Roaring 20s

Gold painted plaster bust of William John Mackay, Commissioner of Police

Big Bill MacKay

William John MacKay (1885–1948), known as Bill, was a Scottish-born police officer who played a major role in policing Sydney’s underworld during the 1920s

Stanley James Hay, Special Photograph number 167, c 1920, Central Police Station, Sydney

Fallen soldiers

After the universal upheaval of World War I, many soldiers found it difficult to take up their former occupations and adjust to civilian life

Black and white image of a woman looking pensive to the side of the viewer. The words


The flapper was an alluring vision of sophistication and freedom for young women globally

Black and white image of a man in a suit. The words


The lure of easy money from the illicit alcohol, drug and gambling trades encouraged the formation of new crime gangs

Jean Robertson and Kathleen Howell

In the 1920s, female motorists were a rarity, but this didn’t stop friends Jean and Kathleen from setting off on four-wheeled adventures across Australia and the world

Black and white image of man with thick curly hair. The words


From the beginning, young men and fast cars were a volatile mix

George Phillips, Special Photograph number 1645, 25 February 1928, probably Central Police Station, Sydney


Sydney’s police force had lost many men on the battlefields of France during World War I and it took some time to rebuild. With resources stretched, police struggled to maintain law and order in an environment where criminal behaviour was evolving.

Howard Family photographs

Police photographer George Howard

George B Howard was a prominent police photographer in Sydney during the 1920s

Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with hat on.

The Black Hand in Sydney

Restrictions on the sale of alcohol offered tantalising opportunities for organised crime groups around the world