Good morning Black Dog Institute

Driving down Avoca St Randwick on the way to my first day volunteering at the Black Dog Institute with Mark’s lecture fresh in my mind, I wonder what surrounded the sandstone buildings and churches when they were built in the 1800s. Pulling into Hospital Rd I am thrown back into the present as I notice the entrance to the Black Dog Institute nestled in the shadow of gum trees and the very modern Neuroscience Research wing of the Prince of Wales Hospital. I entered the building expecting to be confronted by a similar sterility to the hospital next door, prepared for a long day of reading through boring medical research files. Once I was done with HR, introductions, instructions and set up at a desk with a laptop, I sighed into the desk chair that I knew I wouldn’t be getting up from for hours.

Bringing up the first documents from which I am required to extract key information for a timeline of the history of the institute, I begin reading about one of their first medical trials. I am fascinated to find that this was the first of many projects conducted by the Black Dog Institute which aimed to use online methods to tackle poor mental health. As a millennial I am naturally intrigued by the use of electronic devices for the treatment of mental illness. Not only are the documents I find myself reading not boring medical research files but they are actually providing me with interesting information on a topic with which I am not particularly familiar. As I submerge myself further into the studies completed and research grants approved, a picture of an organization which works persistently to connect their knowledge with their community appears before me. Whether it be through their strategies which were adopted by the NSW government or the making of a new app, the Black Dog Institute has displayed dedication to closing the gap between their medical research and the community. Perhaps I am jaded by the blissful oblivion on the work which lies ahead of me, but I can’t help but look forward to trying to compile a timeline which effectively reflects the nature of Black Dog.

Laughter in the Men’s Shed at Breakfast Point

The Australian Men’s Shed Association (ASMA) is a dedicated not-for-profit organisation founded in 2007. Its primary aim is to promote the spread of independent Men’s Sheds across Australia. Most often these sheds are divided by neighbourhood groups, yet some still cater towards different communities, such as elderly gay, or Aboriginal men. For many older men across the nation, these local sheds serve as vital centres of social interaction. 

The Breakfast Point Men’s Shed (BPMS) is one such group. It has a dedicated membership of sixty men, the eldest a spritely 94. I was immediately attracted to volunteer for this organisation, drawn by its central goal. The Shed itself describes their desire to:

‘promote social interaction amongst older people through a range of activities that build friendships and camaraderie’

For the community members of Breakfast Point the Shed is shared space to talk, remember, and create. Fundamentally, this serves to improve the lives of the men involved, keeping them socially and physically engaged well into old age. My visit to the organisation during their weekly coffee meeting certainly illuminated this supportive atmosphere. The rate of in-jokes and playful jests between the members was startling, it was hard to keep up! The strong bonds that the Shed had facilitated between them was self evident.

Breakfast Points’ primary work revolves around the creation of useful items for their wider community. Recently, the men created stroke rehabilitation equipment for both Concord and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Other projects have also included the construction of play furniture for  nearby preschools. Elsewhere, the men bond over meals, fundraising events, bike rides or card games.

Although the history of the organisation itself is brief, as residents of Breakfast Point, the men have a clear interest in what resided within their location before their existence. One of the first things I was informed about was the Shed’s past utility as a weigh-bridge for trucks bringing supplies to and from the local Gasworks. I am excited at the possibilities to uncover more about Breakfast Points’ past, and indeed the lives of the men themselves.

The newly constructed Stroke Rehabilitation Equipment. Retrieved from on 27th September 2019

You can’t help but smile and laugh whilst at the Breakfast Point’s Men Shed. Its charm resides within the positive, supportive members that compose it. As Jerry, a Breakfast Point member put: “if you’re not a joker before entering the Shed, you will be in short time.”  Its safe to say that I am thrilled to work with such an accommodating, giving and enthusiastic organisation. 

Muriel’s Wedding, Elton John and my Great-Grandparents: St Mark’s Church

I have chosen to work with St Mark’s Church, Darling Point. St Mark’s was opened in the mid-1850 and it was designed by Edmund Blacket. The church is built in thirteenth century English Gothic Style architecture. Reverend Dr. Michael Jensen is the current rector.

St Mark’s Church, Darling Point. Source: Charlotte Adcock, 2019

Although St Mark’s may not sound familiar to most, it is arguably one of Australia’s most recognisable churches. It has hosted two iconic and unlikely weddings. English pop star Elton John married Renate Blauel at the church in 1984, and it served as the chapel in the Australian 1994 film, Muriel’s Wedding. Although one wedding was short-lived and the other was purely fictional, the church’s picturesque naves and spire are unforgettable.

Elton John and Renate Blauel’s Wedding, 1984. Source: Vanity Fair, 2019

My family’s long-standing relationship with the church drove me to select it as my not-for-profit. Although I grew up in Brisbane, my mother’s family are from Sydney. The majority of my relatives have been christened and married there, myself included. My maternal grandparents and great-grandparents were also avid members of the St Mark’s community – their plaques can still be found in the church’s garden. The photograph (of a photograph) below is of my great-grandparents wedding at St Mark’s. There are identical photographs of my parents and grandparents on their wedding day at the church.

My Great-Grandparents. Source: Charlotte Adcock, 2019

The church is hosts a number of services daily and it is home to many community groups. Although I do not identify as religious, I value spirituality and want to experience the church as an adult – I have not attended a service at St Mark’s since I was a child. Therefore, this Sunday, I will attend the 5:30pm ‘Contemporary’ service. I am looking forward to the service and I believe it will provide me with greater insight into how the church operates and the community atmosphere.   

Although my specific project is unconfirmed, I am certainly interested in drawing on the community’s wealth of knowledge. According to Reverend Dr. Michael Jensen, there are currently six ninety-year-olds in the community and they would love to share their stories of the church. My project will likely be a written or audio history of St Mark’s most notable events. I am looking forward to delving into the church’s history and seeing what I can find!    

The Bowlers in my Backyard: Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club

For my project I’ve decided to stick my head over the fence.

The founding date of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club is debatable to say the least. It could be marked down as the opening of the first greens in March 1962 or perhaps even registration with the Royal Bowling Association in 1957. Personally, I think the strongest case to be made is for somewhere in the mid-1950s when the Club’s founding members gathered out the back of a Lambeth Street store to play darts, drink beer, and do anything but play bowls.

Members of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club, circa 1960/1.

While in the six or so decades since then bowling has certainly shifted to the forefront of the Club’s identity (for reasons both legal and otherwise), this culture of mateship for mateship’s sake has remained at the group’s core. Located a little ways north of the George’s River, the Club is now home to the Men’s Bowls, Women’s Bowls and a number of other sub-clubs including the Picnic Point Darts, Golf and Fishing Clubs. As the hub for all these groups, the Club has become a centre for the smaller, local community of Picnic Point and Panania, with my own family included among its numbers.

My connection to the Club and its history is one that began fourteen years ago when my family moved into a house bordering the greens. My dad’s involvement quickly developed to the point where a gate leading exclusively to the Club appeared in our back fence and the initially two minute-long walk became thirty-seconds. Having seen it go through celebrations and hardships, and evolve in the years I’ve known it, I’m excited by the prospect of helping the Club utilise its history and solidify its identity today.

A partial view of the greens from my aforementioned back fence gate, September 2019.

Although not set in stone, the ultimate goal of my project will be to compile and organise the history of the Picnic Point Bowling and Social Club in various formats, the most prominent being recorded oral history interviews.

Currently, I’ve been reading through old Club meeting minutes and documents to get a grasp on an overarching historical narrative – this has been aided exponentially by an unfinished history written by a former member (who I’m hoping to get in contact with for permission to use his work) and archival research through TROVE and local newspapers. If time permits, I’d like to additionally digitize and catalogue these original minutes/documents as well as a number of photographs that have also been made available to me. Another major task I hope to undertake is recording oral interviews with some of the Club’s oldest members, to be both informed by the history I’ve uncovered and to expand upon it further.

The final form this project will take is still being decided upon. I endeavour to have the interviews compiled into a video that the Club can use at their discretion and the written history also as a standalone resource. Ideally, by the end I’d like to update the Club’s website with their expanded history and embed the video interviews within the same page. I may further include a photograph slideshow with labelled pictures from important moments in the Club’s history.

An early day on the Picnic Point greens, circa 1960s.

At its heart, the entire basis of my project is in facilitating the Club’s understanding of its history and attempting to help this history be utilised in the most effective way possible. Amidst the declining popularity of lawn bowls in Australia, I truly believe that this history and the Club’s identity will be the key to its future.

The Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society – Exploring Local Histories

I chose the Ku-Ring-Gai Historical Society (KHS) as the organisation I wanted to engage with because of my desire to know more about my local area and to see how history is practised as part of a community. Ku-Ring-Gai is the name of a collection of suburbs on the North Shore and it is where I have lived for the last 17 years. The KHS has been operating since 1963 and has had over 600 members and is entirely comprised of volunteers. They have monthly meetings with two focuses, the first on general history where they will invite a speaker to give a presentation about their work as historians and another which focuses on producing family history. They also have an office located next to a local library in Gordon where there are collections of books, archives, computers connected to online resources. Volunteers meet there to work on various types of local history throughout the week from 10am-2pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They also create and publish an annual journal called “The Historian” with articles that cover a range of topics and places throughout a specific suburb, doing a different suburb each year so that all the suburbs within the area of Ku-Ring-Gai are featured at some point.

To become familiar with the KHS I first attended one of their general meetings on a Saturday where I heard about current news within the society, heard from one of their guest speakers and became a member. Before I attended the meeting I had a look at the name of the guest speaker and was delighted to realize it was my friend’s mum, a historical novelist called Carol Baxter, giving a presentation on an adventurous Australian lady she had just published a book on. I introduced myself to some of the members and arranged to spend some time at their office on Tuesday where I met with the Vice President of the society, Lorna Watt.

A typical day at the Society’s Offices
Retrieved from on 27th September 2019

On Tuesday Lorna introduced me to some of the people that do work there on Tuesdays specifically for the purpose of investigating property history in the local area. These projects arise from either a personal interest of the volunteers in the society and also from non-members inquiring about information and history of where they live. Lorna familiarised me with the way they work and how to access the resources they use and we discussed a range of things that I could do to assist the KHS.

Ideas included assisting with the mailing out of the current publication of their journal, creating a pamphlet to distribute to encourage membership in the society and participating in the research that the volunteers are currently working on. In terms of my main project it looks like I may be able to produce a few local histories to be included in the next publication of their journal “The Historian” which will feature the suburb of Roseville. In particular researching and writing about Roseville Bridge and it’s surrounding area which used to have a swimming centre as well as Roseville Cinemas and a street named Babbage after a man named Benjamin Babbage who was a significant figure in Nineteenth Century Australian history. I hope to develop these ideas within the next few weeks after becoming more involved in the Society and more familiar with the resources I now have access to.

Collaroy Plateau public school – A local history

The Collaroy Plateau public school is situated on the hill of a small Northern beaches suburb. The photographs within the archives show a rich affiliation with the beach community and the local Collaroy plateau area. The principal, Suzanne Trisic, has kindly welcomed me into the school to participate, observe lessons, and even do some teachers aid work to support Mr. Ben Duce who helps students with learning difficulties such as Aspergers and Diabetes. The school is filled with the sound of children’s laughter and buzzing energy as they swarm around us before the start of school wanting to give hi 5’s.

Volunteering at this school has been an excellent environment to experience, as I am a pre-service high school teacher. Any opportunity to work in a school even if it has only been for about 20 hours has been a great opportunity. I began conversing with Suzanne about conducting a history project for the school. She was very pleased and we began to talk about the logistics of creating the project. Suzanne showed me some of the photographs, newspaper articles and archives that the school had. This was excellent to look through some primary sources that displayed the wide ranging – dynamic nature of the school. Newspaper clippings displayed former members of the school participating in local surf club events. The archives even contained articles on alumni such as Rod McQueen who coached the Australian Wallabies.

The articles were not exclusive to the success stories of alumni, the photographs told a richer story of a local school community that has developed a thoughtful and nurturing environment for local little ones to participate in the wonder and joy of learning about the world around us. The changes in the nature of pedagogy over time were evident as evidenced by the Corporal punishment book that gathered dust in the archive room. I also began to discuss the medium of production with Suzanne and she is going to get back to me. The desired presentation is likely to be a book or a website.

Hunter Rainbow History Group – the importance of queer histories

It’s Summer 2019, my friends and I are wandering through the stalls of Mardi Gras Fair Day. The sun is unbearably hot, and our faces are greasy with the layers of sunscreen and glitter piled onto them . We stop in the shade of an empty stall and take a moment to look around the crowd swarming Victoria Park. But I am distracted by a sign in the stall next door that’s far more exciting. It’s a sign for a pride festival later on in the year, but to my surprise it’s for my hometown – Newcastle. 

When we were asked to pick a community organisation for a history project, I had no idea where to start. Having only moved to Sydney in 2016 (and into four different suburbs since then), I’d never properly connected with any local organisations. But after being asked in this course to reflect on the communities and values I deem important, I knew I had to do something to connect two of the biggest, yet most separate communities in my life – Newcastle and the queer community.

Growing up in Newcastle I was never exposed to anything related to queerness – while it definitely existed, Newcastle’s history of queer lives and experiences was very much hidden from the average Novocastrian. When I moved to Sydney for university I was incredibly surprised, and grateful to find such an open and honest community of people. I couldn’t believe that Newcastle, only a 2 hour car trip away, was so different, and its queer community so concealed. It’s for that reason I have chosen to work with the Hunter Rainbow History Group for my history project.

The Hunter Rainbow History Group, a queer history group operating in the city of Newcastle, was formed to ‘record and collect the stories and experiences of LGBTIQ people in Newcastle and the Hunter, to preserve and illuminate the hidden histories of this vital and resilient community’. Their work involves the digitising, archiving and collecting of queer stories in Newcastle – the results of which I believe do incredible work to avoid the confusion and isolation of growing up queer away from a capital city. Currently, the group are working on recording the experiences of HIV/AIDs survivors and victims in Newcastle’s two HIV/AIDs designated hospitals – the Royal Newcastle Hospital and MacKillop House. The last few weeks I have had the pleasure of being in conversation with John Witte, a member of the group, who has suggested I could assist with digitising photos for MacKillop house, and working with the  Sisters of St Joseph Lochinvar who were part of the creation of MacKillop House in the early 1990s. 

I am beyond excited to be working with this group and hope that I am able to bring more visibility to queer histories as an essential part of public history. Most of all, I am grateful that I am able to work with a group that are able to connect the younger and older generations in Newcastle – allowing us to connect to a long-standing community that has too long been left to be forgotten.

Cronulla Polar Bears Winter Swimming Club

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 995110_497777810292608_908866162_n.jpg
Foundational members circa 1960

The Cronulla Polar Bears is an ocean swimming club operating between May and September every year since May of 1953.  With some still swimming with the club from its foundational years, ages range from 25 to 94. Their passion lies within the love for swimming and friendship with beer and barbecues as an added bonus. Over the years they have been part of various competitions around the country. With the largest being the Australian Winter Swimming National Championships that are typically held in respective states capital cities. Other competitions include local heats in the public ocean pool at South Cronulla Beach, that is typically the busiest time of the week – particularly with 10 degree weather.

With ‘The Bears’ endorsing small fundraisers for the clubs operational expenses like uniforms, food and pool maintenance; they also support a small local foundation Bears Of Hope which helps children with psychological and physical disabilities in the local region. Yes, the running theme of the Bears even stretches to their sponsorship from Bundaberg Rum (which also has a polar bear as its mascot).

Meeting 9am every Sunday in the John Suann room, their swimming typically commences within the hour then will wrap up about 3pm, but typically most will continue to stay and chat with close friends after lunch. in regards to their Internet ‘paw-print’, it spans from local newspaper articles to their most active being their public facebook page. The passion, humour and respect for community, is obvious through this page that is typically updated once a week informing members on events or just adding to club morale.

For what this club lacks in funding, members and sometimes sanity (I mean really who wants to go swimming in 8 degree water?!) they make up for in friendship, support and laughter. With the average age of members being over 50 years old, it can be a challenging time for men’s mental health. Through exercise, strong sense of community and humour, the club provides a healthy and supporting environment for it’s members physical and mental health. From the interactions I’ve had with some of the board members, I can already sense myself becoming part of the small community that encourages laughter and friendship – although they’ll have to work a little harder to get me in the ocean next winter.

Rights, dignity and wellbeing: the Older Women’s Network

Plunging into a timeline is a great way to get to know an organisation. Over the past week I’ve been piecing together the history of OWN, the Older Women’s Network for its new website. The many achievements of the past three decades suggest their motto could be ‘getting stuff done’. It’s a spirit that’s inspired me as I have discovered more about this can do group of women in their busy and friendly office set amidst the verdant community gardens in Newtown. Each day different activities are held in the large airy room next to the office: exercise classes, book groups and writing sessions to name a few of their varied activities. Since it formed in the mid 1980s this feisty grassroots women’s group has lobbied, advocated, fought invisibility, promoted health and wellbeing and had a lot of fun and friendship along the way. This was evident in the box of photos I looked through this afternoon. The camaraderie and self help ethos shone through, although I wish more information was written on the backs of the photos! 

OWN is a diverse organisation encompassing a theatre group, wellness centres, a Greek women’s group and a long running Aboriginal Support Circle with close links with senior Indigenous women in Sydney. It has written and contributed to countless reports and research on domestic violence, housing insecurity and financial issues affecting older women. The theatre group has wowed audiences throughout NSW and even performed their show Don’t Knock Your Granny about elder abuse at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.

OWN has nineteen groups in NSW, they all offer something a bit different depending on members’ interests, and wax and wane in numbers. During the uni break I’m taking a train trip to Coniston to meet octogenarian Barbara Malcolm, and to record her history for OWN. Going through the old newsletters, her name kept coming up as a vibrant force for older women and wellness in the Illawarra, and as a champion quilt maker. I’m looking forward to recording her story as one of the tireless, quiet achievers of OWN.

The Watsons Bay Association and Watsons Bay Walking Tour

The organisation that I am working with for the major project is the Watsons Bay Association. They are a local organisation made up of a few core members who are retirees, they also have a wider membership base that springs to action during times of threat to Watsons Bay’s natural sites. The organisation’s main goal is to lobby local government and campaign to stop large developments taking place in Watsons Bay.

They were instrumental in the Save Watsons Bay movement which was successful and they continuously fight to preserve South Head as a national park. I was initially drawn to this organisation as I have lived around the area for my entire life so for sentimental reasons its preservation is important to me. Furthermore, I noticed they had a history section on their website, so at the very least I thought that the people running the organisation were at least interested in the areas rich history.

Upon meeting with the president of the organisation Roger Bayliss and his wife Julie, who wrote much of the history section, I was informed that the organisation was in a dormant period and that they don’t really focus on history. However, they were both fascinated and very knowledgeable of the local history and saw its importance in future pleas for preservation.

They want me to design a walking tour and an accompanying pdf booklet that goes from the Macquarie Lighthouse all the way down to Watsons Bay and South Head and covers a lot of historical sites that are seldom visited or publicised by most tourist pamphlets or guided tours. They want me to do this potentially with the view to take my finished product to the local council and get signs posted in the area, this will make it easier to stop future developments.

Roger and Julie stressed the importance of the pre existing wide array of historical sites and natural beauty, which should be further emphasised for tourism, instead of the highly technological and complex nature of some of the proposed developments in the Watsons Bay area that the Association deals with and is made aware of.