Breaking through the noise

The semester had come to close and I have turned my focus from researching to presenting. I will be submitting two projects – a website and a video. Originally I intended to submit just the website, but after seeing the end product I decided it wasn’t original or creative enough. Don’t get me wrong, I think the website looks beautiful and serves the purpose of highlighting the fascinating lives of the old girls whom I researched and I hope the KOGU community will find it useful, but it wasn’t enough. So I decided to create a video. A video which isn’t really a documentary isn’t really a movie and isn’t an interview. I am not sure what to classify this video as, but I hope that will be the strength of it. I tried to create something that was a little unusual and different and I hope I have succeeded.
One of the major reasons I wanted to create something different is because I have found through my study of history, ancient and modern than the unusual and more original stories and presentation formats are often the ones most remembered. Today is the 11th of November – Remembrance Day. My knowledge of World War I is not great but there is one story which I love – the Christmas Truce story. The story goes that on Christmas Day 1914 the British and German troops on the Western Front called a cease fire for the day and played football in no-mans land. To be honest, I am not entirely sure that the story is true, but I think it is (or at least hope it is). Now I think the reason this story is so well known is because it is different and unique. In the constant history of war and hatred and opposition this one story of peace and kindness shines through. Throughout history there are many well-known anecdotes or stories that have been remembered and passed down and I think we have to ask ourselves why these stories are remembered and captivating whilst others are not. I think stories like these are especially important in local or community history because they have the ability to infect people’s brains and be transmitted and become alive. Stories which are alive and captivating are so important in local history when the historian is always struggling against the tide of people interested in wars or revolutions and not the local swimming pool. I hope that my story and my presentation method can act like this and cut through to the people who will appreciate it the most.

Esto Sol Testis

For my community project, I decided to go back to my old school (because twelve years at school apparently wasn’t long enough). I enjoyed my time at school and hold my teachers and administrative staff in much higher regard, having now witnessed my friends struggling with the demands of a degree in Education.
Kambala introduced the study of history to me. Perhaps it was the moment when we made our own archaeological dig in a shoe box in year 7, or studied the Titanic in year 10 (aka arguing if there was enough space on the door for Jack Dawson *spoiler alert* there was), or even our field trips to the Rocks, and Vaucluse House in primary school. I can’t pin point the exact moment in which I became fascinated about the past, but it was undeniably born, cultivated, and matured inside school walls. I studied both ancient history and history extension for the HSC. While I wanted to take modern history too someone-who-shall-not-be-named thought that mathematics was a better idea (it wasn’t). However, despite learning about the great history of great men, the school’s history of my school was largely ignored. I graduated with more knowledge about the gymnasiums in Pompeii than Kambala’s buildings.
I therefore decided to work with the Kambala Old Girls Union (KOGU) in order that I might engage deeper with my school’s history and the community which had taught me so much. This year marks the 120th Anniversary of the Kambala Old Girls Union. As part of the celebrations, KOGU is releasing a series of images and biographies on old girls who have led inspirational lives. I myself wrote the biographies for nine deceased old girls.
This was a challenge as it was difficult to obtain information about some of the old girls, given they lived in the 1800s. However, having researched their lives deeply by trawling through 1903 editions of the Sydney Morning Herald I managed to find sufficient information to construct a biography about their lives.
I was fascinated by the challenging and intriguing nature of these old girls’ lives. While some served in the Red Cross during World Wars I and II, another founding the Country Women’s Association, to another becoming one of the best artists in Australia, these girls, who walked the same halls as myself for twelve years left a significant mark on the country’s history. In HSC Ancient History we spent months studying powerful women like Hatshepsut, one of the most powerful Pharaohs in New Kingdom Egypt. We studied Livia, Julia, Octavia, the wife, daughter and sister of Augustus. We studied the great female protagonists from the Classical Tragedians (I think at this point I need to confess my true passion for history lies in Ancient Rome, specifically 42BC-14D).
We studied these captivating famous ancient women, women who challenged authority and forged a unique and independent path for themselves in their challenging societies. But, not once did we study the old girl who was the first female junior medical resident officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Not the old girl who raised 95 000 pounds for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association through her position as Miss Australia.
Not once the old girl who was Australia’s first female diplomat to the United Nations.
Not the girls who walked the same corridors, perhaps sat in the same chairs, wore the same uniform or sang the same school song.
Sometimes it’s not necessary to visit Ancient Rome to find inspirational historical figures as HSC Ancient History would have you believe. Sometimes you can find their fingerprints on the door of M22.*
~ Lizzie Richardson (class of 2012)
*M22 was the history room at Kambala