A Unique Perspective of Migration and Diversity

The Australian National Maritime Museum

Before this project, I was quite unfamiliar to the unique and important work achieved by the Australian National Maritime Museum. What I previously did not realise was the highly complex and diverse nature of Australian waterways and its associated stories of resilience and loss.

Upon our recent visit to the museum, I was amazed at my initial sighting of their Welcome Wall which has almost 30,000 names of people who have travelled from various locations to make Australia their home. The inscriptions not only highlight the diversity of the Australian community but further stress the museum’s central message for national unity and multiculturalism. Herein, while the Maritime Museum is home to significant naval vessels and boats, it is more importantly a centre for the many unique stories of human triumph and tragedy.

Welcome Wall at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
A Focus on Migration

Since the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, approximately 10 million settlers have moved from across the world to start a new life in Australia. This significant figure is reflected in the over 10,000 objects in the Maritime Museum’s collection which relate to Australia’s rich immigration history. Whether beginning from Indigenous fisherman who initially explored the Australian waterways, or to the over 15,000 asylum seekers accepted in Australia between 2019-20, migration through the Australian waterways has continued to be a highly prevalent experience within the national identity.

My initial interaction with Australian naval matters was through previous readings about the SIEV-X incident of 2001. This tragedy brings to light the highly politicised nature of Australian maritime control, in conjunction with revealing the complexity of the waterways for being both a symbol for hope and immense loss. In this realisation, my research extended to the Maritime Museum’s work in displaying Australia’s rich immigration history.

Here, I found their 2020 National Maritime Collection conducted by Peter Dew. Drew’s repurposing of photographs from the National Archives incites commentary on the treatment of asylum seekers specifically during the White Australia Policy, but further extends his critique on current issues of non-European immigration. The striking images of Monga Khan and Gladys Sym Choon dressed in cultural attire is superimposed with the word ‘AUSSIE’. Through highlighting the struggles of integration for asylum seekers, Drew captures the paradoxical experience of non-European immigration to Australia and provokes important conversation about what epitomises a ‘real Australian’. In doing so, the museum does essential work to humanise the marginalised and difficult experiences of migration by sea. Through its exhibits, it challenges traditional narratives of national identity, to rather empower the diverse communities who lack agency to tell their story.

Monga Khan (left) and Gladys Sym Choon (right), AUSSIE poster by Peter Drew, 2020. National Maritime Collection.
Future Project

Despite not having begun volunteering work with the museum, the project will be based upon a donated object which can be potentially brought into the National Maritime Collection. I hope to positively assist the museum through continuing their work in growing awareness of the migrant experience to Australia. Through developing my understanding of the curatorial process, I hope to learn how to effectively empower and give agency to marginalised communities who reside outside traditional national frameworks. The Australian National Maritime Museum plays an important role in conveying the tumultuous experience of migration, where I look forward to future collaboration with their team to further investigate this rich history of Australia.

Telling their Story: Women Illawarra

On a busy street located in the midst of Wollongong, sits a quaint building. To passerbys, they may not take note of the unassuming one-story house with its sun-worn white cladding and blue-painted trims. However, this house has been home to a well-loved and highly impactful organisation since 1986. ‘Women Illawarra’ is a non-profit organisation that has been active since November 1979.

The organisation seeks to support and empower women of the Illawarra region by developing and running programs and services that help with issues such as domestic violence, women’s health, and housing. Furthermore, the organisation has been at the forefront of campaigning for women’s rights and issues in the Illawarra, with women’s rallies and marches being organised and held by the organisation. An example of this is their annual march ‘Reclaim the Night Illawarra’ where they advocate for the end of violence against women and turn one of Wollongong’s renowned landmarks, the Wollongong lighthouse, purple.

Women Illawarra is run by a board of passionate and determined women who live by the phrase “By women, For women”. And their passion and love for this organisation can be seen through all the work they do for the women of the Illawarra.

Women Illawarra’s centre located on Corrimal St, Wollongong.


I discovered Women Illawarra on my bus rides on the way to uni. The quaint house with its purple sign out front always caught my eye but it wasn’t until starting this unit of study that I relieved my curiosity and finally discovered what this organisation was all about. I emailed the organisation and was lucky enough to be able to organise a meeting with Women Illawarra’s general manager to discuss my project and what possible options I could work on with them. Through our discussion, it was agreed that the best option would be for me to help them create a history section on their website which outlines and tells the story of their key achievements/events in the organisation’s vivid history. The manager also presented to me a bunch of posters depicting past rallies and events of the organisation to which she said that she was amazed that we are still fighting to this day for the same issues. 



To my absolute delight, I was able to receive a tour of the building and its outside garden, coined the ‘Women’s Patch’. It became clear to me on this tour that this was a place that was well-loved and was held with a lot of pride in its members’ hearts. It also acted as a sanctuary for women, with its cosy furnishings and welcoming character. 

I personally feel immensely lucky to be able to have the opportunity to (hopefully) create something meaningful and useful for this organisation. And I am excited about the prospects of working on this project with Women Illawarra, and hope to be able to contribute to the incredible work that they have achieved throughout the decades.

Women Illawarra’s Website: https://www.womenillawarra.org.au/ 

‘Sanitary Camp, Between Little Bay and Long Bay’

In so had proclaimed the New South Wales Government Gazette newspaper publication on Tuesday 30th August 1881, in response to a widespread deadly outbreak of smallpox only months earlier. The Coast Hospital, as it then became known, had formally opened in Sydney’s eastern suburbs area two years later – right on the ocean’s doorstep. Its sole purpose: as the NSW colony’s first infectious disease hospital, to operate in dealing strictly with the smallpox strain and other infectious diseases in an urban quarantined-based area.

The Coast Hospital in Little Bay NSW in 1883

For more than century later, the hospital – later renamed as the Prince Henry Hospital – continued to service world-class and pioneering medical healthcare, such as: utilising a state-of-the-art Operating Table engineered by the Zoeller & Ross firm in 1890; the Bubonic Plague of 1900; the construction of army wards in 1917 for First World War military personnel; the 1918 Spanish Influenza; the establishment of the first virus diagnostic laboratory in NSW in 1951 – which led to the discovery of Coxsackie viruses on Australia’s northern-eastern coast; pioneering the first kidney transplant operation in NSW in 1965; and opening in 1987 of Cardiac Catheterization Centre, Lithotriptor Centre (eliminating kidney stones with ultra sound waves) and AIDS unit.

The Prince Henry Hospital formally closed down in 2003, and thus, is now an established museum dedicated to the history of the hospital, staff, and patients.

The Prince Henry Hospital Museum in Little Bay NSW

Just wanted to be there…

‘Just wanted to be there.’

The reason given by Sister Alva Kelway Storrie for wanting to join the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) in World War II

My first day of volunteer work for the museum was to be rather exciting – but nothing I thought it seemed that was to be overall significant; I was instructed first to read over deciphered transcripts of old hospital correspondence, written at the turn of the century, by the hospital Matron to the Medical Supervisor. “Nurse A is now officially employed with us; so far, her conduct is good.” “Nurse B has resigned her position due to the recent death of a friend.” “Nurse C is unable to attend to work due to contracting typhoid fever; she will be on sick leave for at least two weeks.” Later, I was tasked to itemise (very) old nursing registration records and other credentials into an elaborate filing system. When I finally came to the very last two individual records, my fascination skyrocketed in wondrous illumination! Amongst the registration booklet for Sister Noreen C. O’Halloran was accompanied with a black and white photograph of her (in old age) and a letter. Upon opening the letter, I noted that it was dated 3rd June 1947 – and had been sent by the War Office in London acknowledging her national service. The last registration record was far more galvanising – the nurse (whom unfortunately I did not record her name) had far more documentation of her war service, including hand-written letters and numerous small photographs on location.

Photograph and letter from the War Office (London) to Sister Noreen C. O’Halloran
War profile display of Sister Margaret Augusta De Mestre at the Prince Henry Hospital Museum
War profile display of Capt. (Sister) Sarah Elizabeth Deane at the Prince Henry Hospital Museum

It then dawned on me, plainly, that the best thing I can offer to the Prince Henry Hospital Museum is to create a memorial – most likely an additional page to their own website, filled with profile texts, digitised photographs/documents (and perhaps a short film) – in tribute to the valiant nurses of the former hospital who gave their expertise, service and lives in times of war…

Nurses at the Prince Henry Hospital
Prince Henry Hospital Museum website

The A-Z of being an ABC: The Asian Australian Project

To be an Asian Between Cultures (ABC) is to be caught between two worlds: one of laidback sunshine and beaches, and one of family, culture and responsibilities. Created by and for young Asian Australians, the Asian Australian Project (AAP) creates a space where this unique cultural experience can be explored. AAP holds many social events throughout the year where community members can come together, engaging in everything from Clean Up Australia Day to AAP movie nights. It also offers professional development opportunities in the form of workshops and mentorship programs.  

However, AAP’s initiatives are nothing if not plentiful and varied. In addition to social and professional opportunities, it seeks to be a brave and forward-thinking voice within mainstream and Asian Australian communities, using its platform to challenge norms and preconceptions. To achieve this mission, it runs a journal that covers everything from Ramadan to interviews of the 2022 Federal Election candidates. AAP also runs fireside chats on topics such as being an Asian LGBTQIA+ person and food’s relationship with identity. 

Some of AAP’s initiatives – (from left to right: “In Conversation: Asian-Australians in Politics” article; Fireside Chats “Food, Identity & Culture”; Personal Branding 101 workshop)

 

While being progressive and interested in young people and contemporary issues, AAP also recognises the distinct connection Asian Australians have with family, culture, and language, and put out language resources to help Asian Australians initiate tough conversations with their families. For example, resources have been made to cover relevant vocabulary to be used in talking about colonisation and Indigeneity in languages ranging from Tagalog to Vietnamese.  

AAP’s social media post: “Acknowledgement of Country in Different Asian Languages”

Growing up as an ABC, I have always been interested in questions of identity and culture. I started volunteering as a writer with AAP in December 2021 and through their journal, have been able to explore the history of monolids and the double eyelid surgery and the development of Asian fusion foods. I strongly believe in the work that they do and am constantly impressed at the range of initiatives and loyal following they have, especially as they are a young organisation, having been established in 2019.  

For AAP, I will be creating a cookbook, with recipes sourced from the volunteers and the community. Food for ABCs is an incredibly multifaceted issue. While many of us are teased and taunted when we are younger for the way our food smells or differs from other kids’, many of us also find food to be a way in which we connect with our families and cultures. I hope to capture stories like these in the cookbook, exploring everything from the history of popular dishes to the family recipe carried down through generations, to the way someone developed their favourite hangover food.  


For AAP, this will provide a base for a project they may expand on after the semester, as well as being an experiment of what could be effective or ineffective in a project such as this. Additionally, the outreach to the community will be good exposure for the organisation and it will provide a platform for its volunteers to share recipes and stories about food.  

Fabricating Personal Stories and Finding Treasures in Vinnies Rozelle

So much of history begin with the ones belonging to our families. One of my favourite stories of my mum’s childhood growing up as a sweet immigrant child in Leichhardt would be of her and her siblings taking trips to the Vinnies there to get clothes (for free in the 80s!). I knew then when Mike spoke about our opportunities as budding historians, I was eager to work with a community organisation that had given my family so much so I could be just as fortunate too.

My project takes us to the beautiful Darling Street which runs through Rozelle through to Balmain and situated at number 638 is Vinnies Rozelle, the community organisation that I have been volunteering with for my project. Vinnies Rozelle has an impressive collection of purely donated goods ranging from clothes, books (the cookbooks are particularly extensive and enjoyable to browse!), furniture and their iconic ‘bric-a-brac’ section which primarily consists of equipment for the kitchen and other decorative homewares. As an organisation, Vinnies operates on the work of paid employees, volunteers, and the ever-generous donations from the local community. Rozelle is one of the bigger stores in the Inner West suburbs so some of the stock that ends up being on shelves for months will find their way to other Vinnies in surrounding areas such as the ones in the City. There are colour-coded tags placed on everything that is to be sold that indicate which month items were placed on shelves (October is pink!) and when it is appropriate for them to go to another store to be hopefully sold.

Outside of Vinnies Rozelle.

In discussion with Peter, the Rozelle Store Manager, in asking him what something that people might not know about Vinnies as an organisation, Peter told me that profits from the sale of their goods go towards assisting people who experience hardship and thinking about the legacy that Vinnies has had in helping my mum and her family when she first migrated here, these values still ring true. With 650 Vinnies stores across Australia, their support of the local community continues to grow each year.  

My project has shifted in its many forms (started with a fashion show idea!) but after my first volunteering shift, I am considering doing a podcast about the history of Vinnies and the sorts of stories that emerge (like the one belonging to my mum) about the families and people they have assisted and the sort of work that occurs there now. This will hopefully give Vinnies more of a platform to continue their amazing work in supporting people who need it.

On the topic of work, there are piles of clothes, books and furniture that will always need sorting so if you have some free time, I couldn’t recommend popping down to your local Vinnies (and if you’re a Rozelle resident like myself, Peter would be more than happy to have you help out!) to spend a few hours sorting through an unknown history of second hand goods that could find a new home thanks to your help.

Unlikely Connections for a Fairer World – working with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME)

As we sat in on our first few lessons of History Beyond the Classroom and Mike encouraged us to start considering what kind of organisation we might want to work with, I knew that I wanted to give back to a community whose history has been ignored and denied for so long in Australia. And so it was with great relief that the opportunity to work with AIME came to me totally as a surprise, arising from a meeting with a mutual friend about a university society partnership. I had heard about AIME before, with some of my fellow History Beyond the Classtorians being involved with AIME, and so it seemed like the perfect fit. 

Watch the Australian Story episode on AIME’s founder Jack Manning Bancroft, who founded AIME in 2004 while at Sydney Uni

Combining my desire to give back to the local Indigenous community and working with young people, AIME’s key focus is helping young First Nations students progress through their education with an increased sense of self worth and belonging. In their own words, AIME wants to create ‘unlikely connections for a fairer world’ by pairing university student mentors with First Nations students, to act as a support network as they make their way through school. Founded in 2004 by Jack Manning Bancroft, AIME was one of the first organisations to connect Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people, with a tangible impact on the educational outcome gap. As an Aboriginal man himself, Jack Manning Bancroft spoke to the ABC for Australian Story of his desire to go beyond the ‘happy smile organisation’ model, where a smiling picture is taken before the organisation leaves without any real impact. Over AIME’s short but impressive history, they have mentored over 25,000 students with over 10,000 mentors, making them the largest ongoing movement of university volunteers in Australia so far. AIME’s impact goes beyond the traditional school setting, breaking down barriers to employment, higher education and decision making positions through their network of resources, leaders and publications. 

AIME’s impact on Year 12 Completion rates and overcoming educational disadvantage

AIME’s vision for a fairer Australia aligns closely with my personal mission, both as a historian and as a teacher. By working with AIME, I hope to bring light to the stories untold, the events ignored and the history neglected. By creating a project based on my work with AIME, I hope to ensure more people gain an understanding of the visceral challenges which young First Nations students face over the course of their education, and work to break down educational barriers. It would be a dream to create some teaching resources for use in a history classroom (and beyond!) that draws upon the work of AIME and their knowledgeable staff and mentors. Naturally at this stage without actually having done any volunteering I am a bit fuzzy with the details – form, content and style all allude me for now. However I am confident that whatever work I do will be meaningful in some way, and that being flexible with my approach will benefit both AIME and my final project. I guess you’ll be finding out how it all goes soon enough. In the meantime, I’ll be chipping away!

SJM: A Museum, A Memorial, and A Monument to Hope

The Sydney Jewish Museum is not just a museum; it is also a memorial, a place of remembrance, a figurative gravesite for a multitude without one.

This sentiment was presented to our class on our visit to the Sydney Jewish Museum (SJM) in early September. It has been a sentiment that has stuck with me. The power a place like this can have, the meaning it embodies, the facilitation of significant connection it enables – these ideas have rattled around my brain in the weeks following the visit. An idea like this challenges our understanding of what history means, what it does, what its purpose is to both individual lives as well as the life of society.

The visit to SJM was captivating to me, and immediately drew my attention as an organisation I wanted to approach to undertake this subject’s major project with. Alongside History Beyond the Classroom, I am also taking a subject this semester titled The Holocaust: History and Aftermath. The obvious link of subject matter seemed like a perfect opportunity to focus my semester’s study on this specific area. While being a History major in my degree, I also have a second major in Biblical Studies and Classical Hebrew, a part of the Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies Department at the University. As such, this also felt like a perfect opportunity to link my broader subject areas together. In many ways, noticing these connections across the semester and my degree to SJM feels very poignant as a part of the concluding semester of my degree.

Inside the Sydney Jewish Museum, courtesy of SJM Collection (sourced from the SJM Website)

My first session volunteering with the museum occurred this past Friday. I had various opportunities to meet with several members of staff who were exceptionally warm and welcoming. I then received a brief orientation to the museum, particularly focusing on the curatorial department, from the museum’s head curator Roslyn. My project began with a day spent scanning the pages of an old scrapbook, an item donated to the museum in 2010. Contained within the scrapbook was a collection of newspaper clippings from 1960-1961. The story goes that this scrapbook was put together by the mother of the writer of these articles. Working my way through the scrapbook, I tried to conjure up a picture of the circumstances that lay behind its creation. A loving mother, immensely proud of her son who is off reporting as a correspondent in New York, or deployed to various other places over the globe including Jerusalem and Havana depending on current events. Each week, possibly eagerly awaiting a new edition of the paper to scan through for any reports written by her son, she would cut out any that were there in order to memorialise them within the scrapbook.

What struck me is the many ways this item has potential to hold significance. The stories that are told not just in the reports throughout the scrapbook, but also in its creation. The personal, familial significance behind its creation. For SJM, a section of reports covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann are their primary section of interest in the object. The remainder of my time volunteering with SJM will primarily focus on reading, analysing and reporting on the Eichmann related material in the book. What they offer the museum, how the reporter approaches reporting it, what he has to say about it will all be part of my analysis. For the museum, my work will hopefully help further colour in the broader narrative of justice, and the theme of upholding human rights through the prosecution of a major architect of the Holocaust. Through this, my hope is that this work might help SJM (even if only in a small way) to continue to be more than just a collection of objects, but that it might contribute to their goal for the Museum to be a place ‘where history has a voice,’ as their tagline states. That the museum may continue to be a monument to hope. That for those who enter the museum, that it may be a place that ultimately encourages and facilitates deep reflection on the past and the present, and the upholding and advocating of human rights today.

Sydney Jewish Museum: An Educational experience.

My initial expectations:

When I first contacted the staff at Sydney Jewish Museum, I was apprehensive. Jewish history is not something I am familiar with, and to be honest, it did not feel like it was my place to tell it. I worried that the history I would end up involved in would be too far away from what I knew. But then, isn’t that what a good historian does? Push out of their comfort zone, engage with projects that, whilst unfamiliar, excite them. The history the Museum involves itself with is delicate, it needs to be carefully considered before engaging with it. There is real tragedy within the objects I handle. It is quite something to hold in your hand a medal emblazoned with the Nazi emblems. It feels heavy. Not just in weight, but in responsibility. Am I the right person to tell this story?

The reality:

The reality of what I have experienced is very different from my expectations. The highlight of working at the Museum for hasn’t been about what objects they have, but the staff there too. My main contact in the Museum has been nothing short of wonderful. Accommodating and always willing to impart his knowledge upon me. The staff are incredibly welcoming and eager to help, this immediately quelled my fears.

Working with the Education side of the Museum is fantastic, as the work they do is so vital. Educating Sydney’s students about the horrors of the Holocaust and giving children a transformative experience is something to be treasured. There is so much experience in the Education team, and the care I saw them put into their work was inspirational. The Museum staff are truly dedicated to providing the highest quality educational experience to kids. It is a shame to me that my first interaction with the Museum was in university, and not in High School. Staff informed me that my former High School does now take classes there, which is good to see, as exposure to new perspectives in history is always important.

The project:

I have spent, and will spend my time at the museum cataloguing objects in their Education Collection. Personally, for me, it was a real joy to spend time cataloguing some German bank notes from 1922-1923. Having learned of the hyperinflation a decade ago at school, it was incredible to hold in my hands notes from this time. My colleague had so many interesting stories attached to not just the notes but their journey into the Museum’s possession too. But they showed so many signs of life too: A rip in the right corner, a fold down the middle, water stains and sun damage. Signs of a life well used. To get to hold something from a century ago is not something that one can experience every day. It speaks to the amazing work the museum does in curating their displays. Working in the Education office has impressed upon me that the students aren’t the only ones learning here.

The Australian National Maritime MuSEAum: The centrality of waterways to the Australian story

So much of the story of Australia is in the story of its waterways. Yes, the stories of Cook and invasion and European migration. But also the stories of First Nations communities connections with waterways, how these bodies have provided for and been cared for since Deep Time. The Australian National Maritime Museum is deeply aware of these huge and varied stories that they have the opportunity to tell. A new permanent exhibit, ‘Under Southern Skies’ has been designed to interweave these histories and perspectives, to create a coherent timeline and find connections with these many stories.

Constellation by Gail Mabo, 2014. An Indigenous artwork featured in the Under Southern Skies exhibit.

There is something fascinating about the many worlds that are encompassed by a maritime museum: boats of course, but also stories of migration, of dock unions, of coastal fashion, of aquatic life. There is somehow intriguing about the interplay of this incredible sense of eclecticism and coherence; of the many things tied together under this umbrella. I am not entirely sure as of yet what my project will look like, but the scope of this museum really excites me. As with so much of history, it is simultaneously huge, global, expansive – yet also intimate, specific, personal.

The social justice agenda of the museum really sparked my interest. Looking after the seas, they do incredible work around climate change. One of their ongoing exhibits displays artworks made out of found, discarded fishing net, done by Torres Strait Islander artists. The different ways that they are able to engage the public in these environmental issues is so interesting to me, and they have such an array of approaches. Currently they also have multiple temporary exhibits that use marine science to demonstrate the wonders of the oceans, the threats to it and the innovations working to save it. The museum does an amazing job of utilising a diverse range of disciplines and modes of engagement to try and engage with the public in a myriad of ways.

I am particularly excited by their integration of Aboriginal ways of knowing and understanding throughout many exhibits. It is evident that they take their role as storytellers on Gadigal Land very seriously and make an effort to go beyond acknowledging custodianship to championing it. This is especially vital for a museum that houses a replica of the HMB Endeavour, which is such a symbol of violence and oppression for First Nations Australians. I am hoping to learn how they go about engaging in processes of truth telling and working to champion these voices, as it is some of the most important history that can be told on this land.

Kisay Dhangal by Alick Tipoti. This is an artwork that features in a temporary exhibit called Mariw Minaral (Spirtitual Patterns). This exhibit shows the works of Tipoti, a Torres Strait Islander artist whose art shows what it means to be a sea person.

In a museum of this scope, it is easy to see the huge collection of boats as the most noteworthy or important acquisitions, but of course there are so many smaller artefacts and exhibitions that have so much to tell. My project will most likely involve writing the story of one such donation, that is still waiting to be fit into the larger narrative of Australia’s maritime history. It is such an honour and a privilege to be a part of this process and to have the opportunity to contribute to this public history.

The Women’s Library, Newtown

– A place of books, tea, and feminism.

I never liked the colour pink. As a kid, I thought it was babyish and I wanted to be a cool, strong, smart, grown-up girl. I have since learnt the phrase ‘pink shaming’ which describes the anti-feminist act of shaming girls or women for liking traditionally feminine things, like the colour pink. More recent feminist activism, like the ‘pussyhats’ movement, are embracing tropes such as pink, and turning the feminine into the feminist. The Women’s Library in Newtown beautifully continues this idea of reclaiming space and ideas for women. When I first visited The Women’s Library, I was told they had recently repainted the space. I looked around, and sure enough, I was surrounded by walls of pink and purple.

A comfortable space of purple couches, and walls that are now painted pink. The Women’s Library, 2016.

The Women’s Library is an inviting place, a sanctuary for local women. Unlike your typical library, this library, by and for women, has soft music playing, constant offers of tea and Tim Tams, and a strong feminist mission. All the books in the collection are written by women or about women and range from health, biographies, fiction, poetry, feminist literature, lesbian texts, science, to history, and beyond. Since building its collection in 1991, and opening in 1994, the library has run on donations and volunteers, creating a truly community space. To establish the collection, the library set up red tea chests as collection boxes around Sydney and asked people to donate books by or about women with the aim of creating a 4,000 strong collection. Watch this short clip from the library about its founding.

I first came across The Women’s Library when I was walking down King Street in Newtown. As I was crossing Brown Street, I saw a sign pointing to The Women’s Library. I was intrigued and for the next year, every time I walked past that sign, The Women’s Library lodged itself further into my mind. When I started to think about community organisations in my local area for this History Beyond the Classroom project, I remembered that blue street sign and decided to finally follow it. I got in touch with the library and received a response immediately. It was a sign in my inbox that I had to now visit this illusive place behind Newtown Library. I visited one day and met a lovely volunteer who welcomed me to this place of pink walls, floating music, and shelves and shelves of books.

The Women’s Library Street sign at the corner of Brown Street and King Street. Google Maps, 2022.

At this stage, my time at the library involves me sorting through boxes of annual reports, minutes, financial reports, letters, essays, and office documents, a History student’s dream! And I’m not being sarcastic. I’m looking through these boxes and labelling files. As I do this, and chat with the library volunteers and members, I feel as though I am getting closer to the library, its history, and community. The Women’s Library has an incredible ‘Herstory’ that I have enjoyed reading through. It details the continuous hard work of the library volunteers over the years to fight for this special place which acts as a safe haven for many women in the area. Hosting concerts, exhibitions, group meetings, children’s story time, and even blind dates with a book, The Women’s Library has a lot to say for itself, and I hope I can do justice to its voice.