New Book Chronicles the 40-Year History of Strata in NSW

In 2017, a lunch between industry stalwarts John Coleman and Phil Duggan resulted in a plan to record the history of Strata Community Association (NSW) and the idea for a book started to take shape.

That book is almost a reality and will be published in time to mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of the Institute of Strata Title Management (ISTM), rebranded in 2011 to SCA (NSW). Written by John Coleman and titled ‘From the Ground Up: the story of strata title in New South Wales’, it is an in-depth history of both the organisation and the broader history of strata in New South Wales.

John is known to many in the strata industry through his role with Express Glass. He is also a former school teacher and trained historian and the idea of writing another book – he’s written a few about historical landmarks and happenings around Sydney’s inner west – ignited his imagination.

“I developed a passion for history while at school and now that I’m semi-retired from Express Glass, I have time to do the research and talk to people,” John said.

“I especially love Ancient and Roman history and have completed my Masters in this area. More recently though I have been writing about locals from the inner west and their involvement and experiences during World War I.”

Over the past two and a half years, John has worked his way through 80-plus interviews and historical documents to produce a 12-chapter, 100,000-word book to be released later this year to coincide with the November 2020 anniversary.

“Writing this was much more interesting than I thought,” John remarked.

“I even managed to get a copy of the first ISTM meeting minutes, with thanks to Gary Bugden. They are included in the appendix.”

The Institute of Strata Title Management (ISTM) started in 1980 becoming SCA (NSW) in 2011 to align with the national and other state organisations.

John realised it was time to do this while people in the industry still remember the stories. He spent some time combing through the ISTM Minute books, old newspaper archives and talking to various people.

“The archives are great because the record-keeping was well kept. Strata managers are very good at keeping minutes, and they like to have a good yarn.”

The list of people interviewed was extensive and included well-known industry luminaries such as Richard Holloway who knew the history of strata in New South Wales.

John Coleman

John also interviewed ISTM’s first CEO, Bruce Wheeler, first Vice President, Ken Gresham, second President and the only woman to hold this office to date, Muriel Barasso, Wally Patterson, Gary Bugden, Peter Clisdell, Maria Linders and Judith Ferguson.

While the book will document the chronological history of the organisation, John has included break out stories about the families of strata. In New South Wales, there are quite a number – the Duggans, Fergusons, Linders, Vumbacas, to name a few – and it will be fascinating to hear their stories over a couple of generations.

Included in the book are those who have provided services to the industry.

Expect to hear from Bill Coles, CHU’s founders Rod James and Tony Maxwell and David Le Page amongst others, who have great stories to tell about their experiences in the early days of strata.

Muriel Barasso

It is, however, the founders of the ISTM that provided John with the greatest stories to tell. People like John Baalman, the lawyer and drafter of the first strata laws, which were passed by the NSW Parliament in 1961. A World War I veteran credited with the last aerial victory of the war, Baalman returned to Australia, became a lawyer and worked in a senior role in the office of the NSW Registrar General. His legacy is the strata law that lead to the creation of the industry in New South Wales. Today, it is thriving in this state, across Australia and in various countries which have since adopted the New South Wales strata law framework.

Of course, John has also included the story of Phillip Carver who was infamously known for his suspected dodgy strata trust accounts, and allegations (he was never convicted) of causing an explosion in a row of terrace houses in Darlinghurst, which all but flattened them. It was suspected that the blast was meant to destroy evidence of some of those dodgy accounts.

Those wanting to know more will, of course, need to wait until the book is released later this year.

SCA (NSW) would like to give a huge thank you to John Coleman and all those who participated in providing their stories, memories, photos and documents to enable the book to come together in the first instance.

We are excited to be celebrating 40 years of the SCA (NSW), the only strata-oriented membership organisation in New South Wales that is truly representative of the industry over the coming year.

John Baalman

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