Music, Craic and Home: An Oral History of The Gaelic Club’s Social Role

Irish traditional music being played at a Friday night session at The Gaelic Club.

The project I’ve been developing is an oral history project exploring the social role of The Gaelic Club both today and historically, with an understanding that this history can be explored through the recollections and memories of those who have participated in the club over the years. The project speaks to the sheer diversity of Sydney’s Irish community and traditional musicians – participants were from across a range of ages from their 20s through to their 80s, had different conceptions of ‘home’, and participated in the space for many different reasons. This format included the role of The Gaelic Club as a social hub in which people would meet and get chatting – but also its role as a bustling dancehall, as a place Irish immigrants could find work, a spot to seek music lessons, engage in political discussions and as a central nexus of the city’s traditional music scene.

This range of uses initially left me unsure how to understand the place – was The Gaelic Club a pub? The club’s community management and the number of other roles it served left the appraisal of the centre as a pub feeling inadequate. The space was also more than just a cultural centre – it serves as a lively and vibrant aspect of Sydney’s night life. It is more than just a space for the Irish in Australia, with a key focus on the diversity of those interested in the space and a management team willing to preserve that.  

Speaking to people whose lives were bound up with The Gaelic Club also allowed for the exploration of the issues these people were facing at the time. People situated the history of the club among many other dynamics of Sydney history – generational shifts in migration patterns, changing laws around nightlife and alcohol consumption, the impact of Covid, property development pressures on traditional music and the decline of other immigrant clubs and community organisations. The oral format allows people’s understandings of The Gaelic Club to be told in their words, in their cadence, with room for participants to shape the course of the interview. 

The centring of interviewee participation was also aided by the style of interview – a series of semi-structured interviews were conducted – a few key areas, such as introductions to the club and reasons for attending were asked to everyone, without the questions locking participants into a predetermined narrative. I introduced myself to most interviewees at The Gaelic Club on the first night of reopening after the 2021 lockdown, and managed to spend time with and speak to many participants prior to the interview. Seeking to meet participants where they were comfortable, interviews were conducted where preferable for the interviewee – some were conducted in side rooms at The Gaelic Club on a Friday night, capturing the essence of the session – others were conducted elsewhere or over zoom in order to find a balance that best suited those the project was for.

They were also conversational – rather than an interview as interrogation, those conducted included some back and forth conversation. My voice has been reduced a little in the editing, but a conversational approach was appropriate for the way stories are transmitted in Irish communities and I think facilitated rapport and comfort among participants. The most interesting interviews in retrospect were two interviews in which two people were spoken to together – this allowed them to relax a little more, allowed me to take a step back and their voices flowed a little more naturally – in future, I think it’s a model that could be really useful, and I plan to conduct even more interviews with Gaelic Club patrons in future – it has developed into a real passion project.  

Despite a history of contests over the social role of The Gaelic Club for the next generations, the consensus among many still involved with the club is that it is beginning to emerge into a new high period with greater youth participation, bound together in many accounts by a focus on traditional music. While Irish language, dance, history and music have all been noted as key roles for The Gaelic Club, the traditional music sessions seem particularly central to the club’s current social role, in much the same way that the dances may have been during the 1970s.  

The project has been inspired by previous historical work with the Irish National Association, though seeks to make a fresh contribution to the scholarship. Projects such as A Lifetime of Stories, a series of oral histories of Irish seniors in Sydney, and Sydney Irish Histories, oral histories of Sydney’s Irish community from the mid-20th century drew on the tradition of oral histories in Irish culture and among the Irish in Australia, and highlighted the relevance of such an approach to the communities I’m working with. The history of the Irish National Association in Australia has been explored by historians in the 2020 book To Foster an Irish Spirit: The Irish National Association of Australasia 1915-2015, but The Gaelic Club specifically as a space has not received the same attention. This project wanted to focus on the role of the space itself from the mid-20th century, to be explored through the lives and experiences of those who have been bound up with the club. These works all greatly informed the shape that this project would ultimately take, and it seeks to add to the contributions of pre-existing scholarship. 

If there is a key central argument that emerges, it is that there is no one-clear cut history of The Gaelic Club that emerges victorious – much like people’s reasons for coming, people’s conceptions of the club’s history vary significantly, though key trends were senses of familiarity, the centrality of community, an essential home of traditional music and a hopeful return to the success and business of the venue’s heyday before financial troubles hit. Rather than seeking to be the unquestioned history of The Gaelic Club, this project seeks to share many of the histories existing in the understandings of the club’s patrons.  

When first embarking on the project, I assumed that those who would benefit most from the project may be The Gaelic Club board – those with some level of vested interest in the club’s continued success. At the end, now, I think the project is at least as much for those I spoke with – people, Irish and otherwise who have engaged with the Gaelic Club in different senses and in many different periods of the city’s history, many of whom have a deep sentimental attachment both to the building and to the continually evolving social role it has played and continues to play. One respondent evoked a parallel to The Cobblestone, a Dublin pub central to traditional music that received a development proposal – the potential ephemerality of the space was not unnoticed, and this compounded my understanding of the need to tribute its history through the project, but also led me to believe quite strongly in the need for The Gaelic Club as a hub for Irish music in the centre of a Sydney increasingly run by developers. The hope is not just to serve as a tribute, but to preserve the space’s 20th century history for future generations, to showcase the continued diversity of the club and as a testament to the ordinary people who have built the role of the space.  

The interviews have been brought together into four sound files, which will likely be uploaded to the website of the Irish National Association. The files are sorted by theme, dealing with people’s arrival at the club, their reasons for attending at first, the ways the space and its role have changed and how it functions in people’s lives today. Hopefully through this process, the histories can be widely disseminated and preserved for the communities they seek to tell the story of. It is also hoped that the audio format and conversational language allow the project to be broadly accessible to those with an interest the space, as well as the people and culture that define it. Through the recounting of stories and the sharing of experiences, a history of The Gaelic Club emerges that is deeply personal, that is complex and multifaceted, and that touches many aspects of Sydney life, for those born in Ireland or elsewhere.

Learning English is as easy as A… B… D?

I had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with the Sea Museum and have access a subset collection of radio booklets called, For New Australians (1957/1958). These were government issued booklets that were accompanied by a live radio broadcasted that aired every Saturday in the morning and afternoon. Researching on the radio booklets and migration in Australian in 1950s took me on a grand adventure, from the online archives of  Trove and ABC to the hike from Martin Place station to the NSW State Library. In my university life, I have never undertaken research quite like this because I felt like what I was doing mattered.

The main argument of this blogpost is to inform and emphasise to everyday Australians that our history of migrants learning the English language is extremely niche. I hope to show that although the booklets were published in the period where the White Australia policy was slowly vanishing, its residual impact on the general populace of Australia remained. In my research into migration and the White Australia policy, it was evident that our immigration programs were highly planned and targeted a specific type of people. Indeed my research has indicated that non-European migrants, particularly Chinese people were migrating to Australia in the same period. To further add, there were exclusionary practices within the immigration policy that ensured that Australia continued to take in mostly European people.  The very fact that Australia Government still continued to perpetuate the White Australia ideology is evident through the radio booklets and its aim to assimilate European migrants. The illustrations and dialogues show listeners/readers the types of people that were welcome here. 

The For New Australians (1957/1958) booklet was my main source of evidence for my project that I used to illustrate arguments that were made. The background research conducted on immigration policy was used to inform me on the nature of the society in 1950s Australia and helped frame my argument on the White Australia Policy and the ideology of assimilation. Due to the niche nature of the topic, I searched Trove to find newspapers articles on the For New Australians (1957/1958) booklets/programme, which furthered my understanding in the different ways that migrants learnt English, as well as the intended aims and the nature of the live radio broadcast. Also, my research on the author of the booklets, Elvira Hogg led me on a archival adventure of who she was as a person. I experienced great limitation regarding detailed research into who she was, thus it was required to construct her persona through the writing of others.

The underlying theme of the project was to share with my audience the missing pieces in our collective memory of Australia’s migration history through the radio booklets. This helped me develop my argument that the White Australia policy greatly influenced the lives of migrants and teaching them English was a form of assimilating them into the Australian way of life. Furthermore, the inclusion of excerpts of the scripts in my blogpost provided tangible evidence that strengthened my argument.

There is a need for Australians to understand their migrant history as the present-day Australia would not have existed without immigration. The blogpost serves to reminisce about the past policy of the Australian government to assimilate new arrivals into the Australian way of life. Learning English was a way to indoctrinate migrants into being Australian rather than an acceptance of who they were as individuals with a different language, culture and history. I hope the language of my blogpost is easy to understand for my audience (age 12+) and provides a snapshot into the life of a migrant who learnt English in the 1950s using radio lessons.

Through the publication of the For New Australian (1957/1958) blogpost on the Sea Museum website, people will have a richer understanding of Australia’s complex immigration history. This work was necessary to bridge the gap in everyday Australians’ understanding of post-war migrations. Our current school history curriculum only briefly covers the fact that migrants had to learn English in Australia. The depth of Australia’s post-war migrant history is largely missing the experiences of how non-English migrants had to learn English, which was readily available to them through various schemes organised by the government. 

I honestly believe that the creativity of the project is lacking compared to my peers who are completing podcasts, interviews and creating cool videos. Due to the constraints of timing and the needs of the organisation, a blogpost was the best project for this unit. I wanted to include original audio recordings from the radio broadcast, however I am still awaiting a response from the ABC Archives who I have been in contact with. Instead, I’ve decided to include a brief recording of the script that was completed with the aid of people around me. The quality of the recordings was hindered by logistical factors such as gathering people together to record and finding the right person. Hence, the scripts were carefully selected to ensure that I could do my best with the individuals available to complete the recordings. 

I have linked the recordings below for those that want to hear it. 

For New Australians #92, Jan 1957, p. 7 

For New Australians #92, Jan 1957, pp. 18-20

For New Australians #108, May 1958 pp. 18-19 

The work will be presented through a blogpost that would be (hopefully) published in the Sea Museum website. Peter was phenomenal to collaborate with as he provided me with the freedom and flexibility of taking the lead on what I wanted to explore. Through much thought, it was decided that a blogpost would be the best option for the both of us. The limited word count and mode of the blogpost form was very challenging. However, for the aim of project which was to inform and garner more awareness of the history these booklets have captured, I believe that the blogpost form was very suitable. 

My work will be highly accessible to its intended audience as it will be hosted on the Sea Museum’s official website. I hope that recordings of the script would be also included in the blogpost as I believe it will further engage my audience and allow them to experience having a radio lesson. Furthermore, I will share with my History teaching colleagues the primary sources booklet that I have collated based on 1950s newspaper articles on Australia’s migration and For New Australians radio booklet.

The fact that it will be posted on the Sea Museum website will ensure that my work will be freely available for people who are exploring the online site. Also as a History teacher, I could use the source booklet that I have created in my own classes on Australia’s migration.

Below is a short preview of the blogpost, which is still in the drafting phase.

I just really want to thank Peter Hobbins for providing me with an opportunity to work with such rich primary sources. I feel so much more educated about our migrant history and will endeavour for my future students know about this part of our history. 

Personally these radio booklets unearthed long forgotten feelings and memories of being in a new country and having to learn a new language. My earliest memory of Australia was being in a Kindergarten classroom and having difficulties in understanding my teacher. I positioned myself as Paul, the main character of these booklets as he tries to learn English and understand the Australian way of life. In fact while I was scouring through these booklets and researching on the topic, I could not help but think of a song that many of us know. 

We are one
But we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We’ll share a dream
And sing with one voice
I am, you are, we are Australian.

The Seekers (1987)

The radio booklets made me deeply reflect on Australia as a nation and how it has changed from one that was excluded the masses to one that can be truly called multicultural.

Food for Thought: The History of Chinese Cuisine in Australia

My Website! Check it out!

Note: It is a work in progress, and domain will change later too.


The experience of working on this project has made me fall even deeper in love with history – the feeling leaves me swindled and woozy and happy and proud. I feel the heroism that a historian earns from playing a part in preserving and sharing stories. I’ve finally made a mark by delivering a somewhat historic permanence to the stories I’ve shared, keeping them from being lost to the oblivion of fading memory. It’s impossible to articulate the emotions, but it is the feeling of having achieved one’s purpose.


The key argument underlying the project’s development and presentation is the idea that there is value in small, localised histories, as these stories are highly demonstrative of the wider narrative attributed to immigrants adapting to their new, foreign contexts over time. The stories and histories of these individuals, despite their worth, are unfortunately often forgotten, fading away from memory – as such, the project is an attempt to preserve a part of these histories in the stories attached to each of the featured community-submitted recipes. The essence of the project is also its ability to dispel the illusion that dishes adapted to westernised palates are not a part of our culture. I wanted to ensure that these dishes are viewed rather as a testament to the history of those who have moved to a foreign country and adapted to their circumstances. The dishes of Chinese-Australian cuisine do not represent a singular entity, as its adaptations over time now make it a beautifully intertwined mixture of two distinctly different cultures.


The project, as it highlights different personal experiences with the recipes, allowed me to shift my focus significantly towards oral histories as my primary sources. The oral histories were collected in the form of short interviews – either through face-to-face or online meetings. I had planned to reach out to members of the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia – however it was difficult for this to come to fruition in such a short time span. I had to discover alternatives to find members of the community that were willing to participate in the project. I found some success with posting on social media, asking friends and co-workers, and visiting the 89 Billiards Club, a mah-jong and pool hall that my grandfather frequents, which in retrospect could have been a great organisation to explore the history of.


The highlighted personal histories of each of the dishes that I found from my participants was also supplemented with information from secondary sources, such as websites, articles, and book chapters that focused on contextualising the origins of these foods in China, and their change in taste and popularity in Australia. The secondary sources with the most benefit to the project had to be Nichol’s article written about ‘cookshops’ present in the early gold-rush era, which inspired the addition of a page dedicated to this early food history. I also found Tong’s discussion of the adaptation of different dishes to suit westernised palates to be extremely useful in arguing against the ‘inauthenticity’ of the recipes that were provided, arguing that these dishes are rather a testament to the adaptability of our culture and the effects of living in a different society. I was also able to use personal culinary knowledge as a source to draw from to describe the dishes in comparisons to highlight the changes derived from existing in a different geographical context with a much different palate.


The idea for this project was to make the histories of the community more accessible to all, rather than with a journal article or essay that limits the audience significantly. The dishes and recipes featured on the website, as food is a universal language, can be a gateway into exposure to the interesting and personal nature of family and community histories. I am estimating for the cookbook, once published on the organisation’s website, to have an audience consisting predominantly of older members of the community, as this is the current demographic for interest in the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia. I would like to promote the website further through social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook to ensure that the cookbook receives the traffic it deserves from younger audiences as well. I feel that the project will be a way to express and highlight the value of preserving the smaller histories generally forgotten with time, demonstrating that these histories hold individual significance while simultaneously constructing the wider narrative of immigration, life in a foreign country, and the inevitable cultural change that comes as a result.


The project that had been envisioned was one that was accessible for all members of society, in both the context of audience, as well as geographical location. The history of the community that we are sharing is unfortunately not explored enough, as in both primary and high schools, the country’s history is shown as dichotomised and polarised, with only two sides – the subjugated native peoples and their colonial oppressors. I am passionate about the project as I do believe that it is a significant contributor to demonstrating the value in Chinese-Australian histories, and I hope it inspires others similarly. I believe that the project will grow the Chinese Heritage Association of Australia, as it draws in more individuals that will grow to understand the significance of preserving stories from family and community histories.

Our Garden: An oral history documentary

When I started the process of historical engagement with the Randwick Community Organic Garden, I asked a question: what story is the garden telling?

Today, I’m thrilled to be able to show you the answer.

Over close to thirty years, the garden has been telling a story of survival against the odds, unnerving determination, and community bonds as strong as an oak tree.

In order to support the Randwick Community Organic Garden in their two-fold goal of creating stronger community ties and making the case for community gardens in the area, I have produced a short documentary based off oral history interviews conducted with several members, past and present, of the garden.

Tracking the development of the garden from over 20 years ago, to the present day, I tell the story of a small and committed garden community working together to play their part in combatting climate change and creating strong community connections on the way.

There are already histories of the concept of community gardens around the world and in Australia, and there’s even a National Oral History Collection of the Australian Garden History Society.

But this work does something a bit different, I think: it takes the broad conceptual works of the community garden movement and applies it to a specific community garden in a specific context. Also, I’ve taken the sometimes inaccessible oral history format (who really wants to listen to a conversation between strangers for an hour or more? I’m looking at you, podcasters) and assembled my conversations into an accessible, cohesive and complete story line.

I’ve done this by grouping sections of our conversations into key themes:

  • the early days of the garden and the need to relocate following a selloff of their land,
  • the establishment of a new garden
  • the ecological and permaculture foundations of the garden
  • the community within the garden, and the garden’s outreach into the Randwick community
  • the challenges of development and the opportunity of urbanisation

And in all of this, here’s my point: the Randwick Community Organic Garden, like many community gardens across Australia, plays an essential role in cultivating climate-conscious sustainable practices on a local level and creating significant bonds across the community.

This is all to the benefit of my audience, I hope. The audience make up the people who are in the garden currently or in the past, or are looking to join (as this will help give a sense of history and belonging in a time and moment of community) and also a wider group of people who may watch it to understand how a community garden works at all, or are searching for novel ways to build an environmentally-conscious community in an urban area.

If nothing else, I hope people will finish the video with a sense of the joy to be found in investing deeply in people and the world — all for the common good.

Australia’s Indonesian Independence Movement: A past should not be forgotten

For the final research project, I worked with the Australian National Maritime Museum on the topic of Australia’s Indonesian independence movement – a past that shaped Australia’s national identity, but is not known to the Australian public. For the final project, I conducted an oral history interview and wrote a research paper based on the interview and other academic sources. Although the contents of my project are rather conventional, comparing to my fellow classmates’, the topic I discussed was not even a bit less fascinating.

It was in 1945, only two days after the Japanese Emperor announced its surrender, Indonesian nationalists declared the independence of Indonesia, after colonised by the Dutch for three and a half centuries. But the declaration of the independence was not enough, it took the Indonesians four years and countless casualties to achieve their independence. But they were not alone in their fight for independence. Across the Timor Sea, people in Australia were also fighting for Indonesian’s independence in Australia.

Australia’s support for the Indonesian independence movement was significant, not only for an independent Indonesia, but also for the construction of a modern multicultural and independent Australia. Activists in Australia’s Indonesian independence movement came from different cultural backgrounds – Indonesians, Indians, Chinese and Australians. They united together for a shared cause, a rare scene at a time when the White Australia Policy was still in place. In supporting the Indonesian independence, the Australian government under Prime Minister Ben Chifley went against orders from the “Motherland” Britain. This was an important event in Australia’s history, symbolising the separation from its coloniser, and the beginning of an independent Australia, over forty years after the foundation of the Australian Federation.

In order to discuss this past, I conducted an oral history interview with Anthony, an Indonesian Australian, who not only have extensively researched on this topic for over a decade, but also have a personal connection with it. Anthony’s father-in-law, Fred Wong, was a leader of Sydney’s Chinese Australian community in the 1940s, and organised the Chinese Australians’ support for the Indonesian independence movement.

In the research paper, I combined both personal history of Fred Wong and the broader political history at the time, argued that Australia’s support for the Indonesian independence movement was a significant event in Australia’s history that should be known to the Australian public.

Despite the significance of this past, few people – in the Indonesian, Chinese, or the Australian societies – know about it, even academic discussion around this topic is limited. Therefore, I suggested that given museum’s vital role in educating the public and constructing public memory, there should be a permanent exhibition on this past and the activists behind it in a major Australian museum.

Thank you to the Maritime Museum and my interviewee Anthony for introducing me to this fascinating past that is so important to our identity. Thank you to the History Beyond the Classroom unit for the opportunity to explore the world of history outside the university campus.

Redfern Jarjum School: The Final Project


Cultural education and development are critical for students in that they nurture their sense of identity and belonging. Redfern Jarjum School is a relatively new school, established in 2013, and I do not believe there is much widespread knowledge about the school, its aims, or its achievements. Although I have come across a few videos of similar nature, none detail the importance of specialized education for Indigenous children quite like mine. I aimed to focus on the importance of early cultural education and development for Indigenous children, in a way that encompassed aspects of the school’s uniqueness in what it achieves. I believe that the use of a video medium makes for a more personable interview, allowing the viewer to identify the people who are integral to creating the school’s sense of community.


The driving argument behind my project is that there should be more of a focus on educational and community support for Indigenous children from a young age. As highlighted in my project, many Indigenous peoples have poor experiences with education institutions. This is reflected in their inability to trust mainstream schooling systems. Jarjum and other schools of the like create a space where Indigenous children feel seen and heard and their cultural needs are catered for. Mainstream schools and teachers are often unequipped to deal with the trauma Indigenous children carry. This trauma, often intergenerational, is not addressed by mainstream schools where they do not have the training or materials to do so. There is a need for more schools like Jarjum, where teachers are equipped with specialized trauma training and the ability to provide support beyond the school grounds.


I have predominately used primary sources, in the form of statistics and government reports to shape my argument. In so many ways, Australia continues to fail Indigenous peoples and importantly Indigenous children. The education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school-aged students supports my argument that Indigenous children do not receive the cultural support they need for their educational development. In 2018 was a difference of 11% between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students’ attendance rates. Attendance rates for Indigenous students fell even further (around 14% difference), when students reach high school. The attendance gap for Indigenous students in regional areas is lower than students in urban areas, which highlights the need for widespread support. I also used short documentaries covering similar topics to not only gain insight into the medium of film but also to understand Indigenous voices and perspectives on the matter.


Throughout my project, I develop themes of cultural consciousness and support. I also look at non-Indigenous peoples creating an inclusive and accessible learning environment for Indigenous peoples both at school and in other institutions. Acknowledging the lasting effects of colonialism such as dispossession and loss of identity creates room to provide support for these issues and address deep-rooted trauma. In the past, educational institutions have been one of the most prominent sites for the silencing of Indigenous voices and culture. For non-Indigenous people in the industry recognizing this can be uncomfortable, and it is often met with ignorance or denial. Jarjum and other culturally conscious institutions, attempt to eliminate further trauma that could be caused by a ‘white’ education, by fostering an environment that privileges the needs and concerns of Indigenous peoples. 


Anyone interested in educating themselves about the importance of cultural consciousness in education, the workplace, and just in general will find my project of use. It could also benefit the school community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in generating support for the school and further fundraisers. As the students attend the school at no cost and the teachers are required to undertake specialized trauma training, it is expensive to run. The school currently holds just under 30 children, therefore increasing awareness of the school’s need and how it benefits the community would allow the school to expand in numbers and resources.


Ultimately, my goal is to generate awareness for the need for cultural support in schools. My project can also be used as a tool for parents or other actors in the community to understand more about Jarjum’s role in Indigenous education. In the future, my project could also be used as ‘historical’ documentation. In ten years’, time the school can look back at my video and see where and how the school was running in its first five years. It might also be used by independent schools where many students from Jarjum attend high school on bursaries or scholarships, to strengthen connections where more funding and support may be provided for Indigenous students.


My project is creative in the sense that schools primarily use their website to house their information. Creating a video provided a space for my interviewees to speak in-depth on questions that otherwise might have gone unanswered. Transcribing their responses and adding them to their website was a plan I was initially looking towards. However, I think having an alternative platform to promote the school’s achievements is beneficial. At times creating a video was difficult. I am completely new to the industry, so it was a huge learning curve for me.


I am presenting my project in the form of a short documentary, and it features two interviews with staff members. I wanted to include Indigenous voices in my project, however, I unfortunately was not able to get in touch with any Indigenous community members or teachers from the school. Having no previous connections to the Indigenous community made it difficult, and I was conscious of not forcing anything upon anyone. It had to be completely voluntary, and I lacked time to build the connections that would have been useful in acquiring an Indigenous perspective. Although this does affect my project in the sense that non-Indigenous people are speaking on Indigenous matters, I tried to focus my questions on the school and not cross any cultural boundaries or have my non-Indigenous interviewees speak on matters that would be inappropriate or insensitive to the Indigenous community. The use of video interviews, however, I think helped to put a face to the school and allows the viewer to form a connection to the people I have interviewed. My decision for the presentation of my project also stemmed from oral history, a significant part of Indigenous culture. I wanted to tie in this aspect to my project and a video was the best way to do so.


After submitting my assessment, it is up to the school to choose whether they want to take it further. I am not marketing it as such, I don’t think that is necessary for the type of project I have undertaken, but they may wish to use it as a tool to strengthen community connections or for parents to understand more about their child’s education.


Beyond the life of this unit, I will remain in touch with Jarjum. Ultimately, I would like to upload my project to YouTube with the permission of the school, in hopes it will raise awareness and support for small independent schools that are aiming to close the gap in the education system.

Sydney Harbour YHA and The Big Dig

For my major research project, I have researched and written a brief history of The Rocks in Sydney, and specifically the site of The Big Dig and Sydney Harbour YHA, who are the organisation that I have been working with. My research has briefly canvassed the pre-colonial history of the area, as well as the history from colonial times until the period immediately following WW1. I found this continuity and background to be important for the understanding of my research, especially considering that the intended audience for this piece is both international travellers, and school students.

My research was focussed on the industrial era of The Rocks, whereby the turn-of-the-century, working class neighbourhood was transformed into an area of industry. In this research I explore the impact of the demolition of many dwellings in the area, the Norton Griffiths Machinery and Joinery Works, the City Railway Workshop, as well as the clearing in preparation for the Sydney Harbour Bridge approach. This area of focus was selected because it was of the greatest aid to my organisation. This time period was the one with the least information available, and that my organisation would most like from me, to be able to share with their visitors, both from overseas, and from students on excursions. Crucially, this research aligns with the school student program they run, entitled Shopfront to Western Front.

Beyond Storytelling: What Can History Tell Us About the Present?

While history podcasts are certainly not novel, I believe that there is a gap in the market for an educational history podcast that goes beyond “storytelling” and engages with historical debates, the practice of history and how it informs current issues. Particularly in Australia, I believe the average person knows very little of the nation’s history beyond what is ‘enshrined’ in state-funded memorials and national holidays. I believe more ‘casual’ engagement with forms of public history that emphasise the complexity and encourage personal reflection is essential to correcting this. As a result, I have chosen to create a podcast, titled ‘Chatting History’ with the Professional Historians Associations (PHA), for my work this Semester. The project features three interviews with historians who are members of the PHA who work in vastly different fields, one of which features a significant amount of my own analysis, in what I’ve called an audio essay.

The implicit argument in the project is that history is a fundamental element of the present day, one which must be understood to fully engage with current issues. This can be seen in the way in which each conversation, both intentionally and unintentionally, became about something to do with the present. To name one example, in the episode about Native Title, I begin with a talk about the concept of Terra Nullius and the Mabo decision, and then into a discussion of present issues relating to Indigenous reconciliation and the role of a historian in Native Title. This showcases that the past and the present are fundamentally interdependent. Similarly, my discussion with a historian who researches the history of women in the Australian media became one about how social movements have changed due to the influence of social media. For my interview with a historian who works in Australian political history, and worked for many years in university administration, I asked what he thought of the Coalition’s recent fee hikes of humanities university courses (a topic about which, you can imagine, we both had a lot to say).

The main change that was made in the process was the addition of an audio essay. While I was initially wanting to feature as little of myself as possible in the recording, I felt that the topic of Native Title required more context, as the conversation did not provide any explanation of where Native Title comes from and therefore its significance. That episode features a discussion of the concept of Terra Nullius, including how it was situated within eighteenth-century international law and colonial thinking, and the Mabo Case itself. This includes how the case began, the reactions of the Queensland government and how it prompted federal legislation, leading to the creation of the system of Native Title. I feel like the inclusion of this information adds an important amount of context which in turn strengthens the succeeding conversation about what issues exist in the present system.

The podcast has the potential to be an effective form of advertising for the Professional Historian’s Association and its members. It can serve to raise awareness of the organisation and add to the online presence of the interviewed historians. Ultimately, I hope the podcast will spark someone’s interest in history and encourage a viewer to think critically about the history they know and how that history informs present-day issues.

Wrapping Up First Steps onto More with The Gender Centre

The final project presents itself as a series of pamphlets that promotes the organisation, The Gender Centre Inc., (GCI). These pamphlets not only acts as a brief rundown of the organisation but also explores the GCI’s history and the services they provide. While the pamphlets are mostly aimed towards newcomers (both trans individuals and family and loved ones looking for more information), it is particularly targeted towards parents. The use of pamphlets was chosen for its easy-to-read format and educational uses. The innovation of the pamphlets is illustrated through their multi-faceted manner. Used either as a traditional printed pamphlet or posted onto social media. The pamphlets also incorporate QR codes that the audience can scan to be directed to certain parts of the GCI’s, assisting them towards more specific information they may be after. 

This project also builds from a previous project undertaken by the GCI, First Steps. Both centring around the experiences of the members of the parent groups, however, First Steps Onto More implicitly asks the question “whether more funding and resources should be allocated towards organisations providing services to the trans community?” And goes on to explicitly explore the benefits of parent support groups for the trans community.   

The GCI’s parent support groups illustrate the essential role of family and the need of maintaining the relationships between trans children and their families. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that trans children lose their familial connections because of a lack of understanding and misinformation. The parent support groups aim to break down these stereotypes and provide useful information for parents to help them understand and support their children through their transition. These groups are also incredibly helpful for parents in finding a community that understands their situation, this community network provides members a space in which they can share thoughts and experiences with others. 

This project was initially meant to utilise the responses from interviews with group members; however, this fell through. Instead, I created an online survey where group members could answer when they could. The online survey made it extremely helpful in quoting responses and assisted thoroughly in understanding why parent groups are an important resource in providing families useful information and the maintenance of the familial relationships of trans children. 

Themes of education, community, support, and shared experiences are explored throughout the project. With a majority of lost familial connections being lost due to lack of education and support, the pamphlets aim to promote the GCI and their services for both trans people and their families. Promoting the parent support group is also valuable in promoting support for parents raising trans children and also illustrates that there is a community of other parents experiencing similar situations.   

Creating new and updated promotional material will help draw in new people, regardless of whether they are experiencing gender issues or know someone who is and are looking for more information. The focus and promotion of the parent support group also serve to demonstrate the benefits of the group and community for parents. In illuminating the beneficial experiences of the parent community, it creates positive effects on the trans community. By providing not only a safe space at the organisation but also at home, also illustrates the vital role that family plays in the wellbeing of trans people. Serving to invite more parents of trans children to attend these support groups.   

I chose to present my project as a series of pamphlets because of their smaller but educational nature. Of course, there were other avenues and approaches that I could have taken. Other students have done projects that produced essays, podcasts, website designs – all of which I could have also done. However, I like the creative freedom of visual design and the pamphlets were a great way to express this. Especially having multiple pamphlets, I could focus and explore numerous ideas that could stand on their own but also contributed to the overall project.    

With the use of social media, these pamphlets are not limited to their traditional use on paper but also can be posted onto Facebook, Instagram, or website. The medium also contributes to the intent of the project, as they are not a final report of the organisation and their services but encourage the audience to investigate further.  In which, the basic information presented is not in-depth but does direct the audience towards more specific information through the QR codes. The pamphlets also enable the audience to digest small amounts of information used to intrigue them into further investigation of the organisation and their services.  

The intended audience and use of pamphlets have been taken into consideration during the design process. The medium of pamphlets indicates to the reader that the presented information is easy and quick to read, thus the wording has been articulated to be inviting and informal for the ease to be understood within a short amount of time. The visual design of the pamphlets also aims to appeal to the audience while also not straining the eyes (colour and fonts). The QR codes also assist to direct the audience to specific parts of the GCI’s website where they can find more information about the services they provide. 

Overall, the project aims to benefit both young trans individuals and their families. Encouraging to maintain relationships and provide support to families in understanding their needs during their transition. Raising awareness and promoting these services of the GCI, aims to demonstrate that there is not only support for trans people but also their families. The project is significant as it incorporates the stories of the community and demonstrates the benefits of these resources. Justifying that there is a need for more funding towards organisations like the GCI. The GCI itself plays an important role within the trans community, being one of only a few organisations in Australia that provides resources and education as well as advocating the issues experienced by trans people. 

Walking Tour: The Spit and Chinamans Beach

Creating a walking tour guide for the Mosman Historical Society has been an incredibly rewarding experience. My familiarity with my project’s topic, its accessible scope and helpful advice from my organisation made it a pleasure to research and compile my final product.

I spent a significant amount of time collating sources and information regarding the Spit and Chinamans, before grouping these into common areas and then conducting the walk myself several times to see where I could best allocate each section of information.

My project’s implicit argument is to demonstrate that history can enjoyably accompany a range of everyday activities. In short, history is always worth seeking out! Many people may consider going for a walk in this local area, or they may be familiar with it through travelling through regularly, however, the history of it may be unknown to them. This concept does not just apply to the Spit, of course, and could apply to many scenarios and locations. My project proposes that engaging with local history and learning about a local area is a satisfying and rewarding endeavour.

My project satisfies a need by collating a vast range of sources, both primary and secondary, into a format that is comprehensive yet still easy to access and is engaging. It also nicely complements my organisation’s current array of walking tours in their online resources, and can act as an example for potentially transferring any current or future projects into online, interactive formats.

I made use of a lot of primary sources, particularly photographs, to ensure my project was visually compelling and to encourage audiences to continue reading through the content. The Mosman Library has a fantastic digital archive with lots of photographs and postcards, and I found it difficult to condense images I found into what would be most relevant and appropriate for my project.

Spit Road. 1922. Photograph. Mosman Library Digital Archive, Sydney. Retrieved from <>. Accessed 7 November 2021.

There are also several public history projects, such as plaques, sculptures, and monuments, around the Spit which are somewhat distanced the primary walking track, for reasons of security I guessed. However, this means that many people are either not familiar with them, or unaware of them, as I uncovered when speaking with family and friends who have lived in this area for many years and had no idea as to their existence. I was able to incorporate these into my tour, which I feel added a nice extra dimension.

I created a document which contains my tour content written down and maps to accompany, and an online map version of my tour. I created a QR code for the online version, and incorporated this as well as the site’s URL into the written document. I am very grateful for this opportunity to contribute to my local community history.

The Spit & Chinamans Beach Walking Tour