Week 8 – Community Work and Organisations

This week we took a bit of time out to talk to previous students of History Beyond the Classroom and to find out more about the community work that students have already started this year. It reminded me of just why I enjoy teaching this course so much.
We were fortunate to have Sarah Simic and Ryan Cropp join us from last year to talk about their experiences last year, the highs and lows, the challenges and rewards, to give us practical tips on working with organisations, and to reveal some important updates about the work they did.
Ryan Cropp, who is now doing his Honours degree in history, was one of the first students last year to make contact with a group – the Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club. And he was one of the first students who posted a blog about his experiences. See http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/historymatters/2015/10/local_sports_history_the_scram.html Ryan helped inspire many students from last year to get started and see where they landed up.
Ryan spoke about his realisation that history was incredibly fragile, and relied on the often unpaid work of so many dedicated enthusiasts who care about their communities and their clubs. While at first frustrated with how few records there seemed to be about the club, that frustration and search for new records became the most interesting part of the project.
Ryan also spoke of his need to manage expectations – his own and others – about what he could realistically achieve in the course of one semester, but also the (on-going) friendships he made while doing his major project. He helped re-write part of their website http://hurlstoneparkwanderers.com.au/about-us/club-history/, and interviewed one of the older club members and made a great video about the Canterbury Cup played at the Blick Oval in Hurlstone Park from 1949-1963 (see http://historybeyondtheclassroom.jimdo.com/student-projects/the-documentarians/ryan-cropp/). Ryan hopes his work has and will continue to stir up more memories and archives relating to the club.
Sarah Simic also joined us, and talked about her false starts with a community group, followed by her major task – finding the origin dates 27 suburbs for the city of Fairfield. She thought this was going to be easy, but it turned in to a labour of love. She wrote one of the best blogposts of the year. I urge everyone to read the full blog at http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/historymatters/2015/11/the_shady_origins_of_our_subur_1.html, but here is an excerpt:
Historians love dates. They are our little comfort pillows; they slip complex situations into simple time frames. Ah, how lovely! How sweet! How romantic!
But I never imagined it would be so hard to find a single date.
I have spent hours wading through newspaper clippings, council records, advertisements, maps. You name it, I’ve looked. And yet, it has taken me hours to find one little piece of information.
I feel like the gods of history have been toying with me. I feel like a mouse being cruelly chucked around by a cat: lulled into a false sense of security, only to be once again snapped up in its deceiving paws.

Sarah urged students this year to be creative and roll with the unconventional nature of the unit, to trust their historical instincts, and to enjoy themselves. Sarah also reminded us of the practical outcome of the work many students did. Though Sarah’s report wasn’t made “public,” Fairfield has used her work to make new banners dating the various suburbs. The fruits of her work can now be seen all over the city of Fairfield. You can view her work at: http://historybeyondtheclassroom.jimdo.com/student-projects/the-writers/sarah-simic/
Simic Smithfield.jpg.png
The fruits of Sarah’s labour
PLan of town.jpg.png
Plan of town made by founder John Brenan in 1838. Present day Smithfield still follows this plan.
Sarah was also able to stay and talk to students informally about their community work and the projects that might emerge. We divided up the students into groups based around the kind of work their organisations did, which included historical societies and historic sites, community and sports groups, libraries and schools, and health and welfare and government groups.
This year, we have twenty-seven students in total, working with twenty-seven different organisations, listed below. Once again, they range in scope and size and purpose, but so far all the students seem keen to get on with their work with them and open-minded about what might emerge. Students also talked about how enthusiastic many of their contacts were in their organisations, and why they got interested and involved with them in the first place.
I have been cheered again by how willing students are to think beyond the classroom and to engage with such a wonderfully diverse group of organisations. And I am very grateful for the support of our community partners in taking on the students. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about the work students are doing, and the projects that evolve from this.
Community Groups and Centres

Addison Road Community Centre
Auburn Youth Centre
Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
Balmain Association
Friends of Callan Park
Glenwood Community Association
Historical Societies and Historic Sites

Blacktown and District Historical Society
La Perouse Museum
Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society
Blue Mountains Historical Society
Wyong Family History Group
Eryldene Historic House and Garden
St John’s Cemetery Project
Schools, Colleges, and Education
University of the Third Age – U3A (Liverpool)
Wesley College
Kambala Old Girls Union
Libraries, Health and Government
Touching Base
Woollahra Municipal Council (Double Bay Library)
Waverly Library
The David Berry Hospital
Sports and Leisure
Queenscliff Life Saving Club
Canterbury Olympic Ice Rink/Ice Skating Club of NSW
Western Suburbs Rugby League Club Archives
Club VeeDub
Music & Booze Co.
Cooma Little Theatre