Supporting critical Australian infrastructure

A defining moment in Australian history

From its earliest days, Allens has been part of some of the most transformative moments in history. On 17 October 1949 Australia commenced what is still considered one of the nation's largest and most ambitious engineering projects – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

story_snowy-hydro.jpgThe Snowy Mountains Scheme was originally designed to irrigate farming land to the west of the Great Dividing Range but the engineers realised it had the potential to generate hydroelectricity by directing the water through a series of power stations as it plunged 800 metres down the escarpment. This would help solve the country's power shortage, an increasing problem with the growth of manufacturing and the post-war population boom.

After nearly two decades of depression and war, the Snowy Mountains Scheme was a symbol of optimism, reshaping Australia socially, economically and politically. Over 100,000 people worked on the construction, many of them immigrants from over 30 different nations.

Allens worked behind the scenes, advising American group Kaiser-Walsh-Perini-Raymond (Kaiser) which was awarded the contract for construction of the 2.5-kilometre Eucumbene-Tumut tunnel and the Tumut Pond dam. At a cost of £25,296,586, this was the largest contract for any public undertaking in Australia at the time. Kaiser revolutionised engineering in Australia, consistently breaking tunnelling records and completing projects ahead of schedule.

One of the biggest challenges the Allens team faced during the project was communicating with Kaiser in Cooma. At that time, in order to dispatch a telephone call between Sydney and Cooma, articled clerks had to coordinate no less than eight telephone exchanges to ensure the call could be patched through.

The Snowy Mountains plan is the greatest single project in our history. It is a plan for the whole nation, belonging to no one State nor to any group or section.

Prime Minister Ben Chifley, May 1949

Despite all the challenges, Kaiser's work ethic and the commitment of the workforce saw construction progress at a rapid rate. In June 1956, Kaiser took over construction of the Adaminaby Dam (later called Eucumbene Dam), one of the biggest dams in Australia and one of the largest earth-rockfill dams in the world. Many overseas contractors refused to tender for the work, believing the four-year timeframe was unachievable. Kaiser completed the project in under two years.

It took 25 years to complete the 16 dams, seven power stations, one pumping station and 225 kilometres of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts that formed the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Seventy years on, Allens' work with the project continues, assisting Snowy Hydro Ltd with Snowy 2.0, a multi-billion dollar pumped hydro storage project. The project will increase capacity of the Snowy Hydro Scheme by almost 50 per cent to more than 6,000 megawatts, enabling greater security and stability of electricity supply and paving the way for additional future investment in Australia's renewable sector.

Images: Constructing the Snowy Mountains Scheme
Images courtesy of Snowy Hydro Ltd

A glimpse into our history

The launch of World Series Cricket

The summer holidays mean one thing for many Australians: cricket. Heading to a day-night match and watching the brightly coloured teams smacking the ball into the crowd is what we've come to expect. But, it wasn't always like this and Allens played a big part in transforming the game of cricket into what it is today.

The book that changed Australia

Today we take for granted our ability to read any book we choose, but it wasn't long ago that Australia had some of the most severe censorship regulations in the Western world. Allens played a pivotal role in changing this and bringing an end to literary censorship in Australia.

Upholding the right to vote

In 2006, the Howard Government introduced significant changes to Australia's voting laws through the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act 2006 (Cth). Among the changes contained in the legislation was the denial of voting rights to all people in prison.

Hard to find – but worth the hunt

One of the frustrations of historical research is knowing something exists but being unable to locate it. That was the case with letters from Allen Allen & Hemsley to client Angus & Robertson. The letters related to the copyright of several works by Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson, including The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses.

Lawyers draft wills better than authors

When legal practices were first established in Australia, a significant portion of their work involved the management of complex wills and estates. However, over time, the founding firms of Allens shifted their focus from managing family estates and trusts to become predominantly commercial practices. This is the story of the firm's involvement in celebrated author Nevil Shute's will.

Hidden treasures

Research for the Allens history book has turned up a variety of interesting items, among them a hand-drawn map of Brisbane from 1849 and a mallet used by founder George Allen in 1859 to lay the foundation stone for a new chapel in Newtown, Sydney.

First true civil libel case in Australia

In 1817, 16-year-old George Allen was just a few months into his legal training when he found himself amidst one of the most interesting legal cases in the colony of New South Wales. George had just entered his articles of clerkship with Frederick Garling when Garling was appointed to represent defendant John Thomas Campbell in the first true civil libel case in Australia.

Helping Bush Heritage preserve precious land

Since 1995, Allens has committed thousands of hours of expertise to helping Bush Heritage with its vision of healthy Country, protected forever. This includes 14ha of land in the Liffey Valley of Tasmania, which former Australian Senator Bob Brown gifted to the organisation in 2011 with support from Allens.

Seeking justice for the Stolen Generation

Right from the start, almost 200 years ago, Allens has shown support for Australia's Indigenous communities and, in 1996, we helped pave the way towards the National Apology through our involvement in the first Stolen Generation legal trials.

Supporting critical Australian infrastructure

17 October 1949 marked the official start of what is still considered one of the largest and most ambitious engineering projects ever undertaken in Australia – the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

It all started in 1822

Allens was founded on 22 July 1822, the day 21-year-old George Allen was admitted as an attorney and solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and became the first person to complete their full legal training in Australia. When he began his small legal practice in a cottage on Elizabeth Street in Sydney, he could not have foreseen the story that would follow.