured the safety of the growing population. This saw the establishment of Kogarah Police Station in 1876, and the first policeman being appointed to the Hurstville District in 1882, who operated from his own residence. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a “growth of the district” had created a need for another station and in 1909 a police station was built at 33 MacMahon Street.  Residential features were included into the planning of Hurstville Police Station as officers lived onsite. The station and officers’ residence was under one roof, but “separated by a 14 inch brick wall…”[2] The building served as a police station until 1993.

Fire Brigade

The only form of a Fire Brigade in the colony by the 1820s were military officers who were trained to use fire-fighting equipment; this changed 60 years later in 1884 with the establishment of the Fire Brigades Act which required brigades to register to a board and meet criteria to remain qualified as fire-fighters. In 1910 this structure was applied state-wide and the organisation officially became known as the New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB). In 1895 Hurstville Municipality became a contributor to the Sydney Fire Brigades Board and by 1897 a fire station was built on the corner of MacMahon and Dora Streets on land provided by Hurstville Council.


Hurstville Volunteer Fire Brigade, Hurstville NSW, Georges River Council Local Studies collection, c.1900.

Hurstville Fire Station was transferred to a new purpose built building at 23 MacMahon Street in 1912. The station closed in 1993 as staff were transferred to a new Emergency Services Centre in Ormonde Parade, Hurstville. In 2011 the NSWFB became Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) to better reflect the diversity of their roles.


St George District Ambulance Station located in Rockdale was built in 1918 and serviced the Georges River area. Only two years later, staff would be called to the scene of the Hurstville train disaster in 1920 which has been described as the “Granville rail disaster of its day”. Four people died and 15 were injured when an empty train collided with a Sutherland bound train that had stopped at Hurstville for passengers to alight.


Hurstville Railway Station, Hurstville NSW, Georges River Council Local Studies collection, c. 1920.

As Hurstville Police Station was located close by to the railway lines it was reported that Police Sergeant Tracey heard the collision when it occurred. Recalling the scene when he arrived he stated that “it was very difficult to extricate the passengers from the wreckage, the steel and woodwork having to be cut away with the only implements that were available – axes, tomahawks and saws”.

Triple zero is on now until 25 November at Hurstville Museum & Gallery.

To see History Week’s program click here.

Cover image: Salvage rescue unit personnel in protective clothing, Kogarah Fire Station, Gray Street, Georges River Council Local Studies collection, 1988.


[1] ‘Police Service Guide’, State Archives and Records, [accessed 19 April 2018].

[2] ‘Buildings and Works’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1909, p.10.

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