Sydney is overcrowded with high density housing and massive infrastructure developments. Yet, neighbouring this concrete jungle lies one of Sydney’s few remaining greenspaces, The beautiful Wolli Valley. The Wolli Valley in southern Sydney supports unique ecologies and varied histories, but its integral role in maintaining Sydney’s environmental and social health has had to be defended against the Government and companies willing to trade precious greenspaces for bulging bank accounts. The grassroots community actions and ongoing work of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society (WCPS) have ensured that the Wolli Valley is safe for now. To secure its future, they are working on several programs and initiatives. The project that I am collaborating on is a bushwalking brochure that identifies important historical sites along the Wolli Walk. This walk winds through bushland from Bexley North to Tempe. The sites within the brochure will reveal the Wolli Valley’s deep indigenous history, ecological history, and settler histories, all of which intertwine and connect along the walk. The brochure will be downloadable from the WCPS website, and will not only encourage people to experience the beauty of the Wolli Valley for themselves, but also highlight the significance of an area that rich in history and life. The Wolli Valley is a greenspace worth fighting for, and this is the message our project will deliver.
This year’s cohort for HSTY 3902 is small and dedicated. So far, we have been discussing a range of issues in the classroom about undertaking public or community history projects. These have included matters of respect and ethical engagement, representation and the nature of evidence. We’ve been lucky enough to have visits from former 3902 students Erin Blanchfield and Sarah Graham; Anna Clark (UTS); Sally Zwartz; and Michaela Cameron (University of Sydney).
Thinking about what we’ve learned and discussed thus far, students decided to write a blog entry in the form of a conversation, following a prompt I put up on our class website. The prompt was: what do you think are the most important skills to develop when engaging in a community or public history project? Here are the responses: