But what did you learn?

As this session comes to a close, reflecting on what I have learned through this course seems like an appropriate idea to write about. The themes I think of when reflecting on this course are the concepts of public history, local research and community engagement. These three things are completely new to me and highlight just how much there is for me to learn at university and through history. Through learning these things this session, it expanded my outlook of my local and university community.
This learning experience has highlighted indigenous, local and community histories that I otherwise would not have known about. The stories and tales found through local research highlighted the need for public history and community engagement. A story that stands out to me is one of Alexander Berry (one of the founders of the town) who collected and exhibited indigenous skulls, both in Australia and Scotland. Through local research I found this story, through community engagement, I discovered the context of Alexander Berry, and through an analysis of public history, I was able to find a way to mold it into my work.
The recount of Alexander Berry’s actions highlighted to me how discovering things through local research it is both interesting and relevant. The context and background that this gives to the history of the David Berry Hospital. I found a small detail can provide a context to the family and community. Through engaging with these themes, I found meaning in all we have learned this session and find I am much better able to negotiate all the information found during community engagement.

Hidden Histories

My research project involves the history of the David Berry Hospital. I grew up in Shellharbour, a town twenty minutes away from Berry, and my mother worked at the hospital for many years. For this reason, it was an easy decision to investigate the hospital. Through my initial research, I found that the hospital has a rich indigenous history involving the care of women and children affected by the stolen generation. I also discovered that the Bomaderry Children’s home (only another ten minutes from the hospital) was where these children were taken. The home was the biggest and first in the state, and if the children fell ill, they would be treated at the hospital.
The Bomaderry Children’s home has been described as the “home of the stolen generation.” If this is so, why have I never heard of it? I went to school half an hour away from the children’s home and was often at the hospital as my mother worked there for many years. Why was I never taught about the home or the treatment of children at the hospital in school? Or told by people in the town or at the hospital? This hidden history that no one seems to be teaching or talking about in the town is surprising to me. I am astonished that I was not taught this history or told of the indigenous suffering so close to where I live.
In class, we recently discussed the notion of history being a form of activism. Is this lack of history a form of political silence? Is it underlining a forgotten generation and an unwanted Australian history? Or is it simply something that has been overlooked accidently? Is it possible that it could accidently be ignored? While the Indigenous people in the area keep the history alive, many individuals have forgotten, or just do not know.
Similarly, the history wars highlight this issue and their effects are now seen in the education of Australia’s children. However, what is being taught to Australian children during the interim of these debates and the years taken in to organise curriculum and education tools for indigenous history. Should we wait until the debate is over? Will it ever be over? Can the history of the indigenous people who suffered in the Children’s Home and were treated at the hospital be forgotten and ignored? Due to this debate is it, therefore, possible to write a balanced history of the home and the area?