22/23 History Extension Mentoring Launch Day Recap!

On the 7th of December, History and Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney re-launched our long-running high school outreach efforts with the 2022/23 History Extension Mentoring program. Pre-covid, the mentoring program was one of several initiatives collaboratively devised by students, high school teachers, and Faculty here in Sydney. This year, we re-introduced the History Extension mentoring program with a more ambitious scope.

The program, piloted by Chifley College Senior Campus and Cecil Hills High School in previous years, involves current University students acting as mentors to high school students who are working on their major projects in the challenging History Extension HSC course. The student volunteers undergo training and then meet with their mentees over the course of five visits between December and July, supervised by a team of academics and their teachers.

For 2022-2023, we again invited Chifley College and Cecil Hills to participate. But we also expanded the program to two new schools, Birrong Girls High and Canley Vale from western Sydney. Further, we invited our first-ever regional school, Corowa High, whose campus lies 60km west of Albury-Wodonga on the NSW/Victorian border. We were delighted at the enthusiasm of teachers and principals alike to participate in the program, and especially pleased to hear that this is the first year the Birrong Girls High offered History Extension.

On the day, we had Corowa and Canley Vale join us via Zoom and Birrong, Chifley, and Cecil Hills visited on campus. In total, we welcomed forty HSC History Extension students alongside twenty student mentors from the University of Sydney, including undergraduates, post-graduates, and even one alumni!

The day started with an introduction from Professor Mike McDonnell, who welcomed our Zoom mentors and mentees, our in-person student and mentor groups, and additional teacher volunteers Melanie Stephens and Emma Dixon.

  Mike addressing our hybrid attendees in the CCNESA Conference Room.

Following a moving introduction from Mike on the program’s history and the importance of the Social Inclusion Program, Dr Niro Kandasamy and Dr James Findlay treated the groups to a presentation on the importance of historiography and how questions of historical debate and methodology factor into their research.

The presentation aimed to help the students continue thinking about their projects and the types of questions a historian asks about their secondary sources. The critical aspect of a history extension project is not so much about understanding the past but how historians’ writing is a product of their time and place. We received fantastic feedback on these presentations and are looking ahead to recording these in a structured, digital format for the students to revisit and hopefully for the use of wider cohorts.

After these excellent presentations, it was time for the real work to begin! Our in-person mentees got to meet their mentors, break the ice a little bit, and head out on a mentor-led tour of the campus after some morning tea. We received feedback from the high school teachers, before and after the day, that the campus tour can be a really formative experience for their students. It can be easy to forget your first time seeing the Quad, graffiti alley, or any of the fantastic architecture across the campus when you’re a student walking among it most weeks of the year.

During the campus tours, our Zoom groups continued their ice-breaking and discussions of history projects. Despite the limitations of zoom, we’ve had excellent feedback from Corowa and Canley Vale teachers and students. Our teachers and students were particularly pleased and impressed with the friendliness and engagement of the mentors. We are currently in discussions with both schools (yes, even Corowa!) for their visits to campus in February and March next year once the term is back in session.

On campus, we finished our day with a mountainous feed of pizza and pide from the folks at UniBros, who came in clutch on the day. After lunch, our in-person groups continued their lively discussions about their history extension projects. In addition, Niro, James and Mike mingled with the mentoring groups and provided extra support and guidance to some of the students whose projects sat close to our historian’s interests.

Though it was an exhausting launch day for all, it was also a rewarding one. Preparations are now underway for our next sessions, which will take place here on campus in February. We are also super excited about the opportunity to visit our extension groups at their schools.

We have several important people to thank for the day’s success. The first of these goes to our teacher and post-graduate volunteers Emma and Melanie, who played a crucial role in watching over Zoom calls to ensure nothing went wrong, helped bring the food, and run some great discussions with the History Extension teachers. More thanks go to all those in the Faculty who helped book, unbook, and reboot rooms to host such large groups of in-person and digital teacher, mentors, mentees, and academics! Finally, we want to thank Mike McDonnell, Niro Kandasamy and James Findlay for their hard work and support in getting this year’s iteration of the program off to a flying start.

But most importantly, we need to thank the mentors, extension teachers and mentees. For our wonderful mentors, we want to acknowledge their incredible passion for history and for giving up their time to help provide a space and platform for those exceptional young people willing to take the risk and commit to participate in the HSC History Extension course. For our teachers and mentees, thank you for taking a chance on History Extension and for allowing us to support you in that journey.

We are already looking to build on the success of the launch day in the new year and look forward to seeing our mentors at work with the students once again. Happy holidays and happy new year to all involved!

Weaving the Tapestry of the Jessie Street National Women’s Library

Throughout working with the Jessie Street National Women’s Library I have reflected on how we tell women’s history and the stories that get told and those which remains only as memories. Precious to a few, but not important enough to be recorded as more than family heirloom.

With the Jessie Street National Women’s Library I worked alongside the wonderful and friendly volunteers on the Tapestry project. This is project surrounds women’s stories. The Library holds a series of short memoirs , all written by women either about their life, or that of a family member or loved one. These stories vary drastically, covering many time periods are are written by women of all walks of life. Tapestry allows for women to write their own story. They are not focused on writing for an audience but write to honour the people in their lives.

I helped the volunteers make changes to the website to help make the Tapestry stories more discoverable and easier to navigate. I worked alongside them, suggesting ways to improve the website and making social media content to increase the profile of the Tapestry project.

In addition, I created promotional material for this project as it is incredible valuable and I wanted as many people to get the change to read some of the Tapestry stories. These stories provide so much detail into the social history of Australia, from so many diverse points of views. Tapestry allows for family histories to be recorded and for other the learn of the experiences of women.

History is not just what we record, but how we chose to record these stories. The Tapestry project allows for women to be the center of their own narratives. I think this is a method of storytelling that deserves more attention. It is empathetic and empowering. Allowing people to speak about whatever aspect of their life that they think is most critical to history.

There is a vast divide between these self recording histories and larger historical narratives. Tapestry helped me understand why that gap existed, and focus empathy in my historical work .

Douglas Vale’s Unique Taste of History

Driving along New South Wales’ country roads, you’re bound to see dozens of local museums. Given there are so many dotted around Australia’s regional communities, it can be easy to think that these museums must surely all become the same after a while, merely offering their spin on local bric-a-brac like farming equipment, clothing and décor. My project argues that this view ignores the unparalleled insight that regional organisations like Port Macquarie’s Douglas Vale Historic Homestead and Vineyard offer into the ways we embed ourselves in historical communities, and above all, use the past to create meaning in our lives.

Douglas Vale—which began its life as a vineyard in 1859 and was reborn as a volunteer-run museum and winery in 1995—is a testament to the ways that history-making is a life-affirming activity for many of us. For example, one of Douglas Vale’s gardeners, Mike Smith, told me that he decided “with the head not the heart” to move into an apartment in Port Macquarie for retirement, but that his work at Douglas Vale is a meaningful “replacement for the greenery I left”.  As my project argues, stories like Mike’s are resounding evidence that History does not only live in the classroom, but also in the quiet resilience of volunteers who show up three days a week to tend to an aging homestead and the delicious taste of wine made from 19th century grape vines.

Digitising Douglas Vale’s Physical Collection

In making this argument, my project drew on two types of sources. Firstly, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, Douglas Vale has an outstanding collection of physical sources. These objects provide visitors with a tangible entrance into Douglas Vale’s past, so I decided to digitise some of them. It is notoriously difficult—and expensive—to set up an online catalogue, meaning that while Douglas Vale had an excellent physical catalogue, there was no trace of its collection online for potential visitors, researchers or donors to peruse.

So, I proposed that we create an account on eHive: an internationally-recognised museum database that helps organisations easily and freely digitise their collection. I included visitor information, my own photos of the site and a description of the collection in the profile to boost interest in visiting Douglas Vale. You can find Douglas Vale’s eHive profile here and see a screenshot below.

Screenshot of Douglas Vale’s eHive profile

Then, in collaboration with Ian Cupit (the site’s excellent curator) we chose three of Douglas Vale’s most interesting objects for me to catalogue. I attached photos and descriptions of the objects’ provenance and historical significance, trying to highlight the uniqueness of the collection for potential visitors.

Recording the Volunteers’ Oral Histories

However, I doubt I would feel the same pull towards Douglas Vale’s physical sources if it wasn’t for its volunteers, which is why I sought to record their oral histories as part of my project. They told me countless stories about the collection and how it had evolved since they rescued the site in 1995. Even the volunteers who declared they had no interest in the site’s history beamed with pride as we spoke about the organisation’s past, present and future. Indeed, Mike told me he wasn’t an “avid historian” and had “no” connection to the site’s past but then spoke eloquently with me for 40 minutes about the role he played in conserving Douglas Vale’s heritage.

In total, I conducted three interviews with a diverse range of volunteers: Mike Smith (Douglas Vale’s gardener), Claire Smith (Mike’s granddaughter) and Merrel (Douglas Vale’s Vice President). From these interviews, I created three short clips, each corresponding to one of the three objects I digitised. Over the summer holidays—Port Macquarie’s peak tourism season—I intend to work with the Douglas Vale PR coordinator to publish each clip with a link to the relevant object on eHive as part of a marketing campaign to attract more visitors. I also hope that these materials can help Douglas Vale apply for state heritage listing and grants in the future. In the meantime, however, I’ve included a sample of one of the social media posts below!


We often hear that Douglas Vale is one of Port Macquarie’s best kept secrets. So, we thought it was high time we let you in on some of the magic behind our bamboo entrance. This is why we’ve started digitising our historical collection: we want everyone to enjoy our unique taste of history!

We’ve kicked things off with this 1884 photo of the Francis family and their pet kangaroo next to the homestead garden. Thanks to the hard work of our current volunteer gardener Mike Smith and his granddaughter Claire Smith, the garden looks pretty much identical to this photo over 100 years later. You can find out more about this photograph by following this link to the digitised record, but we thought who better to let you in on the secrets behind the garden then Mike and Claire themselves? Have a listen here!

FYI: The clip will be embedded in the social media post as a YouTube video, rather than a Google Drive link.

Summary

I initially thought that my project would benefit Douglas Vale by filling key business needs, such as boosting visitation numbers. However, I quickly realised it also filled the need to recognise Douglas Vale’s volunteers for their outstanding history-making efforts. These volunteers make Douglas Vale their entire world, working tirelessly to put up netting, organise open days, clean the homestead and maintain the vegetable patch. This work deserves to be celebrated in equal measure to the sophisticated exhibitions and slick interactive tours of Sydney’s museums. Therefore, I’ve realised that my project’s true significance lies not in its potential financial benefit, but in its advocacy of Douglas Vale’s unique taste of history and the hard work that goes into safe-keeping it.

History of Autism Spectrum Australia

For my HSTY3902 unit, I completed a two-episode podcast series for Autism Spectrum Australia, also known as Aspect. In this podcast, the history of the organisation was discussed with four other individuals who were previously and currently connected with the organisation: Adrian Ford, Jacqui Borland, Dr Trevor Clark and Thomas Kuzma. Both episodes were 27-30 minutes long. The first episode includes a general history of the organisation and the second episode discusses the future directions for Aspect.

My overall argument with the project was to appreciate and value the work Aspect has done for the Autism community and respective families. As a sibling with a brother with Autism who went to Aspect’s Vern Barnett school, I’ve heard from my parents about the autism-specific teaching that was provided for Harry and how their early-intervention strategies immensely helped my parents. However, upon discussions with my interviewees, I became more educated about the work that still needs to be done in the community and how Aspect must stay aligned with the interests of the Autism community.

What’s important about this project is that it brings together different individuals from different areas of the organisation to reflect on Aspect’s role within the community and its achievements. The podcast provides a space in which the interviewees could freely discuss Aspect’s history and draw out any specific developments and movements during the organisation’s lifetime. For me personally, if I didn’t do this podcast I would’ve never learnt about how the organisation is pushing for more Autistic voices and how neurotypical individuals sometimes forget and misplace the importance of giving Autistic individuals the power to ensure their community’s wants are being met.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity Aspect has granted me to create these podcast episodes and for the new knowledges gained by speaking to my interviewees. They all taught me new developments, changes and shifts that are occurring within the organisation and the Autism community. Furthermore, they showcased the amazing work being done by Aspect to continually meet the needs of Australia’s Autism community.

Here are the completed episodes:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/15vzHsqypWl3FDt5eFf1_U_9BXPCV398H

10 Years of RESPECT: History and Highlights

2023 marks ten years of RESPECT— a program run by Outloud dedicated to educating primary school boys in Canterbury-Bankstown about domestic violence and healthy relationships through rap. My project involved writing a section for Outloud’s website entitled “10 Years of RESPECT: History and Highlights” that speaks to the value and significance of the program.

I also conducted two group oral history interviews for Outloud’s archive, documenting the experiences and perspectives of RESPECT facilitators and participants. The section I have written for the website primarily draws from these oral histories to capture the distinct voices of those who have been involved in RESPECT’s short yet rich history.

Access the Outloud website here: https://outloud.org.au/

In 2022, Outloud extended the RESPECT program to engage alumni, now Year 10 students in high school. As part of the alumni program, these students are trained to facilitate primary school workshops as mentors to younger students. A highlight of my project was documenting this exciting development.  

I had the privilege of interviewing two students from Sir Joseph Banks High School who are currently participating in the RESPECT alumni program. These young men are leaders in their community who made a commitment to values of respect, equality, and nonviolence in Years 5 and 6 through their first encounter with the RESPECT program and have sustained this commitment ever since. Now in Year 10, their stories are a testament to the long-term impact of the program in shaping young men’s visions for their future and producing empowering connections within and across Canterbury-Bankstown school communities. One student shared:

“I want to be a domestic violence counsellor. I thought, when I was in Year 6, that I’d like to be a future ambassador. And doing this program in high school, I think it makes me one, doesn’t it?” – Year 10 student

The student interviewees also shared their strongest memories of RESPECT during primary school. These stories were incredibly moving. One student spoke of his experience performing at the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service Conference in the Sydney CBD in 2018:

When I hear about RESPECT, I remember the bonds and the brotherhood that we made through the program. I also remember when we performed in the city and seeing the impact we had on the crowd. There were women crying in the crowd and people cheering. It was just one of the best moments.

After we performed in the city and our message touched the hearts of the audience, they came up and wanted to shake our hands and just tell us we did a good job and that the message was spread properly.

It made me see myself as someone who stands up to domestic violence acts. When I did the performance and those ladies came up to us after, I was really proud. It was a good moment for me and my boys to share to the rest of our primary mates.

The RESPECT group from Punchbowl Public School performed the original song
“We are the Future” at the conference.

I am immensely grateful to these students for sharing their experience of RESPECT, as well as to Craig Taunton and Van Nguyen— without whom this project would not have been possible. I came away from these interviews having observed the power of RESPECT to create positive change in the culture of school communities and open conversations about domestic violence across Canterbury-Bankstown more broadly. The impact of RESPECT is felt strongly by all involved, and I hope to see the program continue to thrive in the future.

Here is the link to the RESPECT section of Outloud’s website, which will be updated soon: https://outloud.org.au/projects/respect/

Profiles in Valour

The ANZAC Nurses of the Coast-Prince Henry

https://sites.google.com/view/anzacnursesprincehenry/home

In his authoritative work Why History Matters, John Tosh observes how communities “are confronted by the paradox of a society which is immersed in the past yet detached from its history.” Tosh’s contention profoundly underscores both the genesis of this project, as well as the fundamental importance of its very purpose.

I was fortunate to be accepted by the Prince Henry Hospital Museum based in Little Bay. On my first day as a volunteer, I was tasked to itemise old registration records of nurses from the former hospital when I eventually came across two particular nurse’s records included documents and photographs pertaining to their services during the Second World War. My immediate impression was that this could potentially form an entirely original project by presenting an apparently untold piece of Australian war accounts – from an enlisted nurse’s perspective. This concept was mainly due to an inherent belief that the general consensus of Australian army nursing, particularly during both world wars, at least, was relatively unknown or entirely remote altogether. Moreover, to focus primarily on a specific individual’s history in this regard would also be extremely unlikely as to have any previous form of official historical publication.


Nurses with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in their leisure time in Cairo, Egypt, during the First World War.

Hence, the implicit argument of Profiles in Valour is how the role played by Australian army nursing in twentieth-century’s cataclysmic events has been highly underplayed or historically unappreciated within this historical discourse. Names such as ‘Bessie’ Pocock, Margaret de Mestre, Vivian Bullwinkle, and Muriel Knox Doherty should be included alongside those annals of the Australian military iconography, next to Gallipoli, John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey, the Rats of Tobruk, and the Kokoda Track. Jan Basset’s exordium in her monograph Guns and Brooches somewhat confirmed this suspicion accentuating how the historiography of Australian army nursing has been unilaterally neglected by most historians until the 1980s. Fortunately, her work, along with notable other studies by Catherine Kenny, Peter Rees, and Rupert Goodman have crucially filled gaps within its historiography which otherwise may have been lost forever. Therefore, this project relies exclusively on such secondary materials in order to create, as per Bassett’s dictum, an ‘impressionistic’ historically profile of an individual ANZAC nurse to arguably illustrate their own wartime experiences.


Crucial sources such as diaries or letter correspondence are usually extremely rare, and interviews conducted years, even decades, later can potentially lend itself to a degree of containing slight inaccuracies (usually of minor details within the broader picture). Therefore, with the absence of the former, I have relied mainly on primary sources, including war records and contemporary newspaper accounts, as the core basis for a biographical history. Whilst Catherine Kenny’s extensive interviewing accounts on the Australian POW nurses in Malaya and elsewhere is indeed a valuable asset, in this area, I have consulted instead the Sydney Morning Herald and Women’s Weekly contemporary accounts and interviews conducted immediately after their release in September 1945. The Prince Henry Hospital Museum importantly also showcases on display their former Coast-Prince Henry nursing staff and graduates that had served in wars and conflicts abroad. Originally, this project was to convey the histories of at least four nurses from the former hospital. However, both Nora Kathleen Fletcher and Muriel Knox Doherty were reluctantly eliminated mainly due to exceeding word count limits thereby inhibiting other important detailed aspects: also, the former had worked entirely with the (British) Royal Red Cross and St. John Order throughout the First World War; whereas the latter had already extensively written about her experience from her own exemplary seven hundred page letter correspondence (as a United Nations rehabilitation nurse at the Belsen concentration camp in the aftermath of the Holocaust) which has also thus been expanded by the authors Judith Cornell and Lynette Russell. By these inclusions, it would have therefore somewhat undermined this project by negating the all-encompassing ANZAC element, as well as forgoing the crucial aspects from those necessary unpublicised accounts.

Letter correspondence written by Muriel Knox Doherty during her period as a United Nations Rehabilitation nurse after the Second World War. (Courtesy of the State Library of NSW)

Henceforth, the fundamental themes are a sterling appreciation for cherishing Australia’s national heritage through an inherent understanding of its national identity forged through the ANZAC spirit of ‘mateship,’ and commemoration of its war legacy. By illustrating these war nurses’ biographical profiles, it serves as the fundamental need as a memorial towards the Prince Henry museum itself and the overall general public The museum will, hopefully, proudly identify within its own history how it had become inexorably linked with the ANZAC legacy in which it can inviolably claim its own contribution to its story. For the public, it will hopefully serve as a continuing additional layer of storytelling about the ANZAC legend that is subconsciously ingrained within the Australian psyche and cultivated by its national pride. It also further helps us to bring this historical past into our own present understanding of our Australian identity. As Anna Clark stipulates in Private Lives, Public History, it allows a means of “map[ping] that historical space not only as disjuncture but also as a possible intersection.”

A Voyage on the Lusitania in 1879

My project involved exploring the curatorial processes of the National Maritime Museum for the acquisition proposal of a diary into the Museum’s collection. Currently, there are copyright and ownership issues which restrict me from sharing close details and images of the diary. However, its contents explore the voyage of an individual who was onboard the Lusitania for a voyage from Sydney to London in 1879. He pursued this migration for postgraduate education and training in Medicine. His departure from Australia for the purpose of medical training was highly unique and allowed me to work on original themes which the Museum had not previously engaged with. Furthermore, the ability to work with a personal diary was significant to understand diverse modes of historical writing and testimony. His account improved my understanding of the possibility of historical writing to be highly diverse and take variable forms to express significant experiences and emotions connected with maritime travel.

The S.S. Lusitania was launched in June 1871 and lost on June 1901.

The main goal of the project was to convey the significance of the authors experiences within his journal and ultimately, acquire his manuscript within the Museum’s collection for display. My project argued the large value of personal journals and diaries to illuminate important details of maritime travel and the conditions of Australian work and education during the 1800s. While working on the project, I was continually reminded of the long-term scarcity of historic personal accounts. Especially considering the journal documented travel departing from Australia to the UK, the ability to have access to the experiences of individuals who have left Australia is highly rare. Discussion with the Head of Knowledge at the Museum, Peter Hobbins, informed me of the large disposal of old manuscript due to individuals being unaware of its historical significance, in conjunction with challenges regarding the authenticity and sensitivity surrounding the publishing of journal details. In light of the difficulties of both accessing and working with diaries, the project largely argued the historical significance and importance of preserving the contents of the 1879 journal.

The project focused on the theme of emigration from Australia. Within the Museum’s collection, diaries and journals are largely centred on the experiences of individuals travelling to Australia for work or starting new lives. The dominant narrative focuses on immigration to Australia to strengthen the national identity and convey the positive experiences of life in Australia. Herein, the journal is important to challenge the dominant theme of immigration to Australia and rather convey the dynamic movement between the British colonies for professional advancement. The authors voyage exposes the limited nature of clinical and medical education in Australia in the 1800s, where his pursuit for improved training in Scotland and England conveys the frequency of travel away from Australia. Hence, the voyage is significant to reveal the agency of Australian citizens to utilise the opportunities available to them within the Empire and subsequently, pursue improved working and education conditions away from Australia. Furthermore, the journal makes large reference to theme of maritime travel. Throughout his account, the author details the multitude of vessels spotted during his travels. The diversity of vessels such as, a schooner, cargo and mail steamships and Arabian dhows convey the high frequency of sea travel in the 1800s.

The project engages with the role of public history in facilitating diverse modes of communicating history. The unique journal manuscript challenges traditional forms of academic history writing and rather privileges the voice of unique individuals to communicate maritime travel in the 1800s. This public history work encourages the use of creative modes of communication that is more inclusive of diverse perspectives. While certain biases may be present within the personal account, the project illuminates how journals can provide unique interpretive and research potential that may not be accessible through traditional primary sources. This is highly important as it can allow modern audiences to also engage with historical writing. Expanding different historical perspectives can encourage diverse individuals to contribute their valuable perspectives and participate in the construction of history, as exampled by the 1879 diary. 

I hope that the diary is acquired into the Museum’s collection for the long-term preservation and sustaining of its unique contents. Further, I hope to work with the Museum in the future to transfer the research I conducted in the acquisition proposal to a more accessible form of communication such as, a blogpost for their website or an article in the Museum’s magazine. My experience working with the Maritime Museum and the curatorial, conservation and library team was highly rewarding and informative of the various details involved in public history works. The unique skills learned, and connections made through the Museum allowed for a positive completion of the project.

Local Histories: An Interactive Walking Tour of the Bankstown CBD area

My public history project is an interactive QR-coded walking tour of the Bankstown C.B.D. area in collaboration with the Bankstown and Campsie Library. Throughout the production of my project, I worked closely with the Local Histories Librarian, Jennifer Madden. I have been working closely with Jennifer over the past few months. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to help my local library with the reorganisation and refiling of archival material and images for their possible new pictorial database. Their current system for their pictorial database (Pictorial Canterbury) had many issues with duplicates, missing images, irrelevant files, and their quality. I helped sort through and deciphered which images needed to be deleted and which ones had missing numbers, and I reassessed the quality of the photos. We discussed the significance of presenting Bankstown’s rich local history in a new and innovative way to reach a broader public audience. We concluded that an interactive walking tour was the most appropriate for my project and (most importantly) the organisation’s needs.

The Dane Fountain – one of the sites of interest in the walking tour

During the production and research process for the historical walking tour, I realised that many sites around the area had historical value. Although I have lived in the Canterbury-Bankstown area my whole life, I never knew about the rich history some of these sites possessed. I would regularly pass by them on the commute to work, my daily walks, and even on the way to grocery shopping. In that sense, it would be perfect for highlighting the unrecognised historical value of these sites most people in the community pass by daily.

My main argument for this project was to highlight the importance of showcasing local histories in new and engaging ways to prove that history can be taught beyond the bounds of the classroom. Sites around your local community area all encompass rich and long past. They tell stories of past communities, interactions and social hubs and show how History can connect people outside the classroom.

Some of the recurring themes within my project include the importance of relaying local histories and making them accessible and inclusive for a broad audience. In addition, the non-static nature of this project allows for local sites and the evolving history of different places to be recorded and displayed for the future.

Photograph of Bankstown Library and Knowledge Centre

I have chosen to present the walking tour via PowerPoint presentation due to the timeframe of this assessment and the rigorous process of receiving approval from Council officials. Therefore, my project is presented in a PowerPoint presentation with external links to different pdf files, which will be saved onto a USB. Initially, I wanted to publicise this walking tour online on an external website for easier access. However, this format was chosen because of Canterbury Council’s restrictions with promoting information under their name. This file will be given to the Local Histories Librarian I am working closely with and will serve as an example for future project proposals for interactive walking tours to be approved by Council officials. This project aims to be open-ended and remain dynamic as more sites can be added in the future.

This walking tour is unique due to its innovative presentation. It focuses on the local community’s inclusivity by adding different translations of information in the four primary languages of the Canterbury Bankstown Council (English, Korean, Arabic, and Vietnamese). This was, unfortunately, out of my area of expertise, so my final project does not include this aspect. However, my presentation for the library is intended to be not static and remain an open-ended project. More sites could be added in the future, and audio recordings of the tour would be added for broader accessibility and to suit the needs of people with disabilities. Its fluid format (given the approval of this proposal) is transformed from a project pitch to Q.R. codes displayed on signposts next to each site of interest, allowing people to enjoy this immersive experience in their own time.

Map of the walking tour – one of the slides in my presentation

The ABCs of ABC Cooking

My project contains the skeletons of a cookbook, 24 pages including a cover design, contents page, recipes, and stories. It plays on the ‘ABC’ motif, creating a fun and playful introduction to Asian Between Cultures and their relationships with food. I chose this form for my project as I felt it was the most doable in the short timeframe as well as the most adaptable for any future iterations of the project.

I’ve been flexible with the way I presented my recipes, allowing each contributor to guide how their recipe is written, whether very accurately or free-flowing with measurements and instructions. Some contributors submitted their recipes via voice recording or via calling me, while others wrote them out. I chose this method as I think it represents the reality of how we experience food and cooking. Not every dish is improvised with a dash of this and a dash of that, nor is every dish measured down to the last teaspoon. I think the traditional recipes that are very precise or the Western recipes that are very free-flowing are particularly interesting and unique, as these foods are being viewed through a different cultural lens.

My key argument is that these stories surrounding food are valuable, demonstrate the complex relationship that ABCs have with their foods, and help weave a broader tapestry of migration, culture, and history. I weaved more explicit and formal histories throughout to demonstrate how a small story can extrapolate into a bigger narrative and attempted to write each story in an engaging and personal way to show the value behind it. This engagement and personality, I found, mostly derived from the use of the themes of migration, culture, history, and family, as that’s where the heart of the story often was.

The highlight of creating this project was talking to people and making their stories feel heard and valued. Everyone I spoke to was eager to share and even more eager to see their recipes put in a cookbook format. Many told me that they showed their families and requested the completed copy to give to them. It really showed how much people want these important parts of their lives to be given permanency and longevity (part of my own desire to capture my waipo’s recipe is knowing that our family might forget it in a couple of decades). Thinking about permanency for my community reminded me of one of the readings, where Bongiorno was talking about how to fit ‘alternative’ histories into a national narrative that has for so long had its foundations in whiteness. For me, this project is not attempting to jam in an Asian Australian story into an already constructed narrative of Australian food, but rather, building it from scratch, with community stories, members, and interests at the centre.

I think this is the heart of the project’s need, so that we can share our foods and stories, spark conversations about Asian Australian food cultures, and make our community feel seen, heard, and worthy of permanency.

While I’m not 100% certain where the future of the cookbook lays, I’m super excited to start discussing with the Asian Australian Project about whether it’s a project we want to continue into the future. In the meantime, I’m getting together my raw materials as well as the recipes I wasn’t able to use, so that we may draw on them in the future.

See below an excerpt of my project!


A brief history of challah and Babka.

My Public History Project is a mix between a fact sheet on the traditional (mainly European) Jewish foods of Challah and Babkah. I researched the history of these foods, explaining where they came from, why they are eaten, when they are eaten, who makes them and how different versions of that food have emerged and evolved over time. This came about after volunteering at the Friendship Circle Bakery.

I decided to do this as my original project for a number of reasons. The first is that my original project idea did not go to plan. In a way this was positive because I have always wanted to research these food topics, I have always been interested in the history of these foods and what stories they tell. I realised that I finally had the time and space to do this. As a modern Australian Jewish woman I have always been interested in what ‘Jewish food’ tells me about my history, my religion and what life was like for Jewish people who lived before me. I believe that it is important that these things are known, they must not be forgotten because they are interesting histories. 

When I was making accessible recipe cards for the Friendship Circle Bakery, where I did my volunteering, I came to the realisation that these foods are special. I remember asking someone at the bakery if they knew where Babka originated and they did not know. This made me realise that many people eat these foods without knowing why they are eaten and I believe that it is important that this is known. I argue that it is important that people know this history. The bakery already has a very special mission and purpose and I wanted to add to it with these cards. 

I hope that both shoppers and participants at the Friendship Circle bakery will benefit from my project. Not everyone who works in the bakery or buys products from it knows the history of these foods. These information cards will serve to inform people of why they are making the food and the importance of them.

The final form of these fact sheets are still to be decided, as I want to make them as accessible as possible and I am not quite sure how to do that. It needs to be accessible because people of all ages and abilities interact with the bakery. However, so far the information is presented on an A4 page in colour. 

The argument of my project is two fold. First I am arguing that food traditions are important, that they tell stories and histories, which is why consumers of these food items should be aware of these histories. They tell stories of past ways of living and food habits. For example looking at the origins of Babka one learns that it was made with the leftover challah dough that was made for the Sabbath, the leftover dough would be braided and fruit and nut- filled scraps added. From this we learn that waste was avoided, that any leftover was turned into something else. 

The second argument I am making is that food tells stories of migration. When looking at the history of babka one sees how the recipe changed when Jewish bakers started making it in America, adding in chocolate and cinnamon. 

There were a number of themes that emerged through the fact sheet. The first is that food is history in the Jewish tradition. Often in Judaism foods are eaten for a certain reason, for example Challah is eaten on the Sabbath and religious holidays like Jewish New Year. I wanted to show this. Often when we study history we tend to learn history through primary and secondary written sources, however I am arguing that food is as valuable as a source because when you sit down and look at the origin of the foods, for example Challah and Babka, you can a lot learn about Jewish history; patterns of migrant, values, historical events. In providing these details I showed how one can gain a deep understanding of Jewish culture by looking at the history of these foods. 

I always wanted to show a bit of Jewish history itself. I believe that too often Jewish history is taught through very specific historical moments and through specific lenses. By mentioning how the recipes have changed over the years, I tried to show different parts of Jewish history that people may not know about. For example, some people do not know that there was a rich and thriving Jewish community in India. Often in Jewish communities and even worldwide, the concept of a Jewish person is seen through a very single lens, a Jewish person is understood as being someone who is white, however there are Jewish people from all over the world e.g. there are Indian, Iranian and Yemenite Jews. I wanted to show this and try to bring awareness to the whitewashing and erasure that happens to these communities. I wanted to show that their traditions are not given equal footing and we risk losing key Jewish communities and traditions if this is continued. 

Another theme I wanted to show is that food and the history of food is an under utilised way to teach about Judaism and religion in general. Often people are given very specific ways in which they can connect to religion, they are told that there are certain paths, but I am trying to show that food is as legitimate as any other way to connect to religion. 

I also wanted to show how food can become an intergenerational point of connection. One only needs to look at the entries in the Monday Morning Cookbook to see this. For many of the authors who submitted recipes, the food items they wrote about reminded them of their grandparents. So when they made the recipes they were reminded of how their grandparents would make the food. 

In Judaism, losing a tradition is not easy and I wanted to show this in my assignment. It is important to show this because the idea of a tradition is an important part of Jewish culture and the religion itself. A lot of the religion and cultural practices in Judaism are based on traditions that have been around for many years. To properly understand these food items and why they are so important to some Jewish communities, one needs to understand that concept.

I also wanted to show how Judaism has evolved as a religion over the centuries. One way this is seen is through looking at how the recipes and foods have adapted in different cultures and time periods. This can be seen in Babka and how it changed when European migrants came to Europe.