Presi for Sydney Jewish Museum Research Project

Traditionally, museums focus on educating their visitors about the past. In today’s age though, this is simply not enough. Institutions are overlooking their obligation to plan for the future. For both locals and international tourists, museums are viewed as leaders and frontrunners when it comes to doing what is best for the people. 

To be sustainable means that we need to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations. Similarly, The Sydney Jewish Museum places a focus on educating their visitors about the Holocaust, to ensure that we are knowledge about the past so we do not compromise future generations. If we are knowledgeable, we should do what is right for those who will come after us. With the large influx of visitors at the SJM, they have the capability to help be a leader of change in museum sustainability.

For my final research project for the Sydney Jewish Museum, I created a working Sustainability Plan. I researched what many of the leading institutions around the world are doing, and I was able to create a personalized plan for the SJM. I broke it down into three main aspects of sustainable development: environment, economy, and society. I outlined both short and long-term goals, educated and informed them about what many of the sustainable practices are, and I gave suggestions for how I would go about attacking these problems based on the research that I conducted. 

I chose to work with the Sydney Jewish Museum, because I didn’t know anything about Judaism in Australia, neither historically nor currently. The museum highlights Sydney’s ties to the Jewish religion, so I was excited to learn more. Additionally, I myself am Jewish and am passionate about the horrors of the Holocaust, the other focal point of the museum, so I was excited to continue to educate myself in that aspect too. The museum helps to educate their visitors about the rich culture and religion of Judaism through both permanent and feature exhibitions, memorials, collections, events, and they even have local survivors who speak there on a weekly basis. 

I didn’t choose to do this project specifically, although I altered it along the way to best suit what I viewed would be most impactful for the museum. I really wanted to do something that would teach me more about this interesting period of history, but I knew it was important for me to do what the museum needed the most. The original idea came from Mrs. Roslyn Sugarman, who is the head curator at the Sydney Jewish Museum. She got the idea for this project after attending a conference that focused on museum sustainability. Museums are leaders in their respective communities and help to set a precedent for change, as people view museums as moral and ethical institutions. We ran with this idea of creating a sustainability campaign, and Ms. Breann Fallon had many insightful ideas along the way as well. 

I got caught up going to the museum and meeting with many individuals to see how their respective departments run, that I didn’t decide until late for how I would conduct the final project. I thought that a Sustainability Plan is really the best first course of action to help create change, so I thought I would write-up a personalized one myself. During my research, I used action-plan documents that other museums or governing bodies had written up previously. 

I wanted to do this project because I knew it would benefit everyone. It will help to create a better and healthier workplace within the SJM by constantly reminding internal members to make more environmentally friendly choices on a daily basis. Also, the museum has hundreds of visitors each week, and they will be the beneficiary and seeing the museum as a leader of change in this field, and they will hopefully be inspired by the progress the museum is making. 

Sydney Jewish Museum Week 6

Tyler Krantz is documenting his work with the Sydney Jewish Museum for History Beyond the Classroom 2019. Read the other posts in his series here.

This week, I have broken my sustainability plan down into three parts: environment, economy, and society. This approach will give the museum the best holistic overview of a sustainability plan. For each of these three sections I give goals for each, both short-term and long as well. I propose immediate changes for each, and I outline the best course of steps to take to achieve many of these goals that could take 3-5 years.

For the environment, which focuses on how the museum interacts with the surrounding area, I address how they can more efficiently use the energy and resources around them. This covers everything from water usage, to utilities, equipment, and more. I am working to make this plan as easy to follow and achieve as possible, with creating the biggest impact as well. Beyond products, I give tips and guidelines to ensure that they stay on track. Long-term, I propose calculating their annual carbon footprint to better see where their issues are, along with arranging for a sustainability audit as well. Immediate action focuses on finding alternative products that are more environmentally friendly. This is easy, but to ensure that it doesn’t create a burden for them monetarily and logistically for them to switch, is a whole different battle. This is why looking into the economics of it is my next pillar, much of what I talked about last week. 

Finally, “society” looks at relationships within the institution and how they run. This to me is the culture of the place, which is their biggest issue. I propose creating a “Green Team,” reaching out to other museums that are leading in this field, and educating their workers and visitors on what they are trying to accomplish. This is the toughest area, but certainly the most important.

Sydney Jewish Museum Week 5

Tyler Krantz is documenting his work with the Sydney Jewish Museum for History Beyond the Classroom 2019. Read the other posts in his series here.

Over the past few weeks, I had been going to the museum as much as possible to try and best understand how each department with it is run. As the final project is nearing, I had to decide what the best use of my time would be to leave the greatest impact of the institution. While I had some very abstract and ambitious plans in terms of environmentalism, I felt that I was getting a little too ahead of myself. The museum had not even had anything close to a sustainability plan in place to begin with, so that is where I wanted to place the greatest emphasis. I started researching different museum’s sustainability plans not only in NSW and Australia, but around the globe as well. I have been looking into what many of the leading institutions are currently doing. I have started to take the best-of-the-best from each of these plans that would best suit the SJM, and I am bringing them together to create a personalized plan for the museum.

Since I was able to get my hands on tax invoices and catalogues of items that they purchase, I have been researching alternative “green” products that are more environmentally friendly without creating a burden to their pocket. In the office, I have been focusing on alternatives for copy paper and single-use paper cups, two of the biggest issues that Roslyn has stressed to me in this process. Moreover, I have looked into eco-friendly ink cartridges and miscellaneous items around the office such as pens, paper, highlighters, and more. For the kitchen and bathroom, I have focused on straws, napkins, plates, paper towels, exc. Overall, my focus has been on how to best use these resources that we take for granted.

The History of the Black Dog Institute

I first came into contact with members of the Black Dog Institute when my residential college hosted charity events to raise funds for them. My project arose when I began to volunteer for the organization in their media and communications department where I was able to read their annual records. Black Dog had a history which dated back to 1985 and the organization had evolved significantly since then, revealing a clear need for this evolution to be illustrated. Realizing that nobody had ever compiled a comprehensive history of the organization, the head of media expressed an interest in my proposal.

During my weekly volunteer days I reflected on the questions we had asked ourselves in class: Who or what has commissioned product? Who is the audience? What are the challenges of using different approaches? What opportunities are possible when using different formats to present history that are not possible via books or articles? How does audience influence form and content? I found the answers to these questions revealed implicitly through my project. The timeline of the history of Black Dog would have the ability to shape shift into various forms depending on the audience. By manipulating the language I was able to sell the success of the organisation through what we called ‘hero phrases’. This referred to the marketing language used on the version of the timeline that would be presented to prospective donors. Additionally, this version would be used as a model for the interactive timeline which would appear on their website. This required the language to be simple and catchy to capture the attention of the teens who would frequent the Black Dog website. It also required me to filter out the information which would not have been exciting for readers. While the version of the timeline I created for archival purposes required significant detail such as exact names and dates from financial records and annual reports.

After a few weeks of reading through various different medical articles, annual reports, grant applications, the Black Dog website, news articles and publications I noticed that one thing remained consistent throughout the records. Since its establishment in 1995 the Black Dog Institute had remained true to its mission of bridging the gap between medical research into mental illness and the mental health community. Over the years the methods of achieving this would change from setting up clinics to developing apps, however the goal remained the same. The organisation remained determined to provide platforms for the prevention and treatment of symptoms of mental illness. I used this mission to drive my work and as I developed the timeline project I remembered the Black Dog’s overarching value. Although the projects about which I was writing mostly spoke for themselves, I made an effort to highlight the information which revealed the organisation’s attitude. This required the exclusion of a few of the organisation’s failed studies and a careful rewording of the information on those which had not yet flourished. This gave more life to the project and I hope that when the final timeline is read the Black Dog Institute’s mission clearly emerges.

The project itself will be used to further pursue the Black Dog Institute’s mission to connect the mental health community to medical research into treatments and prevention tools for mental illness. The model I have created for the website’s interactive timeline seeks to increase accessibility to information on mental health. The linear version will be presented in meetings, on the annual report and at fundraising events. In reflecting the organisation’s key milestones and achievements the timeline will encourage sponsors and donors to support their endeavours. In addition the timeline acts as evidence of the organisation’s success over the years and justifies their need for constant expansion. This encourages the National Health and Medical Research Council to approve grants which will enable future studies and trials to be completed. The findings of these studies lead to the development of new ways to treat and prevent symptoms of mental illness or to prevent suicide. Over the years the organisation has initiated innovative studies which have changed the way we think about mental illness in NSW. Their apps have been proven to decrease symptoms and their programs have been proven to prevent a significant number of suicides. By providing a tangible reflection of the ongoing success at the Black Dog Institute, the timeline project has assisted the organisation in its mission and hence benefitted the mental health community in general.

As I have mentioned the format of the final project includes a model for the website’s interactive timeline and a more detailed, linear account of the history of the Black Dog Institute. The website version will be passed on to the Web Designer who will put the content I have created onto the website. Based on the creative ideas I came up with as approved by the media and communications team, the web designer will also make the online timeline interactive. When hovering over the bubbles along the timeline, more information will appear which can then be clicked on taking the reader to the dedicated webpage for all information surrounding the topic within that bubble. This is simple yet effective as it encourages readers to explore the website further, where more information will be readily available. While these interactive measures may appear limited in creativity they are beneficial in optimising accessibility. By allowing an outsources Web Designer to put my model into the correct format I have ensured that the timeline will be fully compatible with the website and when updates are required in the future, this can be done smoothly.  The linear version of the timeline is simply text in a document and can easily be uploaded in any format and updated in the future. In this way I have ensured that the project is sustainable beyond the work I have done for this unit.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering at Black Dog, I did encounter some minor obstacles in the development of my project. In trying to develop the creative aspect of the project I struggled to reconcile the organisations needs with my own ideas. For example, the organisation wished to keep the website format of the timeline fairly simple while I would have suggested creating more extensive interaction abilities. But I can see how, although it may be more limited, the simpler approach will be more effective in grabbing attention. However, overall my experience at Black Dog has been extremely valuable, eye opening and enjoyable. I have gained significant media and communications related skills and experience. I developed my writing skills, learning how to adjust my tone to best suit the audience. I gained useful archival experience which taught me how to extract relevant information from hordes of documents. Ultimately, this project has made me think about the active role history plays in different contexts and has taught me a lot about how to create and disseminate history in a manner that is both interesting and informative for the reader.

More Than a String of Towns Through the Bush

I have grown up and lived the majority of my life in the Lower Blue Mountains town of Glenbrook. Growing up, no idea of distance or periphery ever coloured the way I saw home, but throughout my four years attending Sydney University, any admission of where I live has been met with a response of “that’s so far away!” It wasn’t until I undertook a collaborative history project with the Blue Mountains Historical Society (BMHS) that I realised how enmeshed the existence of the early colony was with the Blue Mountains, and how this relationship has since shaped both Sydney and the mountains to its west in a deep and formative way.

Having researched Blue Mountains history for the BMHS as part of a project to encourage historical awareness for local Stage 3 primary-aged students, I feel I have gained as much as I hoped to give back to the society and the community it serves by extension. It has been incredibly heartening completing my final project as an undergraduate in the place I have grown up, a fitting way to come full circle and return to the place my studies began.

The aim of the project was to create material to engage Year 5-6 students from Blue Mountains primary schools with their local history, that would function to amplify the work of the society as well as increase community participation. In the past the society has run programs for students of this age, but limited resources and outdated material has restricted the society’s potential impact upon its community. Speaking from both my own experience and that of members of the society, there is a general lack of historical consciousness amongst Mountains residents, and it is the aim of this project to remedy this starting with those in the youngest generation.

Lennox Bridge: an early gateway to the Blue Mountains, and the first bridge built on the Australian mainland (source: Blue Mountains Library, Local Studies, Flickr)

This project has taken shape as an interactive Prezi presentation featuring small histories of each town throughout the Blue Mountains, detailing the ways each came to be and presenting a general overview of pre-contact history as well as the Blue Mountains today. Most resources for the project came from the published works of the society, particularly Lower Blue Mountains and Upper Blue Mountains by Robynne Ridge (who also kindly acted as a mentor throughout the project’s length), as well as the BMHS library and archives, and the Blue Mountains Library collection in Springwood. I was also assisted with my research by John Merriman, the local studies historian at Springwood, whose knowledge of the local Blue Mountains history is unparalleled. Most sources on the Blue Mountains I found were self-published or locally-published, an encouraging thing to see locals taking their history-making into their own hands.

Tarella Cottage: a heritage building, now a local history museum sharing the site of the research centre and library of the BMHS (source: Blue Mountains Library, Local Studies, Flickr)

This project champions local history and asserts its important in understanding our place in both the world and its history. Local history is a way for us to connect to a world bigger than ourselves whilst also seeing our place in that world. It asks that not only do the grand, dominant narratives win our attention, but also the lesser known, lesser told stories that exist closer by.

This project has helped me see that one place can form the backdrop for startlingly different stories. The stories that my generation and I tell about the Blue Mountains are different than those told in the past, and I am excitedly anticipating those that will be told in the future. It has caused me to reimagine the Blue Mountains, not as a string of towns lining a bush-encompassed highway way out west, but as a place with a history that strings together stories of place, both locally and in the region more broadly. The Blue Mountains is more than a line of towns through the bush, it is place that is itself a centre with a story of its own.

Working with BMHS on this project has been incredibly rewarding, both academically and personally. It is promising to learn, once again, that history is not just found at a distance in foreign times and places. If you look for it, nay if you open your eyes, it is right under your nose.

For more information on the work the society does, please visit their website.

The Honour Roll for Peace

For the past month I have been working with the Addison Road Community Centre and the Honour Roll for Peace Project they have begun. As noted in my previous blog post, the Honour Roll for Peace is a fantastic and unique initiative to unite an international, national and local cohort through their personal contributions to peace. Their contributions take shape in many different ways and I have had the amazing opportunity to research some of these people.

I researched Denis Kevans, “Poet”; Geoff Mullen, “Prisoner of Conscience, Emu Plains Gaol, for resisting involvement in Vietnam War. Outstanding activist for peace. Always Remembered!“; Henry Weston Pryce, “Poet”; John Otto, Ondawame; “West Papuan fighter for freedom and peace“, Juno Gemes, Ken Saro Wiwia, “West Papuan fighter for freedom and peace“; Max Watts, “Lifelong activist for social justice, including working against the Vietnam War with Resistance Inside the Army”; Monty Miller, “Wobblie and anarchist, Monty headed the May Day peace march in Melbourne for many, many years“; Peter Mcgregor, “Wobblie and anarchist, Monty headed the May Day peace march in Melbourne for many, many years“; Rachael Corrie, “Gave her life for justice in Palestine“; Rob Wesley-Smith, “Vietnam Moratorium convenor. Darwin 1970. Campaigner for East Timor and West Papua“; Mordechai Vanunu, “A man of peace who, in Sydney, decided to expose Israel’s hidden nuclear arsenal. Awaiting freedom since 1986!“; and Victor Jara, “Murdered by Pinochet Dictatorship, Chile, 1973. Sang for 3,000 political prisoners awaiting execution in the National Football Stadium.

These descriptions are the ones provided by the community and are engraved underneath their name on the plaque. Researching these individuals has been a really incredible experience as they have done such a diverse range of work and I have had the opportunity to learn about different social justice issues around the world and locally. For each person I used many different sources, specific to the type of work they did. Some of my research involved watching YouTube videos of speeches, looking at art and photography, or reading poems or books. This type of research shaped my impression of the individual and enabled me to write a small biography from my understanding and connection to that person.

After completing some research I started my next task, to build a website. Oh little did I know what I was getting myself into. I research and I write, that is what I have been taught and practiced for many years. This website business was so far out of my skillset, and I have a whole new appreciation for websites after clicking away for hours only to see that it STILL looked like some paint job. However, despite my struggles (and accidentally deleting my work numerous times) I feel some-what proud of what I have created.

I have created a format for Addi Road that is attempting to emulate the image of the plaques on the gate, giving the website a rust coloured background, and the names of the people on silver boxes. To learn more about these people, you can simply click on the toggle and information, YouTube videos, images and music will pop up. I was trying to work on getting music to play in the background of the toggle for some artists such as Victor Jara however, wasn’t able to get there. The website is still very preliminary and could definitely do with a more skilled artist to perfect some issues however, the structure is there. The idea has been moved on to a more practical level and I think the project is in a better position to be built on by other community members in the future.

Most importantly for me, the information is up. These names are not simply names, but they have more of a story: an explanation for their presence on the gates of this community.

I think this project is pretty unique. The very idea of the Honour Roll for Peace is radical, and its ethos challenges the common ‘Honour Roll’ that we see around Australia. Whilst this Honour Roll acknowledges and includes individuals who have fought in an array of wars, it also includes those that haven’t. It acknowledges those who have fought against war, including World War I and World War II, the Vietnam War and continuous colonial wars in West Papua, Palestine and the Middle East. It also honours those who have refused to participate in war, and were often punished for it. It honours poets, writers, singers, photographers, and everyday people, who in some way have organised in the name of peace. The very essence of this project is innovative, and should be copied by more communities.

I would like to thank Addison Road Community Centre for having and working with me over this semester. I have had so much fun and I would recommend anyone volunteer here and offer a helping hand. I was never bored here, and spent many hours enjoying the breeze underneath the big tree out back, or strolling past the Egyptian restaurant on wheels or Kiosk. For the past weeks I have been volunteering at Food Pantry, a fantastic social and environmental initiative that both saves food from waste and redistributes in at an affordable price. This has been a great way to give back to the community as well as learn, speak, and enjoy myself.

So thanks Addi Road, thanks for always keeping my belly full and a smile on my face. You do amazing work for the community and play a central role in offering social justice and connection for all those who walk through your gates.

Love Sabine Pyne

Sixty-Six By Six: Oral Histories of the Guild

Sixty-Six by Six is a collaborative oral history project between myself and The Guild Theatre, Rockdale. The project, presenting oral, written and photographic histories, seeks to demonstrate that local recreational facilities such as community theatres are vital to an enduring culture of community involvement. The project demonstrates the Guild Theatre not merely celebrates local talent and creativity, but endures as a much-loved local site of community-building, growth and sharing.

Excerpt of the project. Chloe Breitkreuz, 2019.

The project follows the personal journeys of six Guild members – those who have been with the Guild for nearly 60 years and those for only a year. The title of the project, Sixty-Six By Six, acknowledges sixty-six years since the Guild was formed, and the six Guild members who gave their time and personal stories to this project. Although each member’s story is unique in their experiences within the Guild and local community, there is a common sense of belonging and camaraderie amongst all Guild Theatre members. Each member had testified via interview the genuine communal nature of the Guild – a claim strengthened by the long-standing friendships Guild members have with each other. 

This project relied heavily upon primary sources. Particularly, the oral histories of Guild members. My decision to incorporate oral histories into this project was inspired by Lorina Barker’s article “Hangin’ out and ‘Yarnin.” I agreed with Barker’s argument that oral histories have the ability to uncover deeply personal, interesting narratives in ways written and photographic histories cannot. As the Guild Theatre had never utilised oral history as a historical tool, I believed an oral history project would offer a new and exciting perspective on the Guild’s already established long-standing history. However, I also employed secondary sources as Pauline Curby and Virginia Macleod’s Uncovering Rockdale’s Migration Heritage Story: Rockdale City’s Recreational Places used by Migrant Community Groups and Val Farrow’s A History of the Guild Theatre to fill missing historical detail and provide a wider context for Guild members’ comments.

Excerpt of the project. Chloe Breitkreuz, 2019.

I aim to have this project published on the Guild Theatre’s website in the near future. I anticipate the project’s forthcoming publication will bring greater awareness of the fantastic local talent the Guid showcases to the immediate local community.

Overall, it was a pleasure to complete this project with The Guid Theatre. I would like to thank Allanah Jarman, Jim and Christine Searle, Yolanda Regueira, Terry Neenan and Douglas Spafford for taking the time to sit with me and so generously recall and reflect on your time at the Guild. I, like all of you, am now proud to call myself a Guild Theatre member.

St Mark’s: A Place of Marriage, Community and Christianity

My project highlights how marriage, community and faith intersect at St Mark’s, Darling Point. These are the project’s key themes and they underpin the central arguments: St Mark’s offers a supportive and inclusive community, and faith positively aids marriages and lives.

Thomas and Daile Falconer’s wedding at St Mark’s, 2019

The project conveys the long-lasting relationship individuals and couples have with the church. The interviews indicate the change and continuities at St Mark’s. Despite experiencing different rectors and decades, the couples’ conclusions are the same: St Mark’s offers an invaluable environment and faith continues to aid marriage.

Primary sources including oral histories and interviews underpin this project. This is extremely appropriate as the project aims to celebrate the church’s community; they are invaluable sources of knowledge. Information for the bios was exclusively sourced via oral histories. These conversations ranged from two-to-three hours. Rector Michael Jensen and other members of the community provided information for the Instagram posts and Welcome to Country. Secondary sources including Wherein Thine Honour Dwells by Horace William Alexander Bader and Honourable Engagement St Mark’s Church Darling Point: The First 150 Years by Susan Withycombe supplied contextual information. Information about Elton John’s wedding was drawn from interviews and an ABC docuseries. The docuseries’ producer provided consent for the program to be used.

The project leverages St Mark’s established communication channels: their Instagram and website. Parishioners visit these channels regularly to see upcoming events, etc. Couples considering St Mark’s for their wedding search for the church on Instagram. As the Instagram posts will be ‘geotagged’ and published to the official account, people will be exposed to the content.

The Instagram and website content are similar but written differently. Although the Instagram posts contain long-form captions, the information is more succinct than that of the website bios. This is intentional; even long-form captions need to capture the reader’s attention quickly and only key information is required.  Alternatively, the website’s bios are ‘meatier’. The audience is receiving more information in a drawn-out manner.

The Welcome to Country is the first step in acknowledging the First Nation’s Peoples and their status as traditional custodians of the land on which St Mark’s sits. It will be published to the St Mark’s website.

Overall, this project has been a joy to make. Each couple and member of the St Mark’s community has been extremely kind, forthcoming, and eager to help. They have offered hours of their time without question and welcomed me into their homes.

Galston’s past: the value of local history

Working with the Dural & District Historical Society to explore the history of Galston has certainly been eye-opening, and allowed me to discover the history that’s been practically in my backyard my whole life.

From the Dural & District Historical Society archives.

In order to respond to the increasing population and new residents in the town of Galston, located in the Hornsby Shire, the Council requested the Dural & District Historical Society produce a booklet about the history of Galston, to familiarise new residents with the area. My volunteering with the society coincided with the Council’s request and so the task was given to me to complete. Along with a booklet, the society asked for me to produce a template which they can follow for further suburbs. The project has taken shape as the booklet, the template, and a social media plan for the society.

Some of the most interesting work was in researching the World War I soldier profiles. I went straight to the primary sources, taking the names of the sixty soldiers listed on the Galston Cenotaph and researched them through the Australian War Memorial and the National Library Archives. The sources available include Embarkation Lists, Enlistment Records, and award recommendations which provide fascinating details of the brave actions of soldiers during the First World War. By including these profiles, I believe it shows while Galston was its own unique community, it was affected by the same events which impacted the whole of Australia; Galston acting as a case study of the early years after Federation during which Australia ‘came of age’. 

Excerpt from the booklet

The general aim of this project is to inform residents of their local history, implicitly arguing that it is important to know where we came from, and that local history holds incredible worth for both personal and community identity. I believe this project has reinforced one of the main lessons of this unit, which is the value of all stories, from all walks of life. While the story of a two-hundred-year-old town in the north west of Sydney with a population of 3000 might not traditionally attract the attention of university academics, this project provided the opportunity to give voice to these narratives which are important on a community level. 

Anna Clark’s book on public history put forward, drawn from her interviews with youth and younger Australians, that it is when we grow older that history becomes more important to us. She said it was a combination of factors like a lack of connection to the events, the changing shape of Australian society, and how Australian history is taught in schools. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the places where you grew up as ever having historical significance or an untold past. I’d argue that the events don’t have to be earth shattering or life changing to demand our attention. The simple fact that it’s the unique collision of millions of independent factors to end up with the places and communities we have today should be enough to warrant respect of the past. I don’t think we can ever disregard the mind-boggling nature of how many minute and seemingly unrelated ripples in the water led us to where we are now. 

This semester has forced me to think more than ever about the nature of history, and at times, made me question why I even study it. Local history allows us to think, even if just for one moment in the day, that someone stood where we stood, ten, fifty, one hundred, three hundred, a thousand and more years ago. I believe history is about recognising all those moments that led to this point. Sometimes the sheer scale is hard to comprehend but I think local history is a way to chip away at the marble block which is the past. I don’t know what the final sculpture is, but we can read the grain of the rock and chisel in the right direction, the form revealing itself to us as we uncover more about bygone times, and in the process, ourselves. 

A history of Collaroy Plateau Public School

Video: A History of the Collaroy Plateau Public School

My film discussing the history of the Collaroy Plateau Public School is an attempt at creating a grassroots history for a grassroots organisation. The research I conducted portrayed the journey of a small, integrated community, and how this impacted the nature of the school and in turn how the school impacts the area. This led me to create a unique story of the school and community. Interesting facts and details had already been collected by the school staff for various anniversary celebrations. As a result I selected a variety of individual’s recounts of the school that I felt best represented the larger narrative of the school’s history. The in depth accounts of memories provides the audience with a relational and personal history that encapsulates the relational nature of the school community.

The project’s central argument is that a suburb’s development influences the type of schools that are formed, to some degree. This was achieved by a portrayal of the causation between Collaroy Plateau’s small, simple community and the formation of a small simple values rich community in the school environment. The project also stresses the importance of the teacher’s role in the development and wellbeing of the student’s throughout the time of the school. The bond between students, teachers and the wider community is reflected throughout the film.

For the introduction of the film, the main sources used were accessed in the school archives. The details about the naming, development and nature of the early Plateau where found in a page containing this information in the school’s collection. This information was assembled for the School’s 60th anniversary celebration and this provided an excellent source for the origins of the Plateau community.

The following section of the film on life for children growing up on the Plateau during the Baby Boomer era was formulated using the primary source written accounts of Sue Gamble and Jenny Vanderport. These sources were used because they support each other’s narrative of childhood fun in the bush and carefree lifestyle playing with friends.  The types of games that were noted in the video were derived from both these accounts.

The middle portion of the documentary contains details on the development of pupil numbers, school infrastructure expansion and technological changes. The figures and details contained within this section were derived from a collection of booklets found in the archives: Collaroy Plateau public school 60 years ago, Collaroy Plateau public school 40 years ago, Collaroy Plateau public school 30 years ago, Collaroy Plateau public school 20 years ago and Collaroy Plateau public school 10 years ago. These booklets were created by staff at Collaroy Plateau public school who made interview sheets for ex-students, parents and teachers to complete with details they recall about the school. These were created and collected for the school’s 60 year anniversary celebration. The sheets were filled out by various individuals and this provided me with the details for this part of the film. Throughout these sections I have included various photographs that were taken and preserved in the archives.

The following section details the story of successful alumni Rod Macqueen. The information in this section was derived from an article found in the archives and a newspaper article, which provided some engaging material. I have also used a short video found on YouTube that was originally created by Sky Sport NZ to display Macqueen’s success as the Wallabies coach.

The section that follows encapsulates the essence of the school’s history through personal interviews with former students and teachers. These oral histories provide a personal and rich illumination of the school’s past and endeavour to represent this as the larger narrative of the schools collective history. This section includes interviews with Terry Hill (conducted by Ms. Hall, Ms. Falvo and Ms. Albanese). This account was recorded in the archives.  Jill Forester also reflects on her memories of Mr. Dimmock during the late 1960’s and this was recorded in the archives .Finally Mrs. Lorelli, the longtime school music teacher participated in an oral history and this was recorded by myself.

This project carries the theme of community values. It delves into what creates these community values, how they develop and what role organisations such as schools have in conveying these values to the students. This is depicted through introductory discussion of the development of Collaroy Plateau and how residents came to live in the area. This reinforces how the small scale village cultivated an area of simple freedom and childlike fun in the surrounding bushland. This created a carefree cohesive environment that was further cultivated in the school setting. Furthermore the connection between individuals and the personal stories of the members of the plateau demonstrates how this is a personal and rich history that celebrates the members of the community.  This was achieved through the interviews with various individuals toward the second half of the film.

This film was created for adults to view, particularly ex-students, parents, and current and former staff members. It is to preserve the memory that former students had while at the school. These formative years of development are instrumental in a child’s outlook on life and the establishment of their foundational values. These memories need to be preserved and displayed with the personal warmth and connection that they experienced during their primary years.

The school had already completed the wonderful work of collecting and digitising their archives. Information such as key dates, facts and developments had been recorded for the celebration of the school’s 60 year anniversary. As a result I saw fit to present a more personal history, capturing and representing the stories of various individuals I viewed as adequately representing the general theme of the other historical archives. I aimed to maintain the scope of the wider history of the school and Plateau whilst presenting these personal accounts, to give the history a connected, personal vibrancy that reflects the nature of the organisation I was documenting. This will ideally complement the other historical work that has been completed by the school.  

This type of history from the ground up gives the project an authentic grassroots presence. However I believe the project could have been further enhanced by displaying the Aboriginal history of the land. I originally was aiming to include this in my project, however I was informed that the particular group that owned the land was now being disputed and so I was advised to wait until the correct Aboriginal nation was acknowledged before delving into this aspect of the history.  

The history is presented through the medium of film, as advised by the principal of the school. This was the desire of the school and I willingly accepted the challenge despite my lack of familiarity with this medium of production. Nevertheless I attempted this, and with the help of a friend who had a camera and iMovie editing software we completed the film. Though it isn’t perfect, the film and presentation adds to the simple, grassroots story of the area and as a result I believe actually complements the authentic, sometimes perfectly imperfect nature of school environments. This medium provided an easy and accessible way for the school and members of the public to access the work on YouTube. Various ‘tags’ have been attached to attracted traffic on YouTube to the project.