Constitution Education Fund Australia: Telling a Good Story of the History of the Australian Constitution

For my history project, I am working with Constitution Education Fund Australia (CEFA), which is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to increase public understanding and awareness of the constitutional framework of Australia.  More specifically, the focus of CEFA is to create teaching and learning resources to educate students about processes of government, the history of the Constitution and its contemporary relevance.

One of the most notable achievements of CEFA was the establishment of the Australian Constitution Centre through its collaboration with the High Court of Australia. Other successful programs include annual Governor-General Prize Essay Competition, CEFA’s Constitutional Forum and school parliament program. The work of CEFA interests me because I realised that many pre-service history teachers, including myself, have limited knowledge about the Australian Constitution and how to teach it. Yet, knowledge about the Constitution is extremely important to students in empowering them to get involved in civics activities in the communities and becoming informed and active citizens.  

A screenshot of the offical website of CEFA, displaying the main achievements of CEFA

During my first meeting with the research director and chief executive officer of CEFA, I was informed that the primary goal of CEFA at the current stage is to create fifteen interactive lessons about the Australian Constitution and its six underlying principles. The main challenge that CEFA is faced with is selecting the most relevant and core content that students need to learn about in such a dense topic, and then creating resources and lessons around it that are meaningful and interactive. After knowing my background as a third-year history student and also a pre-service history teacher who is interested in technology integration in history, they expressed their interests in having me help CEFA create an educational video for Year 9 students about the history of the Australian Constitution, its contemporary relevance, and the operation of Australia’s federal system of government.  

The rich history of stale beer: Shoal Bay Country Club

There is something magical about the pub. Somehow the sweating condensation of the glass, the stale smell of spilt beer and the buzz of chatter all merge together to create an atmosphere that feels homely to all. Across the humble pub table there have been plenty of friendships forged, plans hatched and memories made. And as a result, pub walls have no doubt bore witness to some of the critical moments of history. Whether it be the Great Depression, the World Wars or even more recently the COVID-19 pandemic, pubs have played a pivotal role in linking the experiences of locals with the history of the international. To view this first hand, one need look no further than the Shoal Bay Country Club which is a restaurant, bar, cafe and live music space situated on the shores of Shoal Bay.

Miscellaneous photos of SBCC found at the site.

The venue was bought by new owners in 2016 and underwent major renovations that saw the weathered old pub transformed into the now dreamy ‘Watson’s Bay’ inspired space. For locals, it’s the watering hole and for tourists, it’s the chosen destination for afternoon drinks after a big day at the beach. Whilst originally a Fishing and Games Club, the site was transitioned to a pub in 1934 and has operated as such ever since. During this time it has been temporarily made the WWII headquarters for British and American troops, accidentally burnt down by a guest and more recently experienced extended closures due to the pandemic. Upon this framework hundreds of thousands of visitors have stepped through the Shoal Bay Country Clubs doors, bringing with each of them their own experiences that forge the other, just as important, local and personal history of the pub.

Yet all of this history is subject to be forgotten. New ownership and mass renovations have meant that one of the few historical archives- four large framed photos and accompanying historical descriptions of the SBCC- have been taken down and are currently collecting dust in the storeroom. The only written history at the moment is a two page summary of the previous owners of the pub which includes multiple wrong dates and limited information. Other odd bits and pieces were also thrown into this mix. One such item was a framed written poem from the parents and kids who stayed there over the 1978 holidays to the ‘entertainment manager’ named Rowley Jenkins. In their poem that thanked Mr Jenkins for “making sure we’re all contented” and “teaching us the Shoal Bay Shuffle”. Another was mounted advertisements for the SBCC that are written in a strange language that is not quite English but also not quite not. So what does all of this mean? What was the Shoal Bay Shuffle? Who is the audience of the strange language? It is questions like these that might be left unanswered if the history of the Shoal Bay Country Club is not properly addressed.

One of the advertisements. Whilst the titles are written in English, the fine print is (for me) unreadable. Was it a sample poster written in jibberish or a modified English language? Or is there an audience for this language?

My ‘History Beyond the Classroom’ project is a great opportunity to spend some time amongst these archives and create a written historical record of the pub which can be kept for future use or published on their website. I plan on also including a virtual interactive timeline which highlights the intersection of SBCC within international history. This project would be further complemented by conducting interviews with older locals, who might be able to clarify some of the more confusing elements of the archives.

Hornsby Historical Society – rediscovering local history

Tucked away behind the trees in Kenley Park sits the Hornsby Historical Society. Many residents of the Hornsby and surrounding areas are unfortunately unaware of the hidden gem which sits in their backyards, and the historical treasures and significance it holds. The society contains very thorough records of the local area and valuable information about a range of different topics, such as local buildings and families. It additionally contains a small museum, full of local artefacts, which is open on Tuesdays and often hosts tours for school students. The students are given the opportunity to step back in time, and be transported to a shopping stall, laundry and kitchen from the early 1900s. With real artefacts from the era and experienced staff, the museum provides a deep understanding to locals of how different the world was only a century ago. The society is home to many local artefacts and archives, and its members are constantly working on local history which is published by the society’s magazine ‘Local Colour’. Overall, the society plays a key role in the community through history as it holds important records which relate to local affairs and is extremely valuable to the local community.

Entrance to Hornsby Historical Society

During my trip to the museum and based on various phone calls and emails, I got acquainted with two key society members. Vice president Nathan Tilbury, who also works as Councillor for the Hornsby Shire Council, is an active local history member and has written publications on local history such as ‘Man Made the City but God Made the Bush’. His position within the Hornsby Shire Council has been influential in the council’s involvement with local history. ‘Hornsby Shire Recollects’ is an online platform which displays over 4000 local archives, including photographs, documents and maps. The archives can be easily viewed by anyone on: https://hornsbyshire.recollect.net.au/. While the council has been actively engaged with displaying local history through an accessible platform, key society volunteer members such as Mari Metzke play a key role in gathering, organising and presenting artefacts and archives. Her former job as a teacher has also given her experience in working with children and makes her an exceptional guide for the museum during school tour groups at the Hornsby Historical Society. These two individuals are very passionate about history and are important members of the community and vital in recording history and making it accessible for locals.

I was impressed by the level of familiarity which I experienced when I visited the museum and read through some of the articles of ‘Local Colour’. As a history student, engagement with history – including photographs, documents and narratives – is something I am familiar with. However, experiencing local history with the guidance of local experts made history feel more intimate. I will be working with the society to write a publication on the history of local suburbs and will be working on Beecroft and Cheltenham. My work will be edited prior to being included in the publication. Being involved in this process is something I take very seriously, as it would be my first time being involved in written history work beyond the classroom. Additionally, having local ties with Beecroft and Cheltenham, an added dimension of familiarity will enhance my work. Supported by a dedicated team of historians on a topic which is intimately more familiar than previous academic work, I have high hopes for the outcome of the Major Project.

Arundel House: Looking Back and Looking Forward

On a family holiday in 1955, Rosie Pidgeon stumbled across the floral linocut (pictured below) in an Alice Springs art gallery.[1] The footnote read that it was created by Amie (Amy) Kingston from her window in the Girl’s Friendly Society (GFS) Hostel, 1933. Upon returning to Sydney, Rosie earnestly searched to obtain a copy, for ‘this linocut was [her] only connection to the GFS period’ – Arundel House was first called the GFS, then CENEF (Church of England National Emergency Fund) and now Arundel House. But after some time and numerous phone calls, it appeared that sadly there were no more original artworks.[2] Rosie told me this story when I asked her what she thought Arundel House’s mission is.

Geranium and St John’s, Glebe. Lino block print by Amie (Amy) Kingston, 1933.

This Christian residential college has been a home to young women for almost 100 years. Rosie (now retired) worked as both the Chair of the Arundel House Council and an administrative staff member for the college. I myself am an Arundel alumnus and lived at the college from 2017-2018.

I interviewed Rosie with the intention of building up a timeline of Arundel, beginning in 1920, and felt she dodged my question about Arundel’s mission; this story has nothing to do with mission and vision, I thought. Through some dusty archive digging and further conversations with alumni, however, I have come to realise that Rosie’s response actually reveals the very heart of Arundel’s mission: community.

A house becomes a Home:

For most girls that come to Arundel, they are only living under its roof for a very short time – on average, two to three years. Yet Rosie’s response captures the type of community that Arundel builds; it spans geographical terrains and across time but remains a community nonetheless by the shared experience of living, growing and sharing faith at Arundel. When a girl joins the house, she is not only provided a bed and a meal but she is given a lifelong community. This is particularly significant as many of the girls that join the house come from rural homes and have thus become disconnected from their childhood communities.

Ageing well:

In 2021, Arundel will be celebrating its centenary. The current Director, Mel Hanger, is in the early stages of building an alumni database with the hope of rekindling and strengthening the community that Arundel is. My initial work with Mel, my discussions with alumni and my own personal experiences, have grown in me a deep curiosity to understand how and why the college has nurtured and grown young women across time. I am curious to know how shifts in broader society have influenced the way Arundel has thought about its mission: to what extent is Arundel’s mission today different or perhaps more important than previously, and how can Arundel continue this mission into the future?

My project will focus on these questions of mission through the lenses of community and legacy. I will be engaging orally with alumni to capture their stories and questions on this topic, with the aim of collating their voices into a webpage on which Arundel can launch its centenary.

During my time at Arundel, I never really took much notice of the copy of Kingston’s small, floral artwork displayed in the Front Lounge. Now this artwork has become, for me, a symbol of my part in something bigger. Time has seen significant change but the house has remained the constant that connects us girls. I hope that by joining Mel in Arundel’s database project, and re-connecting alumni to each other and the house, that other alumni may experience this same feeling of re-seeing something with a new understanding and appreciation. I am excited to commemorate the numerous ways Arundel has nurtured and grown young women, and to celebrate the unique community we create.


[1] Amie (Amy) Kingston, Geranium and St John’s, Glebe, Linoblock print on cream wove Japanese vellum paper, 1933, https://artsearch.nga.gov.au/detail.cfm?IRN=37610&PICTAUS=TRUE.

[2] Rosie Pidgeon, “Arundel House History,” interview by Louisa Davidson, 12 October 2020.

A trip down memory lane: Erskineville Public School

The organisation I have chosen to centre my project around is Erskineville Public School. After writing an email to the school, and then having a follow-up call, I was told the school was not interested. However, after speaking to Sophie, I was told it would be okay for me to create a project about the school without their contribution or direct engagement as I was an alumna of the school. Although I am disappointed that I won’t be able to volunteer and work directly with the school I am sure that my connections with past and present members of the school community will still allow me to create an engaging and worthwhile project. 

After speaking to family and friends in my local community of Erskineville, I understand there is a wealth of resources and historical archives available concerning the school and its history. Given the abundance of these resources, as well as the strength and resilience of the Erskineville community, I feel a multi-media video will best relay the important history of the school whilst simultaneously giving a voice to members of the local community.        

Founded in 1882, Erskineville Public School has a rich history. In particular, I would like to draw attention to the strength of the Erskineville community and their relationship to the school. In March 2001 (a few years prior to my enrolment) it was announced by the then education minister John Aquilina that the school would be closed. However, the Erskineville Public School Parents and Citizens Association (P&C) obtained Freedom of Information documents which revealed that a year earlier the NSW government was already planning to close the school (amongst others) and failed to officially notify parents. Over a year later, and after the closure process had “politicised average mums and dads into becoming activists” as the P&C’s president Jeni Mulvey put it, it was announced by the education minister at the time, John Watkins, that the school would remain open. Since the closure had been announced, the school’s enrolments had fallen to 29, seen in the above photo. However, as seen in the photo below, during my time there the number of school enrolments had risen dramatically and were continuing to do so. I would love to interview some of the students and parents who were part of the struggle to keep the school open and see how they viewed and view their experiences and relationship with the school’s history. I would also like to interview those who arrived after this historic moment and helped to strengthen the school community.                    

An article published in 2002 describing Erskineville Public School’s victory

The school underwent numerous landscape changes during my time there, including the creation of the garden amphitheatre and the rainbow serpent sculpture under the guidance of Tom Bass. It would be highly rewarding to interview those who helped implement these changes and whether they felt they were actively contributing to the school’s history. 

The Rainbow Serpent, which I any many of my fellow students helped build, under the guidance of sculptor Tom Bass. Image: https://www.tbsss.org.au/galleries/commissions/f1000028/

There are a few challenges I will have to overcome while undertaking this project. Firstly, I must pinpoint the parts of Erskineville Public School’s history which are the most important and relevant to both myself, and past and present members of the school community. I will also need to develop my skills in video and filmmaking, as this is an area, I have little practice in. However, I know previous history students have written about the software they used to create multimedia videos in their blog posts and so these will be an extremely valuable resource on which to draw on. Rather than benefiting the organisation as a whole, I believe this project will benefit the school’s community members on an individual, familial and/or relational level, allowing people to critically engage with history and what it means to them, their family and their friends.

Gleebooks: A Microcosm of Australia’s Book Industry

Gleebooks is an independent bookstore located on Glebe Point Road, a short walk from the University of Sydney. It first opened as a second-hand bookstore in 1975 and became known as a “godsend to intellectuals and those who want new books as soon as possible after they are published.”[1] It now has stores in Dulwich Hill, Walsh Bay, and Blackheath, and continues to be a popular location among inner-west locals and the university community, while also being considered a must-see site for visitors to Glebe. 

Along with selling books in-store, Gleebooks operates an online store and was recognised earlier this year for providing home delivery services to customers by bike during the COVID-19 lockdown.[2] They are also the stockist for the annual Sydney Writer’s Festival.

Image: https://www.timeout.com/sydney/shopping/gleebooks

Another noteworthy aspect of Gleebooks is the popular literary events which they host (so popular that last year, scalpers were reselling tickets for up to six times their original price).[3] Their space in Glebe has been the location of many book launches, panels, and conversations, often discussing progressive political ideas. Academics from the University of Sydney have also frequently been involved in events at Gleebooks and held book launches there, being a testament to the ongoing relationship between the store and university staff and students.

I chose Gleebooks as my organisation, mainly because I’ve enjoyed shopping there in the past and knew that they had been in the Glebe area for several decades, hence I assumed they would have a rich history. What I didn’t realise was how influential they have been within the larger Australian book industry, especially as advocates for independent bookstores.

During the mid-semester break, I met up with David Gaunt, the owner of Gleebooks, to discuss my project. He described the business as a “microcosm of Australia’s book industry” and informed me about a couple of their major actions over the years. Firstly, Gleebooks in the 80s was known for having unlawful but fast access to American-published books. These were typically cheaper and more diverse than the British-published books that Australian sellers could lawfully purchase. In 1989, they fought for the scrapping of these restrictions in the importation divisions of the Copyright Act, resulting in all booksellers having access to American editions. Then, in 1999-2000, Gleebooks played an active role in the campaign against the inclusion of the GST on books, which would significantly increase their retail price. While ultimately unsuccessful, the campaign continued a tradition of activism and defiance.

Image: https://www.timeout.com/sydney/shopping/gleebooks

Despite ongoing threats, such as restrictive legislation and competition from corporate giants, Gleebooks remains a favoured location among Sydney readers and has continued to survive when other independent bookstores have not. My research so far has highlighted to me the important role of independent bookstores in Australian communities. They foster connections, share ideas, and inspire audiences.

For my project, I’m planning to create a podcast mini-series telling the story of Gleebooks’ history within the context of the Australian book industry. To do this, I have been going through online archives to collect relevant sources and will be conducting an oral history with David Gaunt in the near future. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the topics mentioned above as well as other aspects of Gleebooks’ fascinating history.


[1] Maurice Dunlevy, “Buyer’s rights lost in the world rights carve-up,” The Canberra Times, May 9, 1987, 2, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/118302792?searchTerm=gleebooks%20copyright.

[2] “The bookshop bicyclist – Nerida Ross,” The Hub NRMA, https://thehub.nrma.com.au/community/bookshop-bicyclist-nerida-ross.

[3] Jason Steger, “Shock, horror! Scalpers at a book shop event,” The Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/shock-horror-scalpers-at-a-bookshop-event-20190806-p52eg3.html.

History in Colour: Parramatta’s Multicultural Heritage

For this unit, i have decided to create a walking tour, focused around the immigrant and multicultural community of Parramatta, alongside the Parramatta Heritage Library. Since early 2019, I have worked with them as a volunteer research assistant on projects relating to honour rolls, World Wars and the meaning behind street names in the local government area. This organisation, which operates jointly with the Parramatta Council’s Visitor’s and Information Centre, provides community-focused services related to history, including archival research, family histories, local histories and education materials.

Outside the Parramatta Heritage Library and Visitor’s Centre

This tour will emphasise the historic and present multicultural community. Additionally, visual content and transcripts in multiple languages will be provided to broaden the reach and immersion, disseminating a sense of belonging and inclusivity to previously underrepresented communities through history. This is reflective of the Council’s philosophy according to their acknowledgement in the ‘Waves of People’ project and its emphasis on community-building: “It captures stories of the … people who came from across the world as displaced people and migrants to make a new lives and homes for themselves here”.[1]

The tour, conceived in accordance with the Library’s needs, will emphasise  biographical narrative, as well as visuals and location to bring histories to life. I will also conduct interviews with locals on multiculturalism and select quotes to embed within my script, to reflect Parramatta’s present community. Walking tours are an unfamiliar terrain for me however. I will communicate and consult with tour guides for guidance in presentation and delivery. I aim to mirror their format, whilst introducing aspects of interactivity and discussion, and a greater emphasis on inclusivity given tour’s multicultural target audience. Additionally, I aim to emphasise historicity and academic research to maintain a truthful and honest representation of Parramatta’s past, whilst retaining the contemporary narrative of inclusivity and diversity. I will also need to consider the obstacles in Parramatta’s extensive construction projects, as well as cultural sensitivities.

The impact and benefits of this tour can be summarised in two notions: promotion of Parramatta’s historical community organisations, such as the Heritage Centre, and highlighting the multicultural roots of this city. Sparking an interest in their past will undoubtedly see higher levels of participation from the community in their history.

A Night-Time View of the Centre from Across the River

[1] Bans, S. and Mar, P. 2018. Waves of People. Parramatta: City of Parramatta Council. p.4.