Fairfield City Museum & Gallery

Fairfield City Museum & Gallery (FCMG) is an organisation that celebrates Fairfield’s past, heritage, arts and cultural scene and the local, diverse community. Founded in 1983, it is the largest exhibition space in Fairfield City. FCMG has three distinct sections; the 1913 Museum building, the Stein Gallery and the Vintage Village. Throughout the year, within the first two spaces, FCMG has a rotating program that focuses on contemporary art, social history, and community-based projects and exhibitions. Occupying the Stein Gallery is the current exhibition, re-member, which features eight artists from South-West Asia and North Africa celebrating their heritage through commissioned artworks.

Joanna Kambourian, Ancestral Threads II (Sun God) 2022. Image by Mia Zapata

In comparison to the contemporary focus of the 1913 Museum building and Stein Gallery, the Vintage Village aims for nostalgia. Here, the space recreates past historical moments and places within Fairfield for visitors to conduct both guided and self-guided tours. Visitors can visit the ‘Hay Shed’, symbolic of the rural industries that were prevalent in Fairfield until the 1960s, the heritage-listed 1880s Slab Hut and other historically-significant buildings to Fairfield.

The Vintage Village. Image by FCMG

In addition to these physical spaces, FCMG also has a thriving online presence (https://heritagecollection.fairfieldcity.nsw.gov.au/). They have a rich, cool digital repository that is open to the public to browse through different objects, images, and archives. The team at FCMG go out and collect all kinds of sources from local groups and individuals to add to their collection. 

Ultimately, FCMG values and respects Fairfield’s history and the local community. They prioritise community engagement through various initiatives such as immersive educational programmes for Year 1 and 2 students and the wider public to learn about Fairfield’s past. They also cater to nostalgia by offering a guided and interactive group tour for Seniors that, unlike other tours, allows visitors to handle objects from FCMG’s historical collection.

I actually went to FCMG when I was in Year 2 for an excursion. In hindsight, it was my first experience with history and the arts. I don’t remember everything clearly but I do recall seeing so many Indigenous artworks and artefacts during an exhibit. I also remember going inside the 1880s Slab Hut and feeling super down because everything was dark and gloomy. This experience ended up being the biggest reason why I wanted to do my volunteer work at FCMG. Maybe it’s because I like nostalgia or maybe it’s because Y2K is trendy now. I wanted to go back in time and see what has changed in the 15+ years since I first came to FCMG.

My volunteering won’t start until November during STUVAC (sorry Michael!). But right now the plan for my project is to help out with a new acquisition. Recently, a local netball association closed its doors so the team at FCMG have gone out and conducted oral histories with members and collected photographs, documents and other memorabilia. I will help accession these artefacts into the museum’s physical and digital collection, scanning and preserving the sources using some high-tech scanners and equipment. A little nerve-wracking since I suck at technology but I am very excited to help out with preserving and sharing this unfamiliar local history.

Millers Point United: The History of the Millers Point Resident Community Action Group

For this major project, I am working with the Millers Point Resident Community Action Group. Located around Sydney Harbor, this group encompasses the suburbs of Millers Point, Dawes Point, Walsh Bay and The Rocks as well as Barangaroo. With over 50 years of history, the Millers Point Resident Community Action Group aims at advocating on behalf or residents within Sydney Harbor, particularly around the preservation of these suburbs as well as improve the safety and amenities within this area.

I first discovered this group on my weekly drives with my family around the city, where we would pass through The Rocks and the community center that this organization uses, the Abraham Mott Hall. My interest in the group started from a sign placed in front of this hall with the statement “Don’t Block the Rocks.” Further research through a Change.org page online would lead me to discover this group. Having some basic understanding of the kind of activism that took place within the 1970s around the preservation of The Rocks and surrounding suburbs, I was interested in delving into the history of the organizations behind this and reached out to the Millers Point Resident Community Action Group.

The Abraham Mott Hall, Argyle Pl, Millers Point, taken by Dallas Rogers of The Conversation.

After contacting the organization’s secretary, I was invited one of the organizations meeting, where NSW government officials presented a proposal to construct an additional seating area for on of the finger wharfs in Walsh Bay. After the meeting concluded, I was able to meet with individuals of the organization, which included one of the oldest members of the group (in terms of membership) as well as the president. After explaining this project to them, I feel that they certainly did express interest in the project, however discussions on what project should be done are still in discussion.

However, for this project I have come up with some ideas. One of the main ideas I have is a video that discusses the history of the organization. In this idea, I plan on interviewing members of the organization as well as exploring the organization’s archives for additional information. I feel that by using oral history, I can bring light to individual experiences of members, particularly through a video as opposed to just plain text.

From this project, I feel that a historical research project may be of great benefit for the organization. Primarily, I feel that it will help bring to light some of the history that this organization offers in shaping the landscape of the Millers Point area. After looking through the organization’s website, there is a limited emphasis on its history, despite its influence in preserving the heritage of the suburbs around Millers Point. As well as this, I feel that a video would present its history in an engaging manner.

I think one major challenge for this project will be the consideration of time. While this should be completed by the 25th of November, I feel that the time needed to gather the history from members, as well as dedicating time to researching the archives and actual filming and editing pose a significant challenge.

Link to Millers Point Resident Community Action Group website:

Link to image:


Arts & Cultural Exchange

I’ve grown up and lived the majority of my life in Western Sydney, and during much of that time I saw my area as being essentially barren when it came to the arts and any related opportunities. It often seemed to me that the disadvantages of the west were immutable and unscaleable. I was wrong, very wrong in fact, but it’s a pretty pervasive mentality out west. Deadset on proving people like young-me wrong are institutions like the Arts and Cultural Exchange (ACE – https://ice.org.au ) in Parramatta.

I first became aware of ACE by its former name ICE (Information & Cultural Exchange) through a band mate who facilitated workshops with Neurodivergent musicians – and it was quite eye-opening to find an organisation with the kind of facilities and programs that it does snuggled right in the heart of my West. I later had the pleasure of using one of its recording studios (for a later abandoned project, alas), and attending a night of First Nation punk bands performing in their space.

ACE’s audio suite

ACE has gone through several name changes and shifts in the methodology of its mission since its inception in 1984 – so much so that the arts and creativity were not strictly involved when it was founded as a van providing information to disadvantaged communities – but combating social injustice and embracing cultural diversity has always been at its core. Access to technology and information has also always been an important part of ACEs aims.

The venue, which can be reconfigured as a performance space

Today, ACE runs five program streams – First Nations, Youth Engagement, Multicultural Women, Neurodivergent Artists and Aged Care, and Screen Media – all of which produce interdisciplinary, intergenerational projects designed and run in collaboration with the communities in question. Many of these projects harken back to ACE’s origins when it aimed to provide information, but significantly expanded to include access to technology, skills training and creative, entrepreneurial experience. These projects are often groundbreaking in their approach and life-changing for the communities who participate. So my project idea is to profile individuals who have significantly interacted with ACE, and explore the ways the organisation has impacted their lives. Something that came up in my meeting with ACE was the feedback they’d received of how much love for the organisation and its programs there was amongst participants. It’d be great to tap into that love, and find out why it’s touched people so deeply for so long. These profiles can then hopefully be paired with ACE’s new website they’re designing to coincide with their recent rebrand.

Custodians of Memory – The Sydney Jewish Museum

History is a craft of respecting, preserving and transmitting memories of the past – but who takes the responsibility for this craft-making process when the very sources of memory begin to fade? From its establishment in 1992, the Sydney Jewish Museum has been a leader in preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors who have found refuge in Australia, ensuring that their histories remain alive and that dynamic conversations surrounding its horrors and legacies flourish into future generations. The Museum itself has been a cultural focal point and meeting place for the Sydney Jewish community, housing an impressive collection of personal objects and original memorabilia related to the Holocaust, Judacia and Australian Jewish history. The extensive range of permanent and feature exhibitions is almost entirely composed of personal donations and artefacts from the Sydney Jewish community, such as identification cards, letters and uniforms; and importantly, completely void of any display of Nazi iconography or infrastructure. This reflects the Museum’s objective to convey the Holocaust history specifically through the personal testimonial narratives of individual, Jewish experiences, not from the voices of the oppressors. These stories are particularly valued for their delicacy, as the Museum foremost acknowledges that survivors relive their memories in retelling them and inviting their audiences to harbour the legacy. 

The faithful preservation of memory and authentic Jewish voice has been ever-paramount in the face of the dwindling generation of Holocaust survivors. The custodianship of Holocaust memory has been gradually transitioned from the generation of survivors and their immediate relationship with the past, to their succeeding generations of descendants who grapple with a mediated one. The Museum has therefore successfully incorporated digital technologies to keep survivor voices alive with evolving mediums of history-making – most notably, through the Dimensions in Testimony project, where six Sydney-based Holocaust survivors and their biographies have been preserved using artificial intelligence (AI) and language processing technologies. These new digital projects are also accompanied by the continuously evolving range of online events offered by the Museum, such as historian panellist discussions, blog posts which document historiographical and curatorial discussions, representational mediums such as book launches and film screenings, and virtual workshops and tours, which ensure the longevity of survivor voices. 

The Museum also aims to explicate the lessons of the Holocaust through a more universal, intercultural framework. The humanitarian dimensions of the Holocaust and survivor narratives – particularly how it embodies the nadir of humanity, the consequences of prejudice, and the importance of celebrating (rather than annhilating) religious and cultural diversity – are extracted to further and more contemporary issues of morality and human rights. The Museum’s pivotal vision for the intergenerational and intercultural transmission of Holocaust memory is therefore encapsulated by its most recent permanent exhibition, The Holocaust and Human Rights – ensuring that the Holocaust reveals the necessity to lead with empathy in championing the rights of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, People with Disabilities, First Australians and the LGBTQI community. Though I do not identify as belonging to the Jewish community, my sense of connection to this Museum derives from the similar desire for belonging as a person of colour in Australia – reflecting upon what it means to be an ethnic-Other in a hegemonic, Eurocentric landscape which denies my culture (in inconspicuous ways); and writing history as a means to articulate this longing and keep the voices of the past alive.

Autism Spectrum Australia – Who are they and what do they do?

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is a non-for-profit organisation that provides services for people living on the autism spectrum and support to their families/carers. Aspect was first established in 1966 as Autistic Children’s Association of NSW by a group of parents on the North Shore of Sydney. The absence of early intervention programs propelled these parents to set up initiatives and facilities for their children and other autistic children across NSW. In 1971, Aspect’s first school opened on 3.4 acres of government granted land in Forestville, known as Aspect Vern Barnett School. Today, the organisation has 9 schools in NSW operating from 72 locations in NSW and South Australia and supports for more than 1,185 students. It is also the largest autism-specific education provider in the world. 

Aspect Vern Barnett School

A fundamental division of Autism Spectrum Australia is it’s Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice. Using evidence-based research in partnership with the Autistic community , Aspect utilises strategies that are respectful, person-centred, family-focused and customer-driven. Aspects other activities include information services, early intervention, diagnostic and assessment services, transitions services for school-aged children to non-autism specific environments and therapy services/behavioural support for people on the autism spectrum. Parental guidance and career support services are also provided by Aspect. Aspect’s services are driven by the purpose to understand, engage and celebrate the strengths, interests and aspirations of people on the autism spectrum. 

My current project with Aspect will be a podcast with members of the organisation and autism community to discuss its history and progress from 1966 to today. While interviewing the valued members of Aspect I will uncover and document how the organisation has achieved its remarkable progress and the various challenges it had to face across the years. 

Aspect has been an organisation that I’ve known about since I was barely walking and talking. My older brother, Harrison, has autism spectrum and an intellectual disability. He attended Aspect Vern Barnett School in primary school and my parents were subsequently involved with the organisation. From a young age, Harry’s autism was just an everyday element of our family. However as I’ve grown older, the work my parents have done for Harry and our family have shown me the impact that care and support can have on us as individuals. A focus that is also witnessed within Aspect as an organisation. Aspect ensures no individuals with autism spectrum or family/carer is left unsupported or alone throughout all stages of their life.

12 year old me speaking at Aspect’s Comedy Night in 2013
Harry (My brother) and I at 2022 Melbourne Grand Prix