The RPA Museum

My mum is a nurse and has worked in the building next door to the RPA museum for at least 10 years now, yet I never knew of the museum until taking this class. For whatever reason the RPA museum was not known to me until this semester. It is not in the main building of the hospital and is in the King George V memorial building on the 8th floor, so it’s not the most obvious or advertised location. My mum herself has never been there and she’s never spoken about it to me. I walked past that building most days during high school to my mum’s work before I could drive home. It makes me wonder what other places I often walk by that holds something very interesting and significant, that I have no awareness of. That is probably something that happens to all of us more often than we realise. I discovered the museum from this class, and I am glad I have discovered it now. The museum is built around two preserved surgical theatre suits from 1941, filled with old equipment and is one of those special artefacts where you feel the age of the room and the air of the past within it.

During Sophie Loy-Wilson’s talk in week ten she mentioned how people bought the diaries of those involved in the First World War such as soldiers and nurses, and she said that nurses’ diaries were the cheapest people could buy. This spoke to me about the lack of recognition nurses often get for their work, not only in history but even during the incredibly trying last two years. The museum hosts an abundance of archives on nurses dating back to the 19th century and I wonder perhaps there may be something there to do something on nurses who served in wartime. I will have to see about this however as I begin my work.

My contact is the curator of the museum and Director of Heritage and Environment at RPA, Scott Andrews, and Scott operates and handles the museum with the help of volunteers, until recently when all volunteers were stood down. He has also had help this year and previous years from master’s students from the University of Sydney and another student who took this subject in 2018. Like with many other local or more well-known museums, the past couple years with COVID-19 has been tough on the museum. It has been shut since early 2020 to the public and coincidentally, is finally re-opening in one months’ time, around when I will finish my project and volunteer work there. This makes my time there quite interesting and potentially important as Scott prepares to re-open the museum to the public.

The job I have discussed and begun with Scott is an inventory audit of a small collection room at the museum. Volunteers have accepted objects that may not have been recorded properly, or even at all. Some of these objects as well may have no real use or significance and so part of the task as I go through these objects is to ask the question of what is worth keeping and what is not. To get to study objects and help decide their value within the curation of a museum is a cool and interesting task, from a research and history standpoint, but also to be a part of the inner workings of a museum’s collection. Being that this archival work is my main job it will likely form the basis of my final project, though still I am not exactly sure what form that will take. I will catalogue and keep records of my findings in as I go along, and from this I hope to find something that triggers the beginning of a project. The room is full of potential as everything in there has not been catalogued or researched. Within this research there may be a story to tell, or an addition to a history of the hospital that has already been recorded. I am looking forward to the month ahead and getting stuck into archival work within a functioning public museum.

Looking for Clues at the Central Coast Family History Society.

Tucked away in a small building behind a Lyons hall is the Central Coast Family History Society. Through the front door, past the foyer to the left, is the library. The shelves are full. A collection spanning decades chronicles the history of the Central Coast. Down the hall is the main room, lined with computers; people come to research their history. Across the hall is a treasure trove. The archive room. Floor-to-ceiling boxes of records, artifacts, maps and photos. 

Family history is a unique investigative process. It is a search for clues, one leading to the next, hopefully, to reveal some significant detail. Family history uses memories, oral histories and family stories; it searches for names in archives, through birth certificates, marriage records, newspapers, and obituaries to reconstruct lives. Small community organisations, like the Central Coast Family History Society, facilitate this search. They collect the clues that build family history and keep the flame of local history alive. The Family History Society connects people of the present to the Coast of the past. 

My first visit to the Family history society was overwhelming. There were so many treasures waiting to be found on the shelves. I toured the library and the archive room, seeing the books, artifacts and photos they contained. Some of the photos and older documents had begun to fade. And so, my role became digitising these records to protect them for the future and allow them to be more easily shared and stored. 

I started with a heavy leather-bound album. It had been donated after being found in the back of the shed. Most of the photos were from the mid-1800s. What was once a treasured and expensive heirloom was now in disrepair and forgotten. Digitising is a laborious process. You must delicately remove each photo, put it through the scanner and return it to the album. Scanning each photo, you cannot help but feel you are getting to know the people. As I turned the pages, I met the Sharp family.

Not many details of their lives remain now, but the album offers clues. I saw the children born into the family, the home they lived in, the family pets. There is incredible value to be found, even in the lives of people with no family left to remember them. Digitising and record keeping are some of the important roles of local history societies. It creates clues. Hopefully, these clues will prove helpful to others in the future. 

A picture is worth a thousand words. The more we interrogate photos, the more they reveal to us. To the living family, they offer a glimpse into the past and help fill in the blank branches of family trees. But to those without sentimental familial attachments, what can we gain? Surprisingly, a lot. Photos, particularly of everyday people, give granular details like what fashions were popular. On the reverse of most is the name of the photography studio in which they were taken; this is a valuable clue. The locations of these studios allow us to trace migration. For example, the beginning of the Sharp Family Album is taken in Liverpool and the end in Sydney. We can also use it to imagine a changing Sydney. Through the listed address on the back, we can see that George Street Sydney was once populated with numerous Photography Studios. With a little speculation and imagination, photographs offer a plethora of clues. 

Being at the Family History Society is like going on a treasure hunt. You start with some clue and must use that in the search for the next one. You follow the hunt hoping in the end, you will have something meaningful. I am pleased to be playing a part in creating these clues, which will hopefully be the key to some future person’s treasure. 

Maritime Union of Australia

Jared Darcey, laying Indigo cable , Coogee (2019)

Growing up with a Father who worked in the maritime industry as a commercial diver, I was given the rare opportunity to glimpse into a career which is rarely seen or considered. Unlike an office job, my Dad’s commute to work consisted of driving down to the dock, getting on a boat, donning a wetsuit, putting on 15kg dive helmet attached to an umbilical cord providing oxygen, and descending into the depths of the sea in near zero visibility to operate. Now this is just one aspect of what workers in the maritime industry do. Workers within the maritime industry cover industries such as: diving, ferries, offshore oil and gas workers, port services, shipping, and stevedoring, operating in telecommunications, transportation, mining, and construction. Workers within the maritime industry are presented with the task of operating in one of the most isolated parts of our world. The beauty and the danger of the sea is not lost on these workers, thus that is why the:

“MUA, here to stay!”

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) celebrates its 150 year anniversary this year. Founded in 1872, as the Sydney Wharf Labourers Union, leading to the Seaman’s Union of Australia, now the MUA. The MUA has a rich history as the first maritime union in the world. Since its foundation, the protection of waterfront workers rights has been the focus of the MUA. Its history provides an interesting discussion into the changing context of the world in the face of internationalism, class struggle and capitalism and its relation to the protection of waterfront workers rights. A focal point in the MUA’s history was the ‘Hungry Mile’ during the Great Depression. The dockland area of Darling Harbour East, Sydney (where Barangaroo now is), whereby workers would walk from wharf to wharf looking for work under the “bull” system, where only the largest men were chosen first for work.

The MUA’s position in history, being at the forefront of the class struggle and the socialist cause in Australia, has confounded in their focus on the significance on the importance of social activism in protecting the rights and liberties of various groups as well as its own. The MUA over the years has been involved in anti- Vietnam war movement, anti- Apartheid movement, Women’s movement, and participated in the nuclear disarmament movement. Alongside, protecting the rights of waterfront workers, the MUA stresses the importance of social activism in gaining the equal rights of Indigenous and First Nations peoples before the rights of maritime workers. As there is no one without the other.

“…to learn from things that we’ve gone through and not to make the same mistakes”

Paddy Crumlin, National Secretary, MUA at Launch of Sydney Wharfies Mural, Australian Maritime Museum (2022)

The MUA recognises the protection of various groups rights and liberties through their motto:

Struggle, Solidarity, Unity

Upon contacting the MUA Sydney Branch secretary, Paul Garrett, and discussing some ideas of what they would like, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Sydney Wharfies Mural at the Australian National Maritime Museum to meet some of their members. The ‘Wharfies Mural’, originally located in the canteen area of the MUA’s office on 601 Sussex st, Sydney, the mural is a testament to the rich history of the MUA and its workers. Standing as the collective effort of its members between 1953 to 1965, while it may not be artistically elaborate, its depiction of maritime workers struggles over the years is a salient image of the MUA’s fight against injustice and class struggle.

After attending the mural launch, I was able to contextualise more of an idea of the MUA and what they do. While my initial interest stemmed from my experience growing up with a Father who worked in the maritime industry, I was immediately hooked upon learning the rich history of the MUA and how their position in history has culminated in one of the largest unions in Australia. I am very interested in their involvement in social activism, whereby their recognition of Indigenous sovereignty and Women’s rights provides a great insight into what is generally considered a highly “masculine” industry.

My project will focus on women’s involvement in MUA history, and how it has changed over the years to culminate in what it is today. I will focus particularly on one of their first female seafarers who sailed out of Brisbane, Gizelle “Gus” Konow. In looking at Gus’ story, I will be able to contextualise and map a history of women’s involvement in the maritime industry. I will attempt to do this through gathering information and stories on her from other MUA members, co-workers, family and friends. In doing so I will be interacting with a form of oral history that will speak to both the struggle and efforts of women in a historically ‘masculine’ industry. To aid me in this, the MUA has given me access to various contacts that will help me to track down and contact people. They have allowed me to work with their Film Unit and utilise any of the sources they have. This will be helpful in utilised resources while would not be available for public record, as well as visualising an industry for which I have little experience in.

Bankstown Canterbury City Council: Local Libraries

I have lived in the Bankstown and Canterbury area my whole life and remember how I would always reconnect with friends after school at the local library. I remember studying for my HSC there before my tutoring classes and making friends with other students in my cohort through those study sessions. We shared the same experiences of stress and procrastination in the library and were connected through this comfortable space. The online HSC resources they provided through their eLibrary were super helpful as I was able to get a hold of last-minute study resources. Other services they provide include the lending of resources, acquisitions, programmes, and Local and Family History.

Ground Floor of Bankstown Library

Their work for the community appealed to me because it brought community members together to share cultural knowledge and experiences through language, inclusivity, and local family history services. The resources and services they provide help these community members thrive and create voices for marginalised cultural groups, people with disabilities, and local low-income communities, as most of their events are free. Currently, different libraries within the Canterbury Bankstown City Council are hosting programmes such as ‘Let’s Go First Nations’ to celebrate and embrace Indigenous culture. They aim to educate and showcase different aspects of First Nations culture through cultural workshops, digeridoo performances, spiritual ceremonies, traditional art classes, and Dreamtime Preschool Story Times.

Outside of Bankstown Library & Knowledge Centre

Whilst searching for an organisation to collaborate with, I was introduced to the Local History Librarian, Jennifer Madden, who works at the Bankstown and Campsie libraries. Both libraries are categorised under the same city council structure (Canterbury Bankstown City Council). Once we met in person, we discussed how the libraries fit within my project’s “organisation” aspect. She informed me about the range of services the council provides for the local community. During our discussion, I suggested a virtual walking tour of the local sites in Bankstown. However, the public format of a website was not ideal as it would have to be approved by the council. After much consideration, we both agreed that a historical walking tour generated with QR codes would be appropriate for my project and serve as a helpful resource to the library’s local history services. My project could be utilised as an example for future project proposals for interactive walking tours to be approved by council officials. Resources such as their past brochures of local walking tours will help guide which sites will be included in the tour. Jennifer requested the tour to have QR codes linked to the information on the history behind that site. These QR codes will be placed on signposts next to the sites.

Campsie Library & Knowledge Centre

My project will benefit the community as it engages them with the history of their local area outside of the classroom and later be translated into different languages. The primary languages of the city council area include English, Korean, Arabic, and Vietnamese. This walking tour will remain open-ended and not static as more sites can be added in the future. I will present the QR codes through a PowerPoint presentation with images of the sites and linked information on their contexts.

Local History Room at Bankstown Library

House of Welcome Table Talk

I discovered House of Welcome (HoW) following a discussion with a friend. I was talking to her about this class, telling her that I wanted to find an organisation that worked in the refugee space. One of the reasons for this is I strongly believe that refugees and people seeking asylum should be treated with respect when they come to Australia.  I know that our government doesn’t always do this and it makes me very angry, especially as someone whose family was once in this situation. How we treat migrants, refugees and people seeking asylum eventually makes it into our history books. I don’t want to just sit back and see these experiences and injustices pass by. 

In 2022, following the Novak Djokovic scandal, where he was held in an immigration detention facility, I became aware of the Park hotel in Melbourne where refugees were being held. After reading a newspaper article talking about the hotel; detailing the stories of people who were living there, how they worried about Covid, and that the health and living conditions were subpar, I was angry. I was angry and shocked that I did not know that this hotel existed. I was aware of the offshore detention process however I was not aware of the hotel in Melbourne. I was angry because neither the news nor newspapers were reporting on it. 

I kept asking myself why a country as rich as Australia was putting people through experiences like that? People who had been deemed as refugees by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. In my mind, my Australia could not do that. After all, I believed that we were a fair dinkum country that celebrated egalitarianism. I was also angry because the migrant experience is integral to Australia, to its identity and historical narrative. We are a country of migrants, whether it be recent migrants or migrants from 1788. As of the 2021 census 27.6% of the population were born overseas. That is why when I was talking to my friend I was immediately drawn to House of Welcome because I realised that this was my opportunity to get involved and have a say. 

House of Welcome is an organisation that welcomes, shelters and empowers people seeking asylum and refugees. It helps people of all ages, genders, sexualities, nationalities and religion. Their purpose is to ‘[t]o uphold the intrinsic dignity of each person by providing support and advocacy to empower the most disadvantaged and marginalised within our community.’ They achieve this through their activities and programs which address homelessness, destitution and social isolation among people seeking asylum.

For my project I am organising a Table Talk. A Table Talk is part of the listening component of the organising cycle. A listening session is a collection of table talks – where a small group of people discuss their experiences/stories in relation to an issue, or topic together around a table. It is a gathering of people where they share stories and hear the pressures that their community faces, usually on a particular topic and issue. These stories will decide on the pressures the majority of people face and what an organisation will first work on to solve.

My project will be the report that I write after the event, because that report will become a historical document. It will record the event, what happened, what was discussed, who attended and it will be of use to the organisation as it will guide their future actions. 

A Unique Perspective of Migration and Diversity

The Australian National Maritime Museum

Before this project, I was quite unfamiliar to the unique and important work achieved by the Australian National Maritime Museum. What I previously did not realise was the highly complex and diverse nature of Australian waterways and its associated stories of resilience and loss.

Upon our recent visit to the museum, I was amazed at my initial sighting of their Welcome Wall which has almost 30,000 names of people who have travelled from various locations to make Australia their home. The inscriptions not only highlight the diversity of the Australian community but further stress the museum’s central message for national unity and multiculturalism. Herein, while the Maritime Museum is home to significant naval vessels and boats, it is more importantly a centre for the many unique stories of human triumph and tragedy.

Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
A Focus on Migration

Since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, approximately 10 million settlers have moved from across the world to start a new life in Australia. This significant figure is reflected in the over 10,000 objects in the Maritime Museum’s collection which relate to Australia’s rich immigration history. Whether beginning from Indigenous fisherman who initially explored the Australian waterways, or to the over 15,000 asylum seekers accepted in Australia between 2019-20, migration through the Australian waterways has continued to be a highly prevalent experience within the national identity.

My initial interaction with Australian naval matters was through previous readings about the SIEV-X incident of 2001. This tragedy brings to light the highly politicised nature of Australian maritime control, in conjunction with revealing the complexity of the waterways for being both a symbol for hope and immense loss. In this realisation, my research extended to the Maritime Museum’s work in displaying Australia’s rich immigration history.

Here, I found their 2020 National Maritime Collection conducted by Peter Dew. Drew’s repurposing of photographs from the National Archives incites commentary on the treatment of asylum seekers specifically during the White Australia Policy, but further extends his critique on current issues of non-European immigration. The striking images of Monga Khan and Gladys Sym Choon dressed in cultural attire is superimposed with the word ‘AUSSIE’. Through highlighting the struggles of integration for asylum seekers, Drew captures the paradoxical experience of non-European immigration to Australia and provokes important conversation about what epitomises a ‘real Australian’. In doing so, the museum does essential work to humanise the marginalised and difficult experiences of migration by sea. Through its exhibits, it challenges traditional narratives of national identity, to rather empower the diverse communities who lack agency to tell their story.

Monga Khan (left) and Gladys Sym Choon (right), AUSSIE poster by Peter Drew, 2020. National Maritime Collection.
Future Project

Despite not having begun volunteering work with the museum, the project will be based upon a donated object which can be potentially brought into the National Maritime Collection. I hope to positively assist the museum through continuing their work in growing awareness of the migrant experience to Australia. Through developing my understanding of the curatorial process, I hope to learn how to effectively empower and give agency to marginalised communities who reside outside traditional national frameworks. The Australian National Maritime Museum plays an important role in conveying the tumultuous experience of migration, where I look forward to future collaboration with their team to further investigate this rich history of Australia.

Telling their Story: Women Illawarra

On a busy street located in the midst of Wollongong, sits a quaint building. To passerbys, they may not take note of the unassuming one-story house with its sun-worn white cladding and blue-painted trims. However, this house has been home to a well-loved and highly impactful organisation since 1986. ‘Women Illawarra’ is a non-profit organisation that has been active since November 1979.

The organisation seeks to support and empower women of the Illawarra region by developing and running programs and services that help with issues such as domestic violence, women’s health, and housing. Furthermore, the organisation has been at the forefront of campaigning for women’s rights and issues in the Illawarra, with women’s rallies and marches being organised and held by the organisation. An example of this is their annual march ‘Reclaim the Night Illawarra’ where they advocate for the end of violence against women and turn one of Wollongong’s renowned landmarks, the Wollongong lighthouse, purple.

Women Illawarra is run by a board of passionate and determined women who live by the phrase “By women, For women”. And their passion and love for this organisation can be seen through all the work they do for the women of the Illawarra.

Women Illawarra’s centre located on Corrimal St, Wollongong.

I discovered Women Illawarra on my bus rides on the way to uni. The quaint house with its purple sign out front always caught my eye but it wasn’t until starting this unit of study that I relieved my curiosity and finally discovered what this organisation was all about. I emailed the organisation and was lucky enough to be able to organise a meeting with Women Illawarra’s general manager to discuss my project and what possible options I could work on with them. Through our discussion, it was agreed that the best option would be for me to help them create a history section on their website which outlines and tells the story of their key achievements/events in the organisation’s vivid history. The manager also presented to me a bunch of posters depicting past rallies and events of the organisation to which she said that she was amazed that we are still fighting to this day for the same issues. 

To my absolute delight, I was able to receive a tour of the building and its outside garden, coined the ‘Women’s Patch’. It became clear to me on this tour that this was a place that was well-loved and was held with a lot of pride in its members’ hearts. It also acted as a sanctuary for women, with its cosy furnishings and welcoming character. 

I personally feel immensely lucky to be able to have the opportunity to (hopefully) create something meaningful and useful for this organisation. And I am excited about the prospects of working on this project with Women Illawarra, and hope to be able to contribute to the incredible work that they have achieved throughout the decades.

Women Illawarra’s Website: 

‘Sanitary Camp, Between Little Bay and Long Bay’

In so had proclaimed the New South Wales Government Gazette newspaper publication on Tuesday 30th August 1881, in response to a widespread deadly outbreak of smallpox only months earlier. The Coast Hospital, as it then became known, had formally opened in Sydney’s eastern suburbs area two years later – right on the ocean’s doorstep. Its sole purpose: as the NSW colony’s first infectious disease hospital, to operate in dealing strictly with the smallpox strain and other infectious diseases in an urban quarantined-based area.

The Coast Hospital in Little Bay NSW in 1883

For more than century later, the hospital – later renamed as the Prince Henry Hospital – continued to service world-class and pioneering medical healthcare, such as: utilising a state-of-the-art Operating Table engineered by the Zoeller & Ross firm in 1890; the Bubonic Plague of 1900; the construction of army wards in 1917 for First World War military personnel; the 1918 Spanish Influenza; the establishment of the first virus diagnostic laboratory in NSW in 1951 – which led to the discovery of Coxsackie viruses on Australia’s northern-eastern coast; pioneering the first kidney transplant operation in NSW in 1965; and opening in 1987 of Cardiac Catheterization Centre, Lithotriptor Centre (eliminating kidney stones with ultra sound waves) and AIDS unit.

The Prince Henry Hospital formally closed down in 2003, and thus, is now an established museum dedicated to the history of the hospital, staff, and patients.

The Prince Henry Hospital Museum in Little Bay NSW

Just wanted to be there…

‘Just wanted to be there.’

The reason given by Sister Alva Kelway Storrie for wanting to join the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in World War II

My first day of volunteer work for the museum was to be rather exciting – but nothing I thought it seemed that was to be overall significant; I was instructed first to read over deciphered transcripts of old hospital correspondence, written at the turn of the century, by the hospital Matron to the Medical Supervisor. “Nurse A is now officially employed with us; so far, her conduct is good.” “Nurse B has resigned her position due to the recent death of a friend.” “Nurse C is unable to attend to work due to contracting typhoid fever; she will be on sick leave for at least two weeks.” Later, I was tasked to itemise (very) old nursing registration records and other credentials into an elaborate filing system. When I finally came to the very last two individual records, my fascination skyrocketed in wondrous illumination! Amongst the registration booklet for Sister Noreen C. O’Halloran was accompanied with a black and white photograph of her (in old age) and a letter. Upon opening the letter, I noted that it was dated 3rd June 1947 – and had been sent by the War Office in London acknowledging her national service. The last registration record was far more galvanising – the nurse (whom unfortunately I did not record her name) had far more documentation of her war service, including hand-written letters and numerous small photographs on location.

Photograph and letter from the War Office (London) to Sister Noreen C. O’Halloran
War profile display of Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre at the Prince Henry Hospital Museum
War profile display of Capt. (Sister) Sarah Elizabeth Deane at the Prince Henry Hospital Museum

It then dawned on me, plainly, that the best thing I can offer to the Prince Henry Hospital Museum is to create a memorial – most likely an additional page to their own website, filled with profile texts, digitised photographs/documents (and perhaps a short film) – in tribute to the valiant nurses of the former hospital who gave their expertise, service and lives in times of war…

Nurses at the Prince Henry Hospital
Prince Henry Hospital Museum website

The A-Z of being an ABC: The Asian Australian Project

To be an Asian Between Cultures (ABC) is to be caught between two worlds: one of laidback sunshine and beaches, and one of family, culture and responsibilities. Created by and for young Asian Australians, the Asian Australian Project (AAP) creates a space where this unique cultural experience can be explored. AAP holds many social events throughout the year where community members can come together, engaging in everything from Clean Up Australia Day to AAP movie nights. It also offers professional development opportunities in the form of workshops and mentorship programs.  

However, AAP’s initiatives are nothing if not plentiful and varied. In addition to social and professional opportunities, it seeks to be a brave and forward-thinking voice within mainstream and Asian Australian communities, using its platform to challenge norms and preconceptions. To achieve this mission, it runs a journal that covers everything from Ramadan to interviews of the 2022 Federal Election candidates. AAP also runs fireside chats on topics such as being an Asian LGBTQIA+ person and food’s relationship with identity. 

Some of AAP’s initiatives – (from left to right: “In Conversation: Asian-Australians in Politics” article; Fireside Chats “Food, Identity & Culture”; Personal Branding 101 workshop)


While being progressive and interested in young people and contemporary issues, AAP also recognises the distinct connection Asian Australians have with family, culture, and language, and put out language resources to help Asian Australians initiate tough conversations with their families. For example, resources have been made to cover relevant vocabulary to be used in talking about colonisation and Indigeneity in languages ranging from Tagalog to Vietnamese.  

AAP’s social media post: “Acknowledgement of Country in Different Asian Languages”

Growing up as an ABC, I have always been interested in questions of identity and culture. I started volunteering as a writer with AAP in December 2021 and through their journal, have been able to explore the history of monolids and the double eyelid surgery and the development of Asian fusion foods. I strongly believe in the work that they do and am constantly impressed at the range of initiatives and loyal following they have, especially as they are a young organisation, having been established in 2019.  

For AAP, I will be creating a cookbook, with recipes sourced from the volunteers and the community. Food for ABCs is an incredibly multifaceted issue. While many of us are teased and taunted when we are younger for the way our food smells or differs from other kids’, many of us also find food to be a way in which we connect with our families and cultures. I hope to capture stories like these in the cookbook, exploring everything from the history of popular dishes to the family recipe carried down through generations, to the way someone developed their favourite hangover food.  

For AAP, this will provide a base for a project they may expand on after the semester, as well as being an experiment of what could be effective or ineffective in a project such as this. Additionally, the outreach to the community will be good exposure for the organisation and it will provide a platform for its volunteers to share recipes and stories about food.  

Fabricating Personal Stories and Finding Treasures in Vinnies Rozelle

So much of history begin with the ones belonging to our families. One of my favourite stories of my mum’s childhood growing up as a sweet immigrant child in Leichhardt would be of her and her siblings taking trips to the Vinnies there to get clothes (for free in the 80s!). I knew then when Mike spoke about our opportunities as budding historians, I was eager to work with a community organisation that had given my family so much so I could be just as fortunate too.

My project takes us to the beautiful Darling Street which runs through Rozelle through to Balmain and situated at number 638 is Vinnies Rozelle, the community organisation that I have been volunteering with for my project. Vinnies Rozelle has an impressive collection of purely donated goods ranging from clothes, books (the cookbooks are particularly extensive and enjoyable to browse!), furniture and their iconic ‘bric-a-brac’ section which primarily consists of equipment for the kitchen and other decorative homewares. As an organisation, Vinnies operates on the work of paid employees, volunteers, and the ever-generous donations from the local community. Rozelle is one of the bigger stores in the Inner West suburbs so some of the stock that ends up being on shelves for months will find their way to other Vinnies in surrounding areas such as the ones in the City. There are colour-coded tags placed on everything that is to be sold that indicate which month items were placed on shelves (October is pink!) and when it is appropriate for them to go to another store to be hopefully sold.

Outside of Vinnies Rozelle.

In discussion with Peter, the Rozelle Store Manager, in asking him what something that people might not know about Vinnies as an organisation, Peter told me that profits from the sale of their goods go towards assisting people who experience hardship and thinking about the legacy that Vinnies has had in helping my mum and her family when she first migrated here, these values still ring true. With 650 Vinnies stores across Australia, their support of the local community continues to grow each year.  

My project has shifted in its many forms (started with a fashion show idea!) but after my first volunteering shift, I am considering doing a podcast about the history of Vinnies and the sorts of stories that emerge (like the one belonging to my mum) about the families and people they have assisted and the sort of work that occurs there now. This will hopefully give Vinnies more of a platform to continue their amazing work in supporting people who need it.

On the topic of work, there are piles of clothes, books and furniture that will always need sorting so if you have some free time, I couldn’t recommend popping down to your local Vinnies (and if you’re a Rozelle resident like myself, Peter would be more than happy to have you help out!) to spend a few hours sorting through an unknown history of second hand goods that could find a new home thanks to your help.