What's in a name?

White Bay Power Station Photo credit: CSIRO

As everyone knows, naming is hard! When we founded the company in 2017, we needed to pick a name that felt right: it had to fit what we do, and be something that we had a personal connection to. Regular readers might know that Blackmill is named after a power station in Sydney on the land of the Gadigal people.

Which power station, and more importantly, why?

Nestled at the edge of trendy Rozelle, connected to Sydney’s CBD by Anzac Bridge, sits an abandoned factory. It presides serenely, solemnly, over the parklands and waterfront of the bays in the harbour, dwarfing nearby warehouses. Its silhouette from afar is unmistakable; and it looks like a black mill! Lachlan has long admired the building and would love to put it to good use, should he happen to win the lotto a few times.

The factory in question is actually the White Bay Power station, aptly named after the nearest bay to it in the harbour. It provided power to Sydney for 66 years, and when it was retired in 1983, it was the city’s longest serving power station. It was originally commissioned to power the expansion of the railway network, to further connect communities and help transport goods, but rapidly became a core part of the energy supply for the city.

Heritage status was granted in 1999, due in no small part to the significant positive impact it had given to the social fabric of the community. Other factors towards its heritage status were that the building has endured without significant deterioration, and that it was — and still is — a tangible symbol of the area’s industrial origins, and the value of hands-on, unpretentious labour.

Since being decommissioned, it has been used for sets in movies and TV shows, from Water Rats to The Matrix Reloaded; from Red Planet, to The Great Gatsby. And now the New South Wales government are planning to reopen the power station in 2024 as part of Sydney’s biennale, having turned it into an arts, cultural and community centre.

Looking over the history of the power station, Blackmill shares some points of identity with it:

  • We are also here to empower the organisations around us,
  • While we haven’t been around for 66 years we have been here for 6 (which to be fair, is longer than many other products of our time, such as Google Cardboard, Microsoft Zune mp3 player, Google Glass, Napster, Sega Dreamcast or the TV Series Lost).
  • The power station’s existence to this day and the long term endurance of its power generation speaks to a commitment to quality engineering, just like us.
  • We are part of the social fabric of our community, both embedded in and giving back to the companies we have repeatedly worked with, charities we support, communities we are involved in such as Tech Leading Ladies, CTO school, and Nicola’s board work, and offering free office hours.

If we were renovating the building, Lachlan still has his ideas on how he would shape it into a community space and technology hub to support startups and meetups. Nicola would include a library, a cat cafe, and a makerspace. Elle wants to ensure it has food to offer, probably a bakery, offering sourdough goods,and Sebastian thinks it should also have a wine bar. But the underlying purpose would always be to power a community, so that we can do what we love, we make time to do it right, and involve the people we love.

What would you have liked to see if you were renovating the station? Drop us a line with your ideas or even just to say hi.

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