The Norman A Hunter Collection – Penrith Library

Norman Hunter bowling at Howell Oval, Penrith

I have spent the last few months working with the Local Studies department of Penrith City Library, researching the Hunter family of Emu Plains. The project started as a documentation of some home films that the library is preparing to upload to their website, but pretty quickly I realised I also wanted to do a write up about the family for their website. My work hasn’t yet been uploaded to the website, so for now I’ve attached it as a PDF at the end of this post.

In my research I drew mostly from the resources available in the library’s Norman Hunter collection. The library also had a number of secondary sources which I was able to use. I found the book Penrith: The Makings of a City by Lorraine Stacker to be particularly helpful. Additionally, I used Trove to find newspaper articles concerning the family. I ultimately split the information I found into five key themes:

  1. The orchard on Norman’s property “Yodalla” at Emu Plains,
  2. Norman’s role as the managing director of the Aerated Bread Company,
  3. Norman’s contributions to the development of sport in Emu Plains and Penrith,
  4. The contribution of Norman’s wife, Ellie Hunter, to the local Country Women’s Association, and
  5. The family’s role in the community of Avoca Beach

In my view, these five themes best encapsulate the Hunter family’s contribution to their communities. These areas are also where their legacy can still be seen today, and thus I believe focusing on them is the best way to contribute to historical writing on Penrith and Emu Plains.

This is where I believe the significance of my project lies. The scholarship on the Hunter family is limited, and what information is accessible is mostly limited to primary sources. Thus my project is significant in its synthesis of existing primary sources.

My project satisfied an immediate need for Penrith Library. As they have digitised many of the home films made by the Hunter family and are preparing to make them available on their website (a process I contributed to by providing annotations for the films) it is necessary to provide some historical background and situate the films in their context. In doing so, I have also increased the accessibility of information about the Hunter family to the wider public. Most of the information I drew from is available in the Norman Hunter collection at the library, but it is not easily accessed by everyone, for various reasons including if they are located outside the area.

Overall I found the process of working with the library to be a good experience. They provided me with a lot of information about the Hunter family, including secondary sources along with their archive sources. I also felt that I was able to create the project I wanted. I was limited somewhat by the standards of their website, but I didn’t find to be too constraining. I also had plenty of images to draw from for the final project, and I feel that the ones I chose complement the text well.

Moving forward, my project is largely self-contained so I don’t foresee myself needing to be involved in the future. However, I would be open to maintaining the project if necessary.

The Hunter Family of Yodalla, Emu Plains

Yodalla, Emu Plains, 1917

Still standing today, Yodalla is the name of the house once owned by the Hunter family of Emu Plains. Located in close proximity to the Nepean River, it was purchased by Norman Hunter in 1914 and was the site of the family’s apple orchard. Today, the house sits across Nepean Street from the Hunter sports field. The Hunter family was of dual importance to the community of Emu Plains, through their contribution to the agriculture and food production of the area, and their contributions to organised sport. Norman Hunter was the managing director of Miss Bishops Catering Company, which was, at one point, the largest catering company in Sydney, catering for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. His family was also important in organising community events to support Australian troops during World War Two.

Penrith City Library

One of the main local history archives for Penrith and its surrounding suburbs, including Emu Plains, is Penrith City Library. They maintain an archive of census records, newspaper clippings, council and land records, and over 4,000 historic photographs. Much of this material is accessible online through the library catalogue, and they maintain a website ( which provides further information on Penrith’s history. For material which is not available online the library has a research room dedicated to local history research, which can be accessed by members of the public on certain days.

Norman Hunter, 1956

The Norman Hunter Collection

The library has created a collection of material related to Norman Hunter and his family. the collection has been used as a reference for a number of books written about the history of Penrith, for example Penrith: the Makings of a City by Lorraine Stacker. The collection is still being added to, and this is where the library has asked for my assistance. They have come into possession of some home videos recorded by the Hunter family on their property Yodalla, but they have not yet sorted them. In preparation for them to be uploaded to the library catalogue, the library has requested that I watch the films and provide brief descriptions of them.

The significance of my project

As outlined above, Penrith City Library is an important organisation for the preservation of history in Penrith and the surrounding area. I hope that my project will be able to contribute to the expansion of their archives, and thus play an important role in preserving our local history. Although the Hunter family was important to the development of Emu Plains there is relatively little accessible information about them, so I hope that my contributions to the library’s Norman Hunter collection can assist in spreading historical knowledge of the family.

The library has also expressed interest in having me write in more depth about the role of the family in regards to agriculture in Emu Plains. I believe this would be a beneficial companion piece to the films and other items in their collection, and I hope it will also achieve the goal of increasing the family’s local historical profile.