While several key people brought about the wonder of Sydney Opera House, their efforts would've likely failed without hundreds of thousands that had fled Europe to escape the carnage of the Great War, and landed in Australia. It was that wave of immigration that created a multitude of new jobs, boosted the economy and produced enough surplus to finance ambitious cultural projects. It also happened to be not the first time that immigration would shape an identity and/or determine priorities of a New World country…
Any mass immigration inevitably creates tension between the newcomers and the indigenous people as, in order to survive, the former need the land that belongs to the latter. Many such tensions resulted in a long history of bloodshed, because more technologically advanced settlers would rely on their superiority to beat the local population into submission. Sometimes the “wonders of civilization” were used to impress - so that the beguiled aboriginals would agree to exchange their land for ostentatious trinkets. Colonization of Australia was no major exception but, in some ways, it was still different. As it is often the case, it took an enlightened individual to make a difference.
Arthur Phillip, the commanding officer of the First Fleet, and the first Governor of New South Wales, realized that the penal colony in his charge had enough challenges to face, even without having to wage war on the local Eora people – so he did his best to befriend them instead. Apart from setting and enforcing strict rules of behavior for interaction between the settlers and Eora (for instance, anyone who killed a native, would be hanged), Phillip went the extra mile to familiarize himself with Eora’s culture and way of thinking. He even hired a cultural facilitator – an aboriginal man called Bennelong – and befriended him as they worked together to build bridges between the two groups of people.
Bennelong suggested that, in order to do his job properly and be really helpful, he would have to live among the settlers. Phillip agreed and ordered a hut to be built for the man on a small island the settlers used to gather shells they needed to burn to produce lime. It so happened that the island was a sacred site of the Cadigal tribe belonging to Eora – and Phillip had learned enough about Eora’s mentality to come up with a brilliant idea that could not fail to score his administration a lot of points with them. He decided to honour his friend (and thus the whole people) by renaming the island for him – and Bennelong Point appeared on the map of New South Wales.
And Bennelong Point is exactly where Sydney Opera House is located.