Urban regeneration has intermittently been identified within Commonwealth policy circles as central to the functioning of Australian cities since the 1940s. This paper adds to existing knowledge by exploring the role of the Commonwealth Department of Urban and Regional Development (DURD) in the 1970s in facilitating a series of urban regeneration projects in Sydney. Drawing upon ministerial correspondence and minutes recently out of confidential embargo, the genesis of a holistic urban regeneration agenda is explored. The paper traces the approaches to Commonwealth intervention at a time marked by disillusionment with the comprehensive redevelopment paradigm. It explores the relationships and tensions apparent between and within different levels of government in establishing a Commonwealth presence, focusing on three inner city neighbourhoods: Waterloo, Glebe and Woolloomooloo. The significance of the interventions is considered to lie primarily in the pioneering of an all-of-government approach to urban governance.