Beyond Storytelling: What Can History Tell Us About the Present?

While history podcasts are certainly not novel, I believe that there is a gap in the market for an educational history podcast that goes beyond “storytelling” and engages with historical debates, the practice of history and how it informs current issues. Particularly in Australia, I believe the average person knows very little of the nation’s history beyond what is ‘enshrined’ in state-funded memorials and national holidays. I believe more ‘casual’ engagement with forms of public history that emphasise the complexity and encourage personal reflection is essential to correcting this. As a result, I have chosen to create a podcast, titled ‘Chatting History’ with the Professional Historians Associations (PHA), for my work this Semester. The project features three interviews with historians who are members of the PHA who work in vastly different fields, one of which features a significant amount of my own analysis, in what I’ve called an audio essay.

The implicit argument in the project is that history is a fundamental element of the present day, one which must be understood to fully engage with current issues. This can be seen in the way in which each conversation, both intentionally and unintentionally, became about something to do with the present. To name one example, in the episode about Native Title, I begin with a talk about the concept of Terra Nullius and the Mabo decision, and then into a discussion of present issues relating to Indigenous reconciliation and the role of a historian in Native Title. This showcases that the past and the present are fundamentally interdependent. Similarly, my discussion with a historian who researches the history of women in the Australian media became one about how social movements have changed due to the influence of social media. For my interview with a historian who works in Australian political history, and worked for many years in university administration, I asked what he thought of the Coalition’s recent fee hikes of humanities university courses (a topic about which, you can imagine, we both had a lot to say).

The main change that was made in the process was the addition of an audio essay. While I was initially wanting to feature as little of myself as possible in the recording, I felt that the topic of Native Title required more context, as the conversation did not provide any explanation of where Native Title comes from and therefore its significance. That episode features a discussion of the concept of Terra Nullius, including how it was situated within eighteenth-century international law and colonial thinking, and the Mabo Case itself. This includes how the case began, the reactions of the Queensland government and how it prompted federal legislation, leading to the creation of the system of Native Title. I feel like the inclusion of this information adds an important amount of context which in turn strengthens the succeeding conversation about what issues exist in the present system.

The podcast has the potential to be an effective form of advertising for the Professional Historian’s Association and its members. It can serve to raise awareness of the organisation and add to the online presence of the interviewed historians. Ultimately, I hope the podcast will spark someone’s interest in history and encourage a viewer to think critically about the history they know and how that history informs present-day issues.

Wrapping Up First Steps onto More with The Gender Centre

The final project presents itself as a series of pamphlets that promotes the organisation, The Gender Centre Inc., (GCI). These pamphlets not only acts as a brief rundown of the organisation but also explores the GCI’s history and the services they provide. While the pamphlets are mostly aimed towards newcomers (both trans individuals and family and loved ones looking for more information), it is particularly targeted towards parents. The use of pamphlets was chosen for its easy-to-read format and educational uses. The innovation of the pamphlets is illustrated through their multi-faceted manner. Used either as a traditional printed pamphlet or posted onto social media. The pamphlets also incorporate QR codes that the audience can scan to be directed to certain parts of the GCI’s, assisting them towards more specific information they may be after. 

This project also builds from a previous project undertaken by the GCI, First Steps. Both centring around the experiences of the members of the parent groups, however, First Steps Onto More implicitly asks the question “whether more funding and resources should be allocated towards organisations providing services to the trans community?” And goes on to explicitly explore the benefits of parent support groups for the trans community.   

The GCI’s parent support groups illustrate the essential role of family and the need of maintaining the relationships between trans children and their families. Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that trans children lose their familial connections because of a lack of understanding and misinformation. The parent support groups aim to break down these stereotypes and provide useful information for parents to help them understand and support their children through their transition. These groups are also incredibly helpful for parents in finding a community that understands their situation, this community network provides members a space in which they can share thoughts and experiences with others. 

This project was initially meant to utilise the responses from interviews with group members; however, this fell through. Instead, I created an online survey where group members could answer when they could. The online survey made it extremely helpful in quoting responses and assisted thoroughly in understanding why parent groups are an important resource in providing families useful information and the maintenance of the familial relationships of trans children. 

Themes of education, community, support, and shared experiences are explored throughout the project. With a majority of lost familial connections being lost due to lack of education and support, the pamphlets aim to promote the GCI and their services for both trans people and their families. Promoting the parent support group is also valuable in promoting support for parents raising trans children and also illustrates that there is a community of other parents experiencing similar situations.   

Creating new and updated promotional material will help draw in new people, regardless of whether they are experiencing gender issues or know someone who is and are looking for more information. The focus and promotion of the parent support group also serve to demonstrate the benefits of the group and community for parents. In illuminating the beneficial experiences of the parent community, it creates positive effects on the trans community. By providing not only a safe space at the organisation but also at home, also illustrates the vital role that family plays in the wellbeing of trans people. Serving to invite more parents of trans children to attend these support groups.   

I chose to present my project as a series of pamphlets because of their smaller but educational nature. Of course, there were other avenues and approaches that I could have taken. Other students have done projects that produced essays, podcasts, website designs – all of which I could have also done. However, I like the creative freedom of visual design and the pamphlets were a great way to express this. Especially having multiple pamphlets, I could focus and explore numerous ideas that could stand on their own but also contributed to the overall project.    

With the use of social media, these pamphlets are not limited to their traditional use on paper but also can be posted onto Facebook, Instagram, or website. The medium also contributes to the intent of the project, as they are not a final report of the organisation and their services but encourage the audience to investigate further.  In which, the basic information presented is not in-depth but does direct the audience towards more specific information through the QR codes. The pamphlets also enable the audience to digest small amounts of information used to intrigue them into further investigation of the organisation and their services.  

The intended audience and use of pamphlets have been taken into consideration during the design process. The medium of pamphlets indicates to the reader that the presented information is easy and quick to read, thus the wording has been articulated to be inviting and informal for the ease to be understood within a short amount of time. The visual design of the pamphlets also aims to appeal to the audience while also not straining the eyes (colour and fonts). The QR codes also assist to direct the audience to specific parts of the GCI’s website where they can find more information about the services they provide. 

Overall, the project aims to benefit both young trans individuals and their families. Encouraging to maintain relationships and provide support to families in understanding their needs during their transition. Raising awareness and promoting these services of the GCI, aims to demonstrate that there is not only support for trans people but also their families. The project is significant as it incorporates the stories of the community and demonstrates the benefits of these resources. Justifying that there is a need for more funding towards organisations like the GCI. The GCI itself plays an important role within the trans community, being one of only a few organisations in Australia that provides resources and education as well as advocating the issues experienced by trans people. 

Walking Tour: The Spit and Chinamans Beach

Creating a walking tour guide for the Mosman Historical Society has been an incredibly rewarding experience. My familiarity with my project’s topic, its accessible scope and helpful advice from my organisation made it a pleasure to research and compile my final product.

I spent a significant amount of time collating sources and information regarding the Spit and Chinamans, before grouping these into common areas and then conducting the walk myself several times to see where I could best allocate each section of information.

My project’s implicit argument is to demonstrate that history can enjoyably accompany a range of everyday activities. In short, history is always worth seeking out! Many people may consider going for a walk in this local area, or they may be familiar with it through travelling through regularly, however, the history of it may be unknown to them. This concept does not just apply to the Spit, of course, and could apply to many scenarios and locations. My project proposes that engaging with local history and learning about a local area is a satisfying and rewarding endeavour.

My project satisfies a need by collating a vast range of sources, both primary and secondary, into a format that is comprehensive yet still easy to access and is engaging. It also nicely complements my organisation’s current array of walking tours in their online resources, and can act as an example for potentially transferring any current or future projects into online, interactive formats.

I made use of a lot of primary sources, particularly photographs, to ensure my project was visually compelling and to encourage audiences to continue reading through the content. The Mosman Library has a fantastic digital archive with lots of photographs and postcards, and I found it difficult to condense images I found into what would be most relevant and appropriate for my project.

Spit Road. 1922. Photograph. Mosman Library Digital Archive, Sydney. Retrieved from <http://images.mosman.nsw.gov.au?code=MjcxMDI=>. Accessed 7 November 2021.

There are also several public history projects, such as plaques, sculptures, and monuments, around the Spit which are somewhat distanced the primary walking track, for reasons of security I guessed. However, this means that many people are either not familiar with them, or unaware of them, as I uncovered when speaking with family and friends who have lived in this area for many years and had no idea as to their existence. I was able to incorporate these into my tour, which I feel added a nice extra dimension.

I created a document which contains my tour content written down and maps to accompany, and an online map version of my tour. I created a QR code for the online version, and incorporated this as well as the site’s URL into the written document. I am very grateful for this opportunity to contribute to my local community history.

The Spit & Chinamans Beach Walking Tour

Coral Bleaching: What have we told ourselves?

View Project Website

Originality, Accessibility and Significance

I am fascinated by the links between history and communication. How we have perceived events through time has a far reaching and serious impact on an historical event. This was an historiographical concept I wanted to explore in my project. I combined my interest in environmental history and communications to create a project that studied a major environmental focus of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (ACMS) – The Great Barrier Reef – from a new angle.

My online essay, inspired by interactive essays made popular by The New York Times like “Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek” and “Thirty Six Thousand Feet Under the Sea” analyses Australian public perceptions of incidents of coral bleaching in the last ten years.

I asked the following questions:

  • When did we understood the seriousness of these environmental events?
  • How did we interact with or approach them?
  • How did large scale media organisations – the press and social media – contribute to our understandings and beliefs?
  • How did industry and government change our perceptions and what role did politics play in dividing Australians on the issue?

My approach to this concept is theoretically original because it looks at a scientific concept through the perceptions of everyday people, making the essay both easily accessible to the average reader and complex enough for the science or history specialist to explore. The project is significant to the scientific community because it broadens their reach and makes a sometimes-inaccessible concept interactive. The ACMS will use elements of my website to further engage their current audience, but I also hope a more interactive study – like mine – will bring new audience members into their database.  

Argument

In my online project, I argue that the media had the largest impact on how we as Australians observed an increase in mass coral bleaching. I argue that the media contributed to the development of a politicisation of the events and created a damaging counterargument arguing that climate change and coral bleaching were not linked. Periodically, I argue that Australians started to recognise the impact of climate change on the reef after successive mass coral bleaching in the summer of 2016-2017. I consider the context of successive bleaching when analysing public perceptions and concur that the motivation to protect the reef was affected in the last five to eight years by competing interests and political messages.

Evidence

My project is based on research conducted by experts in competing fields. I consider the intersection of varying disciplines – scientific, historical and communications – to be the best way to develop a holistic understanding. Resources include the (AMCS’s) extensive collection of newsletters, blogs and social media posts on the issue. I gained a lot of public insight from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the World Wildlife Fund and Climate Council who all hold annual public surveys on perceptions of the environment. There were many key secondary sources that assisted my research including Iain McCalman’s history of the Great Barrier Reef.

By using the “Way Back Machine” an online resource analyses web interactions, I conducted primary research I was able to pinpoint the key times when media focussed on coral bleaching and ask how this concept was being framed. Social media data analysis tools including Meltwater and SemRush also assisted my research. Through these programs I produced a keyword analysis on relevant phrases – “coral dying, coral bleaching” etc and considered how the media contributed to understandings of reefs.  

Themes and Presentation

My project shows how visual representations of coral reefs have impacted our understandings. It is a key theme that I hope to have made clear in the layout of my project. I have included images of coral bleaching, including those from The Ocean Agency[3], and two videos – one sourced from the NFSA titled “Will the Great Barrier Reef Cure Claude Clough?” The drama, filmed in 1967, reflects how old our connection to the Great Barrier Reef has been yet how detached we remain from our impacts on its health. The second video, sourced from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, highlights one of the Great Barrier Reefs most bizarre and beautiful moments: coral spawning. Ironically, this process, a sign of coral health, has been used by conservative media to diminish coral scientists’ warnings. I hope these clips also reflect my second major theme: that coral aesthetics have been one of the most important aspects of public perceptions of bleaching since the 1990s.

My final major theme is the relationship between industry, scientist, communicator and the public. I analyse how these competing groups, with their own opinions and agendas have reconstructed the zeitgeist around coral bleaching. Such a framework is the only way to understand who cares about coral bleaching and why so many still refuse to connect it to climate change.

Need

This project will certainly broaden the number of people who interact with this issue. There have been almost 40 surveys completed on public perceptions of environmental change and degradation in the last five years and many are hidden in digital archives. My combined analysis of all these scientific and social research projects will bring a younger audience of university and high school students – not only interested in science but also in history and communication technology – to this issue. The ACMS existing database of the “Fight for the Reef” campaign has 75,900 subscribers and followers. By using this database as a launch-point, and incorporating visuals into existing research. I think this project will be hugely beneficial to the general public already interested in coral bleaching patterns.

Creativity and Sustainability

Though I was unable to develop oral histories around this project, I think the visual nature of this concept I’m exploring makes an interactive essay website the best possible platform for it. I would like to continue to build this project with the Marine Conservation Society and produce an accompanying Oral History series that would complement my existing research. I also thought a soundscape would make the project even more interactive. The AMCS are happy for me to continue to develop this project moving forward.


Pulling Up Stumps: Finalising my Project with Mount Colah Cricket Club

Over the course of this semester, I have worked with Mount Colah Cricket Club (MCCC) to produce a history of the club for its new website. The sources of information pertaining to this small club in Sydney’s north have been scattered over its 90-year history, and it has been a rewarding journey assembling this data into a cohesive whole. This will be the first compiled history composed focussed specifically on MCCC, which means that my project will play an important role in centralising the club’s records and publicising its past successes.

George, Andy and Ted Beattie in cricket whites, taken on the lawn of Sydney Adventist Hospital. The Beatties were part of the Mount Colah Cricket Club’s first team in 1933. Photo retrieved from Hornsby Shire Recollects.

Throughout this project, I have threaded through the argument that community-focused sporting organisations like MCCC provide a valuable public service in developing local talent and fostering a sense of community. The history of MCCC is a story of resilience, documenting a small club that has returned from dissolution on two separate occasions thanks to the efforts of local volunteers. Resonating throughout its history is thus a sense that the club is constituted by the Mount Colah community, which is in turn enriched by its work.

The primary evidence I use to support this argument has been the hard copy set of Hornsby Ku-ring-gai & Hills District (HK&HDCA) annual reports from its inaugural 1926-27 season to the present day. The argument that the club fosters local talent is overwhelmingly supported by the prevalence of Mount Colah players in association statistical records. Tracking such records illustrates the growth and development of MCCC players throughout their local cricketing career, as supported by the club’s coaching and curated opportunities. The argument concerning community spirit is substantiated implicitly by these reports, which include some qualitative anecdotes about MCCC, yet only in passing. Qualitative evidence of the community spirit fostered by MCCC could be sourced more efficiently within the testimony of past player and current executive member, Bruce Kimberley, whose reminiscences are scattered throughout my MCCC timeline.

One theme I tried to focus on throughout my project was the pre-eminence of women in MCCC throughout its history, and the many roles undertaken by such women over time. I first tied this theme to my argument by tracking the close association between women’s participation in cricket at a local level and changing social attitudes towards women more generally throughout the 1930s, using the 1934-35 English Women’s Test as a case study. This argument draws attention to the broader national significance of the community spaces created by such organisations as MCCC. Highlighting the social and administrative roles undertaken by women throughout the club’s history, using the examples of Lyla Rae and Joyce Edmunds, further ensures that my narrative is centred on both the community-building and competitive aspects of local cricket.

“Australian batswoman, Miss R Monaghan, steps out to a ball, cracks it to the boundary, at the Sydney Cricket Ground,” photo taken in 1934 at a women’s Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, retrieved from National Museum Archive.

The executive committee of MCCC have expressed the necessity of recording their club history while its distinguished players from the 1970s and 80s remain involved. My project’s timing coincides with these pressing constraints, as I was able to draw from living memory in my discussion of MCCC history. My use of HK&HDCA annual reports further cements the necessity of my project for the club, as I was working with documents that present and future club members would either not have access to, or not have the time to properly consult.

Publishing my project on the MCCC website broadcasts the club’s achievements and culture in a way that could encourage community members to register and become involved. This project also serves the needs of the local community, whose faith in trusted institutions has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The story of MCCC provides a necessary reminder of the cultivated resilience of our local organisations, which have endured through the many crises of the twentieth century. The significance of my work rests on this narrative of strength, especially as it centres the many women whose efforts have been previously overlooked and under-valued.

The process of presenting my work online was challenging, as it encouraged the use of photographs to make the project more visually interesting, which were not easy to find due to the scarcity of local records. I decided to include significant detail about match and season statistics within the timeline, as I recognised that one use for the website would be for past players (or their family) to read about their achievements. This detail also serves a vital persuasive function for future registrants browsing the website, as it stresses the achievements possible when registered as a MCCC player. However, as a compromise to those seeking a more general overview, I included yellow highlighter whenever I advanced to a new season, which would allow readers to easily follow the chronology even while skimming. I also split up my timeline into seven periods, typed up “snapshot” summaries, and included thematic sections on individuals or contextual developments to further break up the detailed chronology.

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai & Hills District Cricket Association 1993-94 Annual Report, scan of front cover. Shows photos of the HK&HDCA demonstration of Kanga cricket at the England Test Match. The development of Kanga cricket in the early 1990s is an example of contextual historical information relevant to MCCC history.

My work will be accessible on the club website, which is used by curious community-members considering the organisation and present players consulting recently posted news. This website is also linked on the MCCC Facebook page, which becomes increasingly active over the summer season. While the new History pages have not yet been marketed, this could be achieved through a Facebook post once the last two decades are finalised. My choice to cut off my work at the 1999-2000 season was made by necessity, as I needed to meet the project deadline while not compromising on quality and detail. Completing 2000-2020 over the Christmas break will finalise my involvement with the club’s history at this stage. However, the sustainability of my project is ensured by my decision to use the club’s website (which future members will be able to edit and access) rather than my own platform. Furthermore, future HK&HDCA annual reports will be accessible online, ensuring that finding sources to document player performance going forward will not require the laborious consultation of physical documents. These factors all indicate the survival and continuation of my project beyond the life of this unit.

My project encompasses each page under the “History” section of the MCCC website. The statistics tables I typed up and compiled from the annual reports are included on the “Overview” page as PDF attachments.

You can check out the MCCC website here.

Women Support Women: An Exhibition for the Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre

Women Support Women: Feminism and Social Movements in Sydney (1970s-1980s), screenshot from the digital version of the exhibition

During these past few months of uncertainty, WAGEC and I have collaborated to create an exhibition reflecting on the organisation’s roots in second-wave feminism. The establishment of the centre is rooted in the Women’s Liberation Movement, brought by our American sisters to Australia. Sydney’s inner-city quickly became a hub of activism, where students, Indigenous communities, and women would gather to share their experiences and hopes for the future. 

Women Support Women: Feminism and Social Movements in Sydney (1970s-1980s) is a two-fold project. The first part is a collection of photographs, posters, brochures, and archives from WAGEC and the city of Sydney, shedding light on the grassroots historical background leading to the creation of the centre. The second part of the project is a historical recollection of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the NSW Women’s Refuge Movement, the impact of the Whitlam administration, and the suburbs of activism such as Glebe and Redfern. 

Feminist since my childhood, my grandmother has always been a source of inspiration to pursue my interest in feminism throughout my university degree. Our discussions around the feminist movement in Paris have always fascinated me. As a young gynaecologist, Elizabeth Sot protested for birth control and helped women with illegal abortions, before the Veil laws in 1975. Despite her religious faith, my grandmother believed that women were entitled to control their bodies. Along with my research for this project, she has stayed in my heart.  

My conversation with WAGEC started in late August. The project was decided as a historical steppingstone for WAGEC’s new offices. In an earlier discussion, WAGEC expressed the desire to have a visual project showing its history amid the period of activism in Sydney. My first thought was to create history panels as we can find in parks, or at the front of heritage buildings. However, after discussing with my supervisors, I realised that history panels would not be appropriate for the workplace environment. 

Inspired by the exhibition Know My Name: Australian Women Artists: 1900 to Now, the visual project Women Support Women was born. The exhibition will be displayed at the entrance of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land building, where WAGEC recently moved to. Women Support Women can be understood as an illustrated timeline, retracing two decades of social change and women’s activism in Sydney. Further, the historical analysis places WAGEC in a wider context, showing how its creation brings many histories and movements together. WAGEC appears to be at a crossover between Radical Sydney and the values upheld by Women’s Liberation. The project aims to emphasise how the organisation, despite its growth, remains grassroots and feminist in essence. WAGEC emerged in 1977, a few years after the establishment of the first women’s refuge, Elsie’s Refuge. A lot has changed since then: government supports and provides funding for accommodations; the conversation is opening on domestic violence and, feminists continue the struggle towards equality. Yet, a lot remains to be done. Nonetheless, Women Support Women is a tribute to Jeanne Devine’s work and the historical background that brought WAGEC together, making it the incredible organisation it is today.  

You can find out more about supporting WAGEC on their website.

WAGEC also holds a volunteering program to support women and children, you can find out more here

Telling the Stories of Remarkable People

A twice escaped convict who became an urban legend. The man who designed some of Parramatta’s most iconic buildings. An abandoned widow who became a successful businesswoman and the matriarch of a famous family. And the first white farmer of Australia who helped the colony survive. These are just a few of the stories I have uncovered and included in my project with Old Government House in Parramatta. My project is a coffee table book that aims to tell some of the well-known and less well-known stories of remarkable figures in the early colony of New South Wales. The work is based on a previous publication by the Friends of Old Government House, which I have adapted and edited to update existing stories and include a few new pieces. The result is a collection of ten stories that provide ten snapshots of what life was like in early Sydney and the sort of people who lived there.

I wanted to focus especially on women’s stories in my work. Spaces such as Old Government House are often closely tied to male figures such as the Governors and, in many ways, the early colony exists in the public imagination as quite a male-dominated space. Yet, women were an integral part of the early colony from its inception and their stories deserve to be told with the same ease and understanding as key male figures. With this in mind, I tried to center women within my project, especially within their own stories, and discuss them not in relation to who they were married to or the mother or daughter off but as who they were as individuals.  In this, I was trying to argue that the role of women in history, and in the colony, is not to be remarkable through their relationships to men but in their own actions and intentions. The story of women in the colony deserves pride of place alongside the men and although their impact was different, it was no less significant.

Upon reflection, my work also argues for the individuality of historical figures. This was not something I set out to focus on but as I continued to research and uncover family stories and hidden details it dawned on me that I was writing about remarkable people, not just the remarkable things they did. I began to realize that in their own time the figures I wrote about were not, ‘John Watts ‘aide de camp’ and the first architect of Australia, but Watts, maybe even just John. A young man who had followed his father into the army before being given the chance to pursue something he loved. Because of this, all the figures in my project are referred to primarily by their first names, from perhaps the most well-known governor to a twice sentenced convict. I am not naïve enough to think that social standing and power did not enable influence, but I tried to discuss the figures in my work as the individuals they were before they became ‘remarkable’ in history.

The front Cover

The task of making a coffee table book out of these stories was quite daunting. I had never done something like this before, but I enjoyed the challenge of thinking not only about the information I included but what people would be interested in. Many times, I debated on whether to include a small detail here or there or to add a family rumor that couldn’t be rigorously fact-checked to make the story more engaging as well as informative. The inspiration to make a coffee table book came from my own family and my parents’ habit of flicking through them at breakfast. I decided I wanted to create something that people could read casually or bring up to friends revealing a section they found particularly interesting. One of my favorite things about Old Government House is the fact that I get to talk about history with people who also love history and I wanted to facilitate that a little bit in my project.

Hopefully, should all go well, the book will be available in the Old Government House gift shop. In doing so it will raise money for the House, something that is always needed in a charity organization. I hope it will be interesting to everyone. The work fundamentally tells the story of individuals and I hope that people will see a little bit of their own history in the pages, maybe something that reminds them of their own family here or their own journey to this settler colony. I do hope it will be especially interesting to female visitors or guides and remind them that there is a space for women’s history everywhere, even within ‘male dominated’ historical spaces.

 I have had an amazing time working and volunteering at Old Government House, and I hope this book gives back some of the joy I have received from making it. Old Government House is open to visitors again and I encourage everyone who can to visit their website for more information and to book tickets!

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.

Quong Tart Scrapbooks Go Live!

Working with the Quong Tart collection held by the SAG archives has been a fantastic experience. There have been challenges to face and overcome, but on the whole it has introduced me to an aspect of Australia’s history that I am keen to continue to explore and help the public come to understand.

The bulk of my project’s work has been uploading and adding descriptive information (metadata) to the first scrapbook of three which document the social life of Mr. Quong Tart. These scrapbooks contain invitations to sporting, social, political and religious events held mainly in Sydney from the 1880s- early 1900s. Working with this collection during the latest COVID lockdown fuelled my imagination. In my mind’s eye I pictured the numerous banquets, concerts and sporting fixtures attended by Sydney’s prosperous middle class. Although time has constrained me to only work with the first of three scrapbooks, you can catch glimpses into Tart’s relationships to other Chinese businessmen in Sydney and his role as an advocate, mediator and figurehead of Chinese in Australia more broadly.

One inconspicuous invitation card, addressed to inspector Hyem of the New South Wales Police was sent in gratitude after the 1888 Afghan crisis, where Chinese immigrants aboard the SS Afghan were barred entry to Melbourne and Sydney ports. Tart and other merchants led deputations to the colonial government to allow the immigrants to disembark, but their efforts were in vain. Against the backdrop of rising public anti-Chinese sentiment and politicians willing to exploit white resentment for their own gain. The outcome of this crisis was the expansion of policies to restrict Chinese immigration to Australia, broadly referred to as the White Australia Policy. What does this invitation card add to our understanding of this historic event? I would argue that it shows that Tart and the Chinese businessmen of Sydney worked to ingratiate themselves into the social world of the white establishment to further their political aims and to represent the interests of Chinese workers.

This is just one strand of history that can be unraveled from this collection. In the future, I hope that a talented researcher could draw upon this collection for their own research projects (historians interested in sports and athletics in Australia would be right at home in the collection!). Using the platform Omeka, I have been able to use the index of names which appear on invitation cards (for instance: performers, dignitaries or recipients of awards) so that a family historian could search for their surname and discover their role in the Sydney’s social world. In this way, what was simply a personal archive for the Tart family has been expanded to be valuable for many more.

As I was limited on the amount of time I had to develop a functional website, I was unable to spend as much time as I would have liked on providing descriptive information to assist in organising the scrapbook collection. In the future I would love to continue working with the scrapbooks- uploading numbers two and three, and perhaps finding new ways to display and promote the collection to wider audiences. I would like to experiment with using a timeline or perhaps breaking the collection down to a “browse by month” section to give a novel insight into the Tart’s social calendar.

I’d love for you to take a look at my project at this link!

Chinese Firm in Australia

The whole building of 82-84 Dixon Street

What is novel or innovative about what I have done?

For me, doing translation work is not something novel. As an English learner, translation is part of my life, and my ‘translation career’ starts at that time. I think the novel and innovative part for me in this project is that I can work with an organisation and do something that can directly contribute to society. I can submit the translation as my major project in this unit instead of a regular academic essay. It is different and innovative for me because I can participate in society but not sit in the library and write something that I do not know whether it contributes to the organisation instead of contributing to my credit point and helping me graduate.

Who will benefit from this work/project?

Preservation of this shop, actually the entire building, is essential for studying Chinese Australian history, and it provided the history of Dixon Street. So I think the public and the scholars will be benefit from this project. The historian who studies Chinese Australian history has a place for them to research Chinese Australian history. For the Chinese Australians, they have a chance to learn and look at the cultural relic about their ancestor’s past. For the others, this is a place to learn the Chinese life and learn about Chinese culture.

What is significant or important about my work?

My work is essential because the evidence I provided can help the Society to negotiate with the developer. I have to do it because I can read Chinese characters and understand traditional Chinese content, which allows me to have more sources for collecting evidence. Moreover, the Chinese cultural background helps me understand some cultural material and I can do a better translation and explain the newspaper to the audience.

Braised Fish Maw and Shiitake Mushroom
A common dish that the Chinese will have in Lunar New Year.

How to present my work?

I will be presenting my work in document style, a newspaper article or advertisement at the top with the translation of the content below the newspaper.

Furthermore, I have made a form for the import list of Kwong War Chong and attached a good explanation and some recipes for the non-Chinese culture background to understand how the Chinese will use or eat the goods that appear in the import list. This presenting form will be the most straightforward way to show the information I want to tell. Trove is my media and an excellent helper to search for the newspaper content I need to access the newspapers from the past. My work will show the audience life of history, Chinese economic history, and the social history of the Chinese Australian society, which can prove the uniqueness of Kwong War Chong.