You have until Friday, December 19, to make a formal submission about the latest urban renewal proposals for the NSW Government owned North Parramatta site. At this stage, only the Cumberland Precinct and part of the Sports and Leisure Precincts are up for consideration. Click here to view the plans and documents on Urban Growth NSW’s website. The Cumberland Precinct includes the colonial Parramatta Female Factory Precinct (PFFP) and the former Parramatta Girls’ Home, which share a grim history of female detention and abuse.
Passionate advocate for the retention of the these buildings is artist Bonney Djuric. She urges their restoration as a living memorial to the forgotten women and children and others marginalised by society. A former Parramatta “girl” herself, Bonney has spent the last decade studying, researching, assisting former inmates, establishing support networks and creating links with academic institutions. Click here for information about PFFP and Parragirls. Two years ago, with a team of former “girls”, artists and teachers, above, Bonney, centre left, launched The Memory Project. Through a series of arts projects, they have attracted other former girls in need of healing, and drawn widespread community and academic support, the interest of state and federal governments and the media. A disproportionate number of girls detained were Aboriginal and they are well represented on the team.
Bonney is deeply concerned that proposed high rise buildings are totally inappropriate to anything but the curtilage of the historic area. She asks “How can it be justified to drive a physical wedge between the sites by locating new residential developments in the former 3rd class penitentiary compound adjacent to the former Parramatta Girls Home (now Norma Parker Centre), and the southern portion of this site known as Kamballa?”
Indeed, a recommendation of the Baseline Assessment of Social Significance of Cumberland East Precinct commissioned by Urban Growth NSW is to “Avoid intrusions, unsympathetic built forms and new uses which inhibit the ability of the site to interpret key social values.”
Bonney says “What I feel has been lost in the process is an understanding of the relationships these institutions have to each other, particularly for women’s history. These institutions are the manifestation of a ‘system of care ‘ that evolved from the female factory to the Parramatta Girls Home.
“How can a memorial on the site of the former Parramatta Girls Home that recognises and pays tribute to those who were abused here not also recognise the children of the earlier orphanage period or the women of the female factory or the asylum patients? They too were abused.The institutions of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct represent a living history that needs to be told without the encroachment of residential towers and shopping malls.” Above, is Mike Chin’s photo of Dr Geoff Lee MP, state member for Parramatta, Bonney Djuric and Tash Burrell, leader of the North Parramatta Urban Renewal team, Urban Growth NSW, at Children’s Day, in March, this year. The day was an event of the PFFP Memory Project.
Proposed changes to planning controls are intended to create a new vibrant community hub, restore heritage buildings and recognise the social history of the sites, build 4100 new homes, create 4000 new jobs, protect areas of high environmental value, including the Parramatta River foreshore and better connect Parramatta CBD with Westmead. Below is an artist’s impression of a proposed pathway through heritage buildings on the Cumberland site
Parramatta historian Dr Terry Smith, who was awarded his PhD for a history of mental health nursing in NSW, has even greater reservations about the proposals. Cumberland Hospital, where he worked as a mental health nurse at the time, was a significant topic of his studies.
Terry says, “One of the ironies of these proposals is the acknowledgement that the site is of immense historical/heritage significance and that development is needed to restore and realise its potential. In spite of this acknowledgement, the planners have only progressed the idea of development… there is NO proposal for the heritage precincts and buildings except a vague idea of potential tourism and recreational opportunities. If the planners truly believe that the heritage is important, why then have they not put concrete proposals forward? Proposals for the heritage should be the first priority and then decisions made about how those proposals (including costs) can be realised! One can only conclude that asset realisation is the true purpose behind these proposals and there is every chance that the heritage assets will not only be diminished by over-development, but what heritage survives the development will be allowed to continue to deteriorate through neglect and indecision!”
To view the plans and make a formal submission click here.
Plans are on exhibition until December 19 at – Department of Planning and Environment, Information Centre, 23-33 Bridge Street, Sydney; Parramatta City Council Information Centre, 30 Darcy Street, Parramatta; Parramatta Library, Civic Place, Parramatta; UrbanGrowth NSW, Level 14, 60 Station Street, Parramatta