Give your support to State of the Arts Media – a great service with a bright future

State of the Arts Media has just two weeks left to reach their crowdfunding goal of $4000. If they can’t reach it by November 23, they lose the benefit of the donations pledged to date. Their aim is to commission 23 stories from five local writers to continue building a record of arts and culture across western Sydney and regional New South Wales. It’s founded on their generous and audacious vision that the arts help to build understanding, innovation and social cohesion.

After much experimentation, Natalie Wadwell of south west Sydney and her co-founder Lucinda Davison of the NSW south coast established their multi platform website State of the Arts Media at the beginning of the year. At their campaign launch on October 23, they raised $1300 and are now 40% of their way to $4000. The campaign was developed under the umbrella of the international not-for-profit Start Some Good crowdfunding instigator and its Parramatta based event Pitch for Good. They help people initiate and independently finance their own social enterprises.

A year ago, I asked if there was a future for this blog Western Sydney Frontier and following Natalie’s enthusiastic response, State of the Arts Media is now a more than worthy successor. I have gladly contributed copies of my book Passion Purpose Meaning: Arts Activism in Western Sydney as rewards for donations to their fund.

Natalie writes –

There are 3 ways that you can help

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation. You can help us reach our all or nothing fundraising goal by mobilising your community to help us reach $4000 by the 23rd November. Without your support, we risk walking away with nothing.

Are you in?

  • Contribute to our fundraiser. You can choose from some awesome rewards, including copies of Katherine Knight’s book, Passion Purpose Meaning: Arts Activism in Western Sydney. There are only eight $50 vouchers for Taste Cultural Food Tours remaining. You can snap one up before they all go! Gift it to a friend or spoil yourself.
  • Share. Tell your friends why you support SOTA Media. We appreciate that not everyone can financially support our campaign, so don’t forget to include #cultureiseverywhere and we can say a BIG thank you!
  • Read. You can click here to read the talk that started it all at Pitch for Good Parramatta. I spoke about the importance of documenting art and culture from beyond major cities. Will you let me know what you think?

I’d really appreciate any support you can send our way, .
Are you feeling like a cultural crusader?

In creativity,
Natalie

It will soon be four years since Natalie addressed a TEDxYouth@Sydney forum about engaging communities through art. Already in her second year of cultural theory at UNSW’s College of Fine Arts, she was fed up with the lack of creative opportunity for young people in her home suburb of Campbelltown and the constant assumption that people in western Sydney don’t appreciate arts and culture anyway.

She was well aware that the region already had some outstanding arts facilities and programs, like Campbelltown Arts Centre, almost entirely as a result of community advocacy supported by local councils, but there was little for independent young people wanting to explore opportunities for themselves. She knew it was tough, but there wasn’t much encouragement for a career in the arts and little of a climate that welcomed discussion, ideas and experimentation that might support such development.

Rather than accept the status quo, she set out to acquire the skills and experience necessary to enable the emergence of a self-sustaining dynamic creative environment. It had to be okay to trial things and learn from your mistakes. She volunteered and sought mentorship opportunities with creative venues like Campbelltown Arts Centre, 107 Projects in Redfern and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art to analyse and develop some alternative approaches. She was accepted by The School for Social Entrepreneurs last year and completed a course that gave her more of the tools and mentors she needed.

Check out all the links in this story and support in whatever way you can. Five dollars would be a help and $35 will reward you with a copy of the book. We will all benefit.

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Campaign grows with urgent calls to make your own submission to save Parramatta’s national heritage

“Save Australia’s heritage now” is the urgent appeal of North Parramatta Residents Action Group. UrbanGrowth NSW plans to subdivide the Fleet Street heritage site in North Parramatta into super lots to sell off 20ha of a total 30 to private residential development with a goal of 3000 units. President Suzette Meade says, “If you don’t object to the first development application currently on exhibition with City of Parramatta you will be allowing this to occur. Once the sub division is approved the site will be sold to multiple developers.” NPRAG is making submission easy for those short of time or inexperienced in planning language. They have developed a template (click here), which you can edit for your own requirements. Hundreds of people have already responded.

Soap opera star of Home and Away, Shane Withington, has joined the campaign to save the site. Read the Parramatta Sun story and watch their video below.

 

Internationally renowned author of Schindler’s List Thomas Keneally and his daughter Meg have already thrown their complete support behind the community campaign.

An open day on the site, at 5 Fleet St, North Parramatta, has been planned by the UrbanGrowth for tomorrow, Saturday, May 27, from 10am to 4pm. The focus will be the heritage restoration being undertaken, but organisations like The National Trust of Australia, Royal Australian Historical Society, Parramatta Female Factories Friends and NPRAG are all submitting objections to the Council.

Take the opportunity to inspect the extraordinary site and bear NPRAG’s advice in mind:

  • There has been no genuine community consultation – listened then ignored
  • No new infrastructure for 10,000+ extra car movements per day
  • No new schools planned for the thousands of new residents
  • Aboriginal archaeological study not completed

Remember the deadline for submissions is June 13.

Save our heritage and end governance by the interests and values of the Rum Rebellion

Pressure grows for a complete rethink of the state government plans for the sale to developers of 20 hectares (two thirds) of the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. The draft development control plan and development application are currently on exhibition by Parramatta Council until June 13. You can inspect them here. All submissions by that date will be considered before a final decision is made. In light of the continued appropriation of Parramatta Park lands by the state government since UrbanGowth’s plans for North Parramatta Heritage Precinct became public, there is yet another argument for a complete rethink of the “urban transformation project”. A brief glimpse of the treasures of the site is given on a YouTube video recorded by historian Dr Terry Smith, above.

Among those supporting NPRAG’s campaign to save the site is internationally renowned author Thomas Keneally, left, and his daughter Meg, who is a direct descendant of a woman of the convict Parramatta Female Factory. Watch them on YouTube as they explain.

By chance I heard Michael Cathcart’s interview on ABC RN with author Judith White on May 10. She is a former executive director of the Art Gallery Society of NSW and her book is called Culture Heist: Art Versus Money. I was transfixed when he asked about her opinion that government appointed boards of NSW arts institutions “continue to play out the interests and values of the Rum Rebellion“. The 1808 rebellion, just 20 years after the establishment of the colony of New South Wales, was a coup by the military and property elite to protect their power and influence from control by the British government. Their self-appointed government lasted two years.

Judith White believes those early attitudes of protecting power and influence are still systemic in NSW and distinguish the management of state government arts institutions from their now more successful counterparts in Victoria and Queensland. She doesn’t suggest that people start out with bad intentions, but rather that the power and influence of the business and property elite play out behind the scenes in NSW in subtle ways. She suggests that the NSW government gives priority to status in the corporate world of appointees to boards of directors rather than to their commitment and advocacy for the arts. It’s the same criticism made last year by former director of the Australian Museum, Dr Desmond Griffin, about appointments to governing boards of NSW cultural institutions. They lack experience in best museum practice.

Was this a clue to why it is that UrbanGrowth NSW seems so adept at conducting community consultations about the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct and then paying little attention to the results? Where are the advocates for history and heritage within the leadership? UrbanGrowth NSW is the agency responsible for developing and implementing the state government’s plans to subdivide and sell most of the North Parramatta site for “urban transformation” to high rise apartments for thousands of new residents.

An interesting assessment of Parramatta’s transformation to “Australia’s next great city” and of the NSW government’s treatment of Parramatta Park and heritage sites appears in the landscape architects online publication Foreground. Paulette Wallace has a PhD in cultural heritage and international experience in the field. She writes, “One of the core issues with Parramatta’s transformation is that development appears to be placing state interests above local interests . . . Parramatta, it seems, is at risk of an enforced vibrancy, which gives the people what the government says they need, rather than what a democratically-elected council might implement in response to the demands of its constituents.”

The publicly owned green hectares of Parramatta Park extend around the World Heritage listed Old Government House (above) overlooking Parramatta River and the city. This year, the state government has already demolished Parramatta War Memorial Pool on the parkland (Foreground’s photo this month, right, of the ruins of Parramatta War Memorial Swimming Pool), in order to expand the adjoining Parramatta Stadium. While the previous Parramatta Council was complicit in this decision, the community was largely unaware until mid last year, by which time it was too late.

No alternative plans had been developed for the thousands of regular pool patrons. It is only their furious protests that have belatedly led to state and council’s recent commitments of million of dollars to build an alternative aquatic centre in the next five to seven years. In the meantime, the state government is preparing to annex the Mays Hill precinct of Parramatta Park for the proposed swim centre.

Desmond Griffin was scathing in his criticism of the proposal to relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. No feasibility study or evaluation of cultural impact were conducted he said. He also said that NSW is the only state without a major history museum. This is an issue that has surfaced repeatedly in the community struggle to resist the proposed future development of the Parramatta North (Fleet Street) Heritage Precinct by the NSW Government. The 30 hectare site, across the Parramatta River from the Old Government House in Parramatta Park, is the site of some of the most significant elements of Australia’s colonial history and thousands of years of pre-colonial Aboriginal custodianship.

Another layer to NSW planning was added with the creation of the Greater Sydney Commission in 2015 by the NSW government. Chief commissioner Lucy Turnbull, is a business woman, former lord mayor of Sydney and wife of the Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. She says, “In Parramatta, the amenity and cultural importance of places such as Centenary Square, Parramatta Square and Parramatta Park need to be recognised and protected. We must ensure the highest standards for Parramatta’s public spaces.”

Now there are some glimmers of hope. After the abrupt departure of Premier Mike Baird in January this year, there are some encouraging signs that new premier Gladys Berejiklian may be listening a little more carefully. Her new minister for the arts Don Harwin, has announced community consultations about what the community wants of a new world-class museum for Parramatta (artist’s impression, left. Doubts have emerged about moving part or all of the Powerhouse collection from Sydney to Parramatta, to a council owned site on Parramatta River. Register to participate in consultations.

President of North Parramatta Residents Action Group, Suzette Meade says, “We will be presenting to the Arts Minister and the Premier our alternative vision, left, for this once in a lifetime opportunity to create a world class arts and cultural precinct at the Fleet Street heritage precinct in North Parramatta. This is our chance to recognise that Parramatta is a highly unique and important piece of our state and country’s cultural heritage. Imagine the premier state not having a Museum of NSW.” The History Council of NSW supports the consultations.

UrbanGrowth NSW is holding an open day at the Parramatta North site, 5 Fleet Street, Parramatta, on Saturday 27 May, 10am-4pm. They state it is “to allow the community to see what’s happening on the site and learn more about what’s planned over the next 7 to 10 years as we conserve, unlock and share the heritage of Parramatta North. See the archaeologists at work and view the artefacts on display.  Discover what is being done to protect the local flying fox colony, and find out how the important heritage is being conserved.” Registration and information. Be prepared to ask the tough questions about where the high rise buildings will go and the proposed light rail route. North Parramatta Resident Action Group will also maintain a Save Our Heritage Vigil at the gates from 10am.

The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project is presenting Long Time Coming Home, on the same day between 12pm-4pm. Enter via 1 Fleet Street, to explore the site’s indigenous legacy.  Visitors are welcome to explore this historic child welfare institutional site.

Community advocacy confronts the challenges of heritage conservation

A dedicated communprag-first-rally-0215nity activist needs the characteristics of a fine actor – the sensitivity of a butterfly and the hide of a rhinoceros. Oh, and the wisdom of Solomon and the stamina of a marathon runner. It has been a headlong rush for the management committee and membership to learn and respond since the founding of North Parramatta Residents Action Group two years ago. (Locals assemble for the first rally above.) Some have no prior experience of community organisations. Passion for their cause is deep and emotions run high. More than a year ago, a general meeting of members affirmed the right of the management committee to take action on their behalf, without first consulting the membership. Action is often required quickly in response to government decisions.

Ratstudio-gl-ugnsw-overviewher than simply object to state government proposals to sell off most of one of the nation’s most important heritage sites for the development of nearly 3000 new apartments, left, North Parramatta Residents Action Group has been committed to developing an alternative vision, below left. Surveys of local residents and members since the group’s studio-gl-nprag-concept-overviewfounding two years ago, a symposium in 2015, which attracted a wide range of planning expertise and community experience all produced ideas and opinions, which have helped shape their vision.

NPRAG was spurred into life when UrbanGrowth NSW claimed in 2014 that extensive NPRAG rally crowdcommunity consultation had shaped their draft masterplan for the sale and development of what is now the Cumberland Hospital site. Most local residents had never heard of the proposals and those who had, at the protest rally left, were bitterly opposed to the high rise apartment blocks comprising the bulk of the plan. Within weeks, a constitution had been drawn up and membership established. They were determined to protect and enhance the historic buildings and sites of the Parramatta local government area, especially those of national and World Heritage significance; oppose the over-development of Cumberland Hospital and Parramatta Park precincts; and support retention and public ownership of existing active and passive recreation sites, including Parramatta pool. The pool and the stadium occupy designated Parramatta Park land.

Council amalgamations forced by the former Baird Government from mid 2016, don’t allow for local government elections until September this year, so the usual democratic channels are not available to citizens. The result has been frustration and fears of a deliberate state government campaign to exclude community protest and participation.

nprag-pool-protest-1216Under the dynamic leadership of president Suzette Meade, the committee has raised thousands of dollars towards their cause. Most recently they commissioned architects Studio GL to draw artists impressions of the developments proposed by UGNSW from plans available on the government website. Studio GL then created a second set of artists impressions of NPRAG’s alternative proposals for the same sites – a cultural/arts precinct free of any residential development. The drawings were displayed at a December protest, above, about the demolition of Parramatta pool to accommodate the stadium’s expansion, and then at Australia Day celebrations in Parramatta Park. Some of those drawings illustrate this post.

The Australia Day stall was a joint effort of NPRAG and Parramatta Female Factory Friends, who established a formal memorandum of understanding between them in early 2016. Working in partnership with other groups like the National Trust, Parramatta Female Factory Friends, Parramatta Female Factory Precinct: Memory Project and Parramatta Chamber of Commerce has been NPRAG’s practice from the start. Members are keen to learn from those with a history of advocating heritage preservation, while engaging the community in new ways of thinking about their past and planning their future together.

“Click advocacy is now possible through digital activism,” Suzette says, “and community activism is inevitably political.” The state government has been insisting that the only way they can fund the preservation of heritage is by selling most of the surrounding site to developers. NPRAG is determined to demonstrate alternative solutions. An arts and cultural precinct can have a multiplier effect, NPRAG believes, with economic benefits including domestic and international tourism and the physical and mental wellbeing of residents

Everyone wnprag-pfff-australia-day-1orking on the Australia Day stall, left, near Old Government House in Parramatta Park was surprised by the size of the crowd and the numbers who had still never heard of the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. Two hundred years of colonial history and evidence of thousands of years of Aboriginal custodianship are encompassed by the 30 hectare site. Old hands and recent arrivals from India, China and south east Asian nprag-1630_n_parramatta_fshp_artistimpressionsonly_161115_3-300x212countries were fascinated by the stories and eager for more information.

As Suzette later wrote: “As you can see from the picture (top), NPRAG’s Alternative Vision drawings displayed on easels, brought the crowds to the stall and helped direct hundreds of signatures to the PFFF petition (for National Heritage listing nprag-1630_n_parramatta_fshp_artistimpressionsonly_161115_4-300x212of the convict Parramatta Female Factory) and to NPRAG’s Save our Heritage and Pool petition to the state government. We also welcomed 44 new NPRAG members.” NPRAG now has several hundred members and 3500 active followers on social media. One of the challenges is to convert social media followers into a politically acknowledged advocacy voice.

The upper drawing is an artist’s impression of the state government plan to privatise public land for a suburb. Below, is NPRAG’s vision for the same site surrounding the old cricket pavilion open to the public for cultural, mental and physical health benefits.

Suzette, whose background includes project management in the construction industry, summarises NPRAG’s vision for the future, “Over a decade we could develop – affordably – a hub for creative minds with rehearsal spaces, artist studios, community centres with a world class art gallery and museum of NSW celebrating our migration history together with the first centre of indigenous reconciliation and excellence, surrounded by an interactive-family focused sculpture park among renewed colonial botanical plantings. There would be an outdoor performance space and indoor auditoria, with practice and smaller presentation rooms. There would be a connection with Parramatta Park via a foot bridge to link the government lands and the cultural ribbon along the river. All keeping this green public space accessible for the expanding population of Parramatta to both recreate and create in.”

suzette-meade-0117Passions run high among those who are fighting for a better future for the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct, also known as the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. It’s not always easy for determination and respectful discussion to go hand in hand and Suzette is acutely conscious that her role is to allow all voices to be heard. She says, “Maybe if UGNSW worked with the community and residents genuinely from the outset better outcomes would have progressed. Why is it up to the community to make sure the right thing is done to our green space and heritage?”

parramatta-ch-c-michael_mekhitarianPresident of Parramatta Chamber of Commerce Michael Mekhitarian believes there is merit in NPRAG’s proposals, though he considers there may be a need for a greater mix of heritage, commercial, arts/cultural and residential in the precinct. He urges UrbanGrowth and NPRAG to sit down together and have a conversation. “We want the best outcome for the people of Parramatta. We need to be able to attract the best and brightest. Think of the residents if nothing else.” NPRAG has certainly tried to do this with UGNSW.

If you can spare 30 minutes, go to this link (http://bit.ly/2hBF94H). Overcoming Challenges in Community Advocacy was Suzette Meade’s speech to the Royal Australian Historical Society Annual Conference in October 2016. It not only outlines NPRAG’s operations and achievements, but offers valuable advice for many community organisations advocating change.

Arts, sport and pushing back against fear

1-hakawati-team-and-ntopI could kick myself that I’m too late to get a seat for Hakawati, right, National Theatre of Parramatta’s show currently part of Sydney Festival. On the other hand who could begrudge NTofP‘s sold-out success at El Phoenician Restaurant-Bar and the enthusiastic reviews? Hakawati draws on ancient Arabic traditions of entertaining through story telling while sharing a meal, at the same time offering insight into contemporary issues with a powerful western Sydney twist. The show has proved so popular that a return season is planned for later in the year. Click on this link for notification of dates when they are advised..

I was more successful in booking for Champions, at Carriageworks, this week, where the skills of contemporary dance and soccer collide. Directed by Martin del Amo, assisted by Miranda Wheen, Champions tells the story of an all female soccer team and their preparation and performance in a drama filled match. Blurring the boundaries between the elite skills of 1-1-champions-form-dance-projects-photo-by-heidrun-l_hr-webdance and sport, the team worked with coaches and athletes from Western Sydney Wanderers. Channel Seven sports presenter Mel McLaughlin provides analysis and commentary in the show. If Champions, left, has anything like the qualities of previous Form Dance Project productions, including the linked Dance Makers Collective’s Dads, last November, it will be enthralling, thought provoking and highly entertaining.

Providing background to my thoughts about these and many other productions engaging western Sydney artists are the heartfelt observations of two such creatives shortly before Christmas. The first is Aanisa Vylet (below right preparing for Daisy Moon Was Born This Way to be produced by The Q at The Joan, Penrith in 2017, photo by Alana Dimou) – gifted actor, director, adventurous and generous spirit. That’s also Aanisa in the bottom right hand corner of the Hakawati photo above, where she has been dramaturge to the production. On December 21, she posted on her blog Secrets : From one artist to another. Do read it.

aanisa-daisy-moon-q-2017-photo-alana-dimou“I feel like we are living in a very unpredictable and frightening political landscape. I have had this idea sitting in my chest: to write a blog of secrets and tips that I would whisper to a fellow artist…to offer support. So these are some values and strategies that have kept me going as an actress, artist and outsider for the last 11 years . . .”

I’ll leave you to read the 10 points for yourself, but her final note is illuminating. “I will share one last secret…at the beginning of this year, I told myself – “Ok, so this is your last chance to be an actress/artist, you need to give it your best shot and if you don’t land something and if your play turns to shit – you need to find another career and accept it. This is your last shot. NO HOLDING BACK.

“I have not had the time to write a blog this year because I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of what I have experienced. I still had moments where I was  afraid, mistrustful of myself and of the the world at large. What if I eliminate all fear?”

1-natalie-dec-2016On a related theme are the writings of passionate community activist and creative entrepreneur, Natalie Wadwell, left. Natalie is concerned that the arts are not valued in the community in the same way as sport and yet their contributions to physical and mental skills, imagination, social cohesion and much more have many features in common. She wants to see more artists of all disciplines engage directly with communities, take courage in forging their own pathways and enlarge our understandings of our shared humanity.

She is continually putting her words into action. With her colleague Lucinda Davison, they have established a website State of the Arts. It has a big vision – “It aims to bring together creatives, art writers, performers, musicians and art organisations to investigate, engage and promote the diversity of creative initiatives and cultures. From the northern plains to the southern basin of NSW, including Greater Western Sydney and the ACT, State of the Arts will be a guide from country to coast.” Now they are advertising for help in developing their website.

natalie-web-developerState of the Arts web developer [PAID OPPORTUNITY]
Help State of the Arts refine our platform and shape new features to be launched in April 2017. Live, work or playing across Western Sydney or Regional NSW is not essential, but desirable (we want to support local).
If you or a mate you would highly recommend is interested send us an email with the subject line ‘I can web, mate,’ and three samples of recent work.”

Like so many others, Aanisa and Natalie are determined to push back agains the clouds of fear constantly under discussion in mainstream and social media. Working collaboratively, talking openly and honestly about concerns and sharing explorations towards better understanding are just some of their tools. Fear can engender more fear which just ends in paralysis. I love the Bernard Shaw line famously only half quoted by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in the 1970s, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy . . .  my child, but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Sacred music launch highlights Aboriginal spirit of country and inspires hope

1-IMG_4705I missed the opening event of the Sydney Sacred Music Festival, but by chance discovered unexpected beauty and symbolism. Owing to wet weather, The Gathering Ceremony at Marrong, featuring internationally acclaimed Aboriginal musician William Barton, was transferred from Marrong or Prospect Hill, to Pemulwuy Community Centre. I missed the message and arrived instead at the foot of the hill in Daruga Ave, Pemulwuy, at 2pm, last Friday, September 2. With no one in sight, the concert was clearly happening elsewhere. From the road, the view was of carefully landscaped bushland, polished steel and timber stairways, and signage including Burra – the Darug word for food – found in the bush around.

The hill is a central feature of the Cumberland Plains and the region of western Sydney. The sight was a revelation. The last time I had been on the hill was probably more than 20 years ago. The hillside was deeply scarred after years of mining for building and roadmaking materials, and battered old pine trees still formed a windbreak of sorts along the ridge line. At Worlds Collide, the Festival concert on the following night, others confirmed their only consciousness of public discussion about the hill was a pre-Bicentenary proposal in the 1980s for a giant flagpole on the hill – a symbol of white Australian triumphalism. In the 30 years since that time, a quiet revolution had been taking place with many participants, particularly members of then Holroyd Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee and local resident Jacqui Douglas, a descendant of the Malyankapa language group of western NSW.

1-IMG_4709Jacqui’s research of early documents had led her to question why the third colonial settlement of Portland Place, established at the base of Prospect Hill in 1791 appeared to have been abandoned in favour of Toongabbie, now officially recognised as the third white settlement in Australia. Holroyd Council commissioned historian Michael Flynn to undertake a formal study of Portland Place and the indigenous history of Holroyd. Three months after the establishment of the penal colony at Sydney Cove in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip set out with a party including Captain Llieutenant Watkin Tench to search for arable land for growing crops. On the fifth day, they arrived at what was soon known as Prospect Hill because of its fine vistas and dominant position in the landscape. Settlement followed but quickly met with Aboriginal resistance. Attacks and counter attacks were occurring elsewhere in the colony. In a chapter called War on the Cumberland Plain, in her award winning book The Colony: A History of Early Sydney, associate professor Grace Karskens details the complexities of relationships that were emerging between Aboriginal groups and white settlers throughout this period. There was no simple racial divide, but a network of sympathies and conflicts between and among Aboriginal and white groups across the plains. Outstanding among the Aboriginal resistance fighters was Bidgigal man, Penmulwuy from the Botany Bay area whose defiant exploits took him to many locations around Sydney. In 1802, despite previous remarkable escapes, Pemulwuy was killed.

1-IMG_4708Grace Karskens writes that in 1805, Governor King reintroduced the strategy that had successfully eliminated Pemulwuy. “A few days later, Aboriginal people of Prospect, Parramatta and the Cowpastures asked (the Reverend) Samuel Marsden to attend a conference ‘with a view to opening the way to reconciliation’. A complex dance of diplomacy and negotiation followed, brokered by Aboriginal women with the assistance of  Prospect settler, Jonathon (also called John) Kennedy, When Marsden arrived at the appointed place, the women told him that the men were in conference and would be calling on him when they were ready. And they did: . . .” Skirmishes in the area died down, though they continued elsewhere, particularly where white settlements had destroyed access to indigenous food sources.

The peace talks were held on May 3, 1805. On Monday, May 4, 2015, the 210th anniversary of the talks, Marrong Reserve was officially launched by the Mayor of Holroyd, Greg Cummings and Darug Elder, Aunty Sandra Lee. The commemorative plaque acknowledged the contribution of resources for the establishment of the reserve from Lend Lease and Boral Resources (NSW) Pty Limited. A Holroyd Council media release stated that “Marrong Reserve provides recreational, cultural and visual amenity to the residents of Pemulwuy and surrounding areas, and is named after the Aboriginal word for Prospect Hill because it follows the ridgeline. . . . The Reserve will be dedicated to Council by land owner, Boral Resources (NSW) Pty Limited and developer, Lend Lease after a maintenance period. The northern section of Marrong Reserve has been completed as Stage 1 with the expectation that Lend Lease will develop the southern portion as Stage 2.”

1-IMG_4704As I walked through the misty rain on Marrong, I heard and saw currawongs, kookaburras, crested pigeons and little finches. The surrounding scrub looked like a metaphor for the symbolic nature of the hill itself. Introduced plants like lantana threatened to overwhelm native shrubs, but other native grasses and trees flourished and hardenbergias were resplendent in purple spring flowers. Clearly there is a lot more planned for the reclamation and maintenance of Marrong/Prospect as a focal point for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal intercultural understanding and respect. Martha Jabour, cultural officer for the new Cumberland Council, which has absorbed much of the former Holroyd and Auburn Councils, writes that “the treatment of Marrong is very much about the work of our ATSI committee. Recent forums and programs have been effective in bringing  additional Aboriginal partners to the process.”

With so much progress in little more than 20 years, it’s encouraging to think that the hotly contested North Parramatta Heritage Precinct might yet emerge as another example of honest Australian story telling, self knowledge, education and cultural tourism. Advocates are heartened by the outstanding 10 year record of achievement of Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne as a model for their future. Click here to see the video highlighted by North Parramatta Resident Action Group president Suzette Meade.

1-img_1706I arrived at the Pemulwuy Community Centre, just as William Barton and his mother Aunty Delmae Barton finished their performance for The Gathering Ceremony. Their audience was clearly uplifted by the experience. Thanks to Martha Jabour for her photo. By good fortune, the artists were present at the following night’s Worlds Collide concert and improvised with musicians in the first piece to the delight of the crowd. Sydney Sacred Music Festival program continues Sydney wide until September 18.

A champion of liveable spaces speaks out before NSW crown land enquiry

N Parra - artist's impressionAt last, a note of sanity! As the dust settles following an excoriating federal election campaign and we all try to make sense of the results, some interesting moves have been occurring at state government level. On June 22, there was a NSW parliamentary summit, attended by MPs from across the parliament, community groups and crown land campaigners. They were unanimous in supporting a parliamentary enquiry and called for an immediate moratorium on any Crown and public land being sold or developed until the enquiry reports. The enquiry was established in the NSW Upper House on the following day. The enquiry has comprehensive terms of reference and a timeline to ensure that it reports before a Crown Land Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament in spring.

1-NPRAG - Jack MundeyAbove is one of the early images published by UrbanGrowth NSW for the government’s proposed sale and development of land in the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. North Parramattta Residents Action Group, has been leading the fight for community consultation about the future of the site and resistance to excessive development. NPRAG president Suzette Meade was one of those who participated in the parliamentary summit. Left, Suzette is partly hidden from view behind heritage conservation warrior Jack Mundey at last year’s precinct rally. The Upper House enquiry into Crown Lands willl close on July 24. Many submissions are taking shape, but there’s still time and need for more. Click here for information.

On their website, NPRAG states that “it will remain a challenge for the community to ensure that this public land and its national heritage, river connectivity and potential open space and parkland, is allowed to realise its full potential beyond merely satisfying a government mandated housing quota.” Members argue repeatedly that the planned growth of Parramatta and its increase in high density apartment living renders the need for green space ever more important.

Then in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, they found unexpected support. Lucy Turnbull, chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, wrote , “The role of the Greater Sydney Commission in Parramatta is to work with the community, industry and all agencies of the state government to ensure that the principles of great city building are applied to greater Parramatta as it grows.

“These principles include ensuring that good urban design and place making leads to greater liveability. As more and more people live, work and study in and enjoy the Parramatta CBD, access to sunlight and high quality open spaces will be even more important. There are great examples in Sydney of how the right balance can be struck, with developments rising up around public open spaces without overshadowing them. Hyde Park, the Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens are all protected from overshadowing. Parramatta deserves this too.” This was exactly the argument NPRAG used in its postcard campaign last December.

NPRAG - postcard campaign

 

 

 

 

 

To make a submission to the Crown Lands Enquiry, find guidelines and advice on the NPRAG website. Of course, where there are issues of this kind in your part of the region, or state, adapt the information about Parramatta for your own use.