The Birmingham of Australia


Green Square was once part of the largest industrial municipality in Australia.

In 1943 Alexandria was nicknamed The Birmingham of Australia because it boasted more than 550 factories employing 22,200 workers.

In nearby Waterloo, hat maker Benjamin Dunkerley revolutionised the industry by patenting a machine for dressing rabbit fur. He allegedly named his iconic Akubra after the Aboriginal word for ‘head covering.’ After being contracted to supply slouch hats to World War I diggers, Dunkerley never looked back.

Cardboard hat box for Akubra Image: Katie Shanahan, National Museum of Australia.

By 1938 Reed Paper Products had expanded across 13 acres in Waterloo and was the largest manufacturer of paper products in Australia. They made Mystic playing cards, hatboxes, shoeboxes and cardboard packaging.

Reed Paper Products Pty. Ltd. Image: City of Sydney Archives 058/058394.

The City has named Reed Street, Hatbox Place and Mystic Lane after Reed Paper Products. The inventor of The Akubra is remembered at Dunkerley Place.

Main image: Arthur P. Stewart Pty. Ltd. City of Sydney Archives 0057/057514.