Democracy repeatedly sabotaged in heritage, arts and cultural planning

Sabotage – to destroy, damage or disrupt, especially by secret means.

Parramatta Council has published a cultural discussion paper and is inviting community responses by April 7. Culture and Our City – a cultural discussion paper for Parramatta’s CBD is seeking feedback and ideas to contribute to a new cultural plan. I urge you to read it and respond. The plan is intended to guide arts and cultural directions, over the next five years and beyond. Somewhat unexpectedly, I found myself reacting with anger and frustration. Yes, I had been a willing participant in a focus group for the discussion paper, but my frustration was not with the research or the principles articulated in the draft.

Bear with me, this requires some explanation.

The research was commissioned by the new City of Parramatta Council, which is administered by an appointee of the NSW Government. There will be no democratically elected council until September, by which time the state government will have run the show since May 2016. No government would allow the release of a document in its name without its approval and authorisation and it shows in this one. The parameters of the research are restricted to Parramatta’s CBD and do not include the rest of Parramatta’s local government area, including the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. For almost 70 years, the Parramatta community has been tantalised with promises of cultural opportunity and then betrayed more often than not in their implementation.

According to the 1948 County of Cumberland Scheme released by the NSW Government, Parramatta was to be the most important centre after Sydney. The only drawback at the time was the lack of adequate cultural facilities in Parramatta. I was an active part of a push that led to the opening of Riverside Theatres in Parramatta in 1988, above (Sydney Festival 17 photo), but still there was no gallery. Then the state government, under Labor Premier Bob Carr, invited artists and community members to discussion groups in the late 1990s about the future of the Cumberland Hospital site, now described as the North Parramatta or Fleet Street Heritage Precinct. Opportunities were sketched for future artists studios, music and dance rehearsal spaces, heritage and community facilities – and on the outskirts – medium density residential development – not unlike current proposals by North Parramatta Residents Action Group.

Nothing more was heard until Parramatta Council released its Arts Facilities & Cultural Places Framework (2005) – Parramatta: Identity, Contemporary Culture & Prosperity. “The Parramatta Arts Facilities & Cultural Places Framework 2005,” it said, “will assist Council in establishing a clear direction for the planning, the provision and resourcing of a broad range of arts infrastructure & cultural places for the City over the next ten years. The vitality of Parramatta comes down to establishing cultural assets with a point of difference, that are unique, reflect the community and complement rather than replicate the rest of Sydney’s cultural resources. The City must also build its cultural identity and creative industries to attract, retain, validate, and acknowledge the role of artists in our community, as well as to generate new wealth and prosperity for Parramatta.”

Then Lord Mayor of Parramatta, David Borger, was the political champion of this framework, and officiated at the opening of Parramatta Artists Studios – the foundation component of the framework, where production has continued to flourish. The framework stated there would be three sites for the placement of facilities –

Cluster 1 Venue—Civic Place (the administrative heart of the CBD)

Cluster 2 Venue—Old Kings School (on the bank of Parramatta River and across the road from Riverside Theatres)

Cluster 3 Venue—North Parramatta Mixed Use Site (i.e. North Parramatta Heritage Precinct)
Twelve years later, not one of these facilities has been achieved. The first was not so much a matter of the state government as a fierce struggle between council, landholders and developers. Civic Place, now known as Parramatta Square, left (artist’s impression), is finally under construction, but there is no mention of a major gallery or exhibition space. This is primarily the council’s responsibility.
Determined advocacy by artists, the Western Sydney Arts Lobby and proposals for adaptations of the Old King’s School buildings, continued right up to the March state election in 2011. Then a week before the election, Labor Premier Kristina Keneally announced $24.6 million for the refurbishment and transformation of the heritage buildings into galleries and spaces for arts groups – intended for regional and not just local use, see photo below. The government was defeated and after six months the new Liberal/National Party Government failed to allocate funding and claimed it was an unfunded election promise. In 2015, the government announced the precinct would become a primary school, which is now under construction.
In the meantime, the state government announced the decision to subdivide and sell much of the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct for high rise development.  It claims the sale of one of Australia’s most important historic sites is the only way it can finance preservation of its heritage. A framework masterplan was to be developed by the government agency UrbanGrowth NSW. Local residents were appalled. Many of them lived close by in a Parramatta Council heritage listed zone and by 2013 were banding together in protest. One of them explains their distress, with relevant links:
“There are over 10 conservation areas in Parramatta district and these all have residents. The contradictions between what’s supported and allowed for property developers and for those who are resident in the conservation areas affects more people than just those adjacent to the high density/high rise planned in what’s called the ‘Parramatta North Urban Transformation’. List of conservation areas link. Link to straightforward map of North Parramatta Conservation Area (there are 2 parts of this one area). This map is worth a close look.  The current North Parramatta Heritage area between  O’Connell and Villiers St is very close to 90,000 sq metres in size.

“Regulations governing what can be done by property owners are in the Parramatta Local Environmental Plan 2011   (Current version for 23 September 2016 to date Part 5 Clause 5.10) Parramatta LEP requires owners to organise and pay for all archaeological surveys prior to submitting DAs for approval and construction of a simple garage or shed on their land as it is in a conservation area where it is anticipated features/items of archaeological significance can be found in the land.  Surveys have not been done of the entire conservation area so it falls to each individual to do instance-by-instance. (We can’t even dig a vegetable bed.)

“The inequity and hypocrisy around the different circumstances of those in conservation areas compared to property developers who plan to profit from high rise development in recent rezoning/planning is stark.”

In June 2014, then NSW Premier Mike Baird announced a cultural ambassador for western Sydney, Liz Ann Macgregor, left, the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). For many years, under her leadership, the MCA has worked closely with a “terrific network of galleries, organisations and artists in Western Sydney doing innovative and highly engaging work.” She was keen to bring their work to closer government attention. She was also keen to bring the services of Sydney museums and galleries to the west. In February 2015, Mike Baird announced the sale of the Powerhouse Museum at Darling Harbour and its relocation to Parramatta. To many it was seen merely as a land grab for developers and resistance by Save the Powerhouse supporters was fierce.

Nonetheless, the Powerhouse move was seen by others as symbolic of the state government’s commitment to western Sydney and enthusiastically embraced by David Borger, now the Western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber, and other civic leaders and, more cautiously, by the Western Sydney Arts Lobby. Anything, after all, was better than nothing. Later that year a Deloitte report, commissioned by Sydney Business Chamber – Western Sydney, and three western Sydney councils – Parramatta, Penrith and Liverpool, Building Western Sydney’s Cultural Economy – A Key to Sydney’s Success, recommended relocation of the Powerhouse Museum to western Sydney.

Since then, there has been much debate about what funds the sale of the Darling Harbour site, left, would actually generate, the cost of relocation and whether Parramatta Council should simply donate the announced new site, it already owns, on the banks of the Parramatta River. The current fiasco over the state government’s authorisation of demolition of the city’s main swimming pool to make way for the expansion of a sports stadium is a guide to what may come. Parramatta Council acquiesced without protest, before the administrator was appointed last year. No financial compensation has been made for the loss of the popular pool and no state funds committed to the building of a new one. A new aquatic centre is said to be two to five years away. Sabotage of community interests now seems standard practice.

A year ago, exchange visits between Save the Powerhouse Museum and NPRAG members led to mutual support for each other’s positions and SPM supporting a proposal for a museum unique to Parramatta and the region. The visitors were gobsmacked by the volume and evidence of Australia’s colonial history in the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct and the site’s treasury of thousands of years of Aboriginal custodianship.

Last October, Liz-Ann McGregor was the guest speaker at a Western Sydney University event – the launch of a Bachelor of Creative Industries. The new degree combines majoring in a chosen field within the creative industries, with minors in business management and law. Liz Ann spoke in the presence of WSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover, who was also the newly appointed president of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Trust. The trust will play a pivotal role in the Powerhouse’s relocation to Parramatta (see artist’s impression). She spoke of the current dispiriting atmosphere that surrounds financial support for the arts at state and federal levels and internationally and the likelihood of little change in the foreseeable future. She spoke of her own frustration when arguing with ministers for better support for western Sydney and meeting with a wall of resistance.
In this climate, a long term project like MCA’s C3West offers a model of alternative approaches that have been bringing artists, businesses and community together for more than a decade. A course like the new Bachelor of Creative Industries can equip artists with the financial and marketing skills to enter into these relationships. It takes a long time for artists and business to learn to talk each other’s language, she said. It’s a slow process, but artists can often articulate issues and offer possible solutions.
Under Suzette Meade’s leadership North Parramatta Residents Action Group has been listening to community and working with other organisations to develop an economically viable alternative proposal for the Fleet Street Precinct. They want genuine community consultation. Their supporters and collaborators number in the thousands, but neither state government nor Parramatta Council are really listening.
Is it any wonder she wrote to Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore last week appealing for her help? In a neat summary Elizabeth Farrelly wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald

“This week, when North Parramatta Residents’ Action Group begged Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore to “adopt the community of Parramatta, as we are left without a democratically elected council” there certainly was envy. It was the envy of people deliberately disenfranchised at a moment of great change, people gazing wistfully at a place where local government is strong, free and fair. It was an “I’ll have what she’s having” moment.This envy is entirely justified.

“Parramatta is reeling from a governelopment boom: 3000 apartments on its irreplaceable heritage precinct (Cumberland Hospital, 1818 Female Factory); the $2 billion ultra-ugly Parramatta Square project behind the old town hall; the proposed new Powerhouse, or whatever fragment of it finally drifts up-river; the demolition of the Pirtek Stadium and pool for a bigger, more lucrative stadium (no pool); plus masses of private development like Meriton’s 54-storey Altitude, the city’s tallest tower, on the old David Jones site. Barely a squeak of affordable housing anywhere, and the people held voiceless, all the while, by a government-appointed city administrator.”

It makes better sense to create a cultural hub celebrating indigenous and migration history (NPRAG’s Artist’s impression in their Alternative Vision, above)

I’m off for three weeks to New Zealand. Family members there tell me local governments are guided by democratically elected advisory committees and it is one of the world’s most democratic countries. Now there’s an idea!
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Western Sydney Frontier – does this blog have a future?

1-IMG_4548Have you ever read posts on this blog and thought how they could be further developed? Feedback has suggested there could be more critical depth to the story telling and discussion encouraged of ideas and creative proposals. A continuously updated “what’s on” section, space for reviews of exhibitions, performances, events, books etc, and listing of opportunities – workshops, auditions, employment? Feature items by invited contributors?

Well, now is your chance. By the end of this year I will have reached the age of 75 and would like to pull back from my current engagement. Having a range of contributors would greatly increase the value of the blog, but would require clearly developed policy, shared management and editorial responsibility and more sophisticated technology. A multi-platform website may be one answer and/or a collaborative blogging platform. Clearly, this needs skilled advice. If Western Sydney Frontier is now superseded by other blogs and websites, I am happy to let it wind down and just deliver occasional posts myself.

NPRAG rally T shirtIn the meantime, it’s worth considering some facts. Two subjects which have attracted the largest response are those around Aboriginal experience (see Appin Massacre 200th anniversary commemoration, photo above) and national heritage issues particularly the convict Parramatta Female Factory Precinct in North Parramatta, left, and the former Parramatta Girls Home.

What has been the response since the launch of Western Sydney Frontier in February 2014? WordPress statistics seem to be a bit contradictory, e.g. in recording Facebook links, but the broad figures seem consistent. There are only about 100 followers – people usually “follow” in response to a particular story, whereas the broad reach of the blog across the region and across art forms is usually too broad for most readers – in its present form, anyway. At the time of writing there have been 12,000 visitors in two and a half years and 18,500 views. Best total views in one day – 263, Feb 11, 2016 – Confront the racist crap and create real change – though WordPress later credited those figures to a different story. The vast majority of visits come from within Australia, but views are recorded from a multitude of different countries. 144 posts have been published and 103 comments recorded in response – the reply facility on this particular blog design (Twenty Eleven theme) is disappointingly obscure, so that conversations that begin, rarely have the chance to develop.

What is the anecdotal feedback? Feedback is mostly verbal and generally enthusiastic, though infrequent. Those who are the subjects of stories, usually express great appreciation and share the stories through Facebook, Twitter etc. There are plenty of others who share the links through social media, too. As you know, there is such a plethora of online information and comment, it can be hard to register in the public mind.

If you would like to reply with comments or suggestions – preferably about what you would do, not what I should do, please click on the Leave a reply link at the bottom of the post, click on the Join In page under the blog’s header, or message me or comment under the link on the Passion Purpose Meaning Facebook page. Many thanks.

william+barton+sacred+musicIn the meantime, some of the best developments occurring across the region are represented in the opening events of the 2016 Sydney Sacred Music Festival. Director Richard Petkovic has worked in partnership with Cumberland Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultative Committee. “Come and see Sydney in a 360 degree panoramic view and be part of The Gathering Ceremony, on Friday, September 2, at 2pm.” he says. “Featuring internationally acclaimed artist, William Barton, above, The Gathering Ceremony will bring together the local Aboriginal community to relaunch Marrong (Prospect Hill) as a significant place of culture for Aboriginal people. A place of spirit, a place of the Crow (Pemulwuy’s totem).”

On the following night, at 7pm, Sydney Sacred Music Festival launches Worlds Collide – Eight Storeys High, Seven Cultures, One Amazing New Sound – A live multimedia performance of contemporary world and electronic dance music on Wentworth Street Carpark in Parramatta’s CBD. Here is a short video promo of the music element

Richard says, “The roofworlds+collide+sacred+music+festival top will be transformed into an artistic wonderland, featuring art installations by Khaled Sabsabi, Marian Abboud and Ghasan Saaid, video projections, interactive dance workshops and the world premiere of the Arts NSW funded, Worlds Collide ensemble. Worlds Collide brings together the best world musicians in Sydney and fuses the South Asian Underground beats of Coco Varma’s Sitar Funk, the acoustic world fusion of the Shohrat Tursun Trio; Latin music legend Victor Valdes; soaring vocals of Blue Mary’s Maria Mitar and the hip hop rhymes of Mt Druitt’s Esky the Emcee, all under the direction of music producer and composer Richard Petkovic (Cultural Arts Collective).

Worlds Collide will invite the audience to move their bodies, from meditative drones and sacred African chants to full on dance beats with soaring vocals and hip hop rhymes, this performance is designed to take the listener on a journey into the new sound of multicultural Australia.” Program details and bookings.

Could this be Penrith’s creative hub for the future?

Breuer Building - Penrith 1Local artists and theatre makers are holding their collective breath that an appropriate buyer might purchase a building currently on the market in Penrith. For some years they have been seeking a suitable space as an arts and cultural hub, where people can work together to create events and products, to teach and learn from each other and to provide a flourishing centre of inspiration for the entire community. The building is the only one in Australia designed by modernist architect Marcel Breuer, whose most famous work is the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. It was one of several around the world originally designed for the Torin Corporation, manufacturers of air moving equipment. The building was designed in collaboration with architect Harry Seidler and landscape architect Bruce Rickard. It was completed in 1976 and state heritage listed in 2009.

The BreueBreuer Building - Penrith 2r building is located in Coombes Drive just off Coreen Avenue.  Photos of the building by Max Dupain were published in Architecture Australia, Vol. 66, No. 3 in July 1977. On Facebook Billy Gruner has posted some of the photos, see left and below. He asks “Should this be the new centre for Art, Culture and Design in the West? The fabulous Marcel Breuer building is for sale in Penrith. This building needs to be lobbied as the location of a Centre of Contemporary Arts and Culture in the West. Penrith Breuer Building - Penrith 3set on the river at the foot of the Blue Mountains already houses the Western Sydney University, TAFE, a major hospital and medical centres. Many would like to see this national treasure  turned into a community asset. Please pass this on to friends and associates.” On Theatre Links in the West, Ian Zammit says, “This could be a game changer for our city and our cultural life.”

Penrith was the first local government in western Sydney to provide a home for the region’s first professional theatre company, Q Theatre, in 1977. It opened a regional art gallery in 1981 in association with the Lewers Bequest, and launched The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in 1990. The Joan, as it became known, also incorporated the Penrith Conservatorium of Music.

While these spaces are greatly appreciated and well used, they are too costly and inappropriate for the messy activities and experimentation that can produce the completed works for presentation in these other facilities. The Breuer building looks like a perfect solution. What do you think?

Finding hidden treasures through community engagement

1-ICE_Under-the-Awnings_Exhibition-FinalYou are invited to attend a brief exhibition at Parklawn Place in North St
Marys, between 4.30 and 5.30pm, on Wednesday, May 25. It will be the culmination of a project that has seen local kids, businesses and community members collaborate with renowned photographer, Peter Solness (TIME Magazine) and acclaimed screenwriter Nico Lathouris (Mad Max 4-­‐ Fury Road) to create Under the Awnings. After setting up their cameras under shop awnings, in North St Marys,  Peter and Nico captured people and moments as they moved about their daily lives. Peter said. “People work really hard here, so we just asked them to stop for a few minutes so we could take a snapshot.”

The exhibition will feature large photographic prints, video art, live music and refreshments from the local shops, Under the Awnings celebrates local faces, magnified by the expertise of the two artists. It is a way of letting people see their own lives and others’ from a different perspective and to recognise their uniqueness and the cultural riches of their community’s diversity. North St Marys is a small suburb of Penrith, largely untouched by development ICE - Dr Sayed Hasnain - Under the Awningsthat has been a beneficiary of Penrith Council’s Magnetic Places program. The small grants program has connected artists with communities, organisations and businesses since 2009. It helps animate and celebrate neighbourhoods, make stronger social and creative connections, and develop skills, resourcefulness and confidence among participants.

Above, right, is Peter Solness’s portrait of Dr Sayed Hasnain and below left, his portrait of Rosemary from Mario’s Pastizzi. Among other local businesses in Under the Awnings is Flora’s Fijian hair styling, which attracts clients from across Sydney. Art ICE - Rosemary - Under the Awningsstudents from nearby Chifley College are also featured. Different organisations partner with communities and artists to conduct projects and it’s worth looking at Magnetic Places Blogspot from 2013 to see something of their range and social impact. Under the Awnings is a project of the community engagement unit of Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) and produced by Christian Tancred. You will be a welcome visitor to Under the Awnings on Wednesday, May 25.

Aboriginal leaders are talking the change and changing the talk

1-IMG_4522An ABC TV report on Sunday, April 17, estimated 1000 people attended the 200th anniversary memorial of the massacre of Aboriginal men, women and children at Appin, April 17, 1816. It was many more than had attended the memorial in any of the last 20 years and a pleasing reassurance to the organisers, led by the descendants of the Dharawal (also Tharawal) people who survived. Dharawal elder Uncle Ivan Wellington, left, explains to an ABC film crew early in the day how he has been working for 30 years to educate people about the consequences of white colonisation for Aboriginal people. He makes frequent school visits and is often amazed how little is known about the history of the conflict and the devastation of his people. He is committed to passing on cultural knowledge to young Aboriginal people, developing their confidence and pride in their ancestry. His work and that of his fellow descendants is clearly bearing fruit, which could be see in the program that followed.

The day began with a free sausage sizzle in the Cataract Dam Recreation Area, supported by Wollondilly, Camden and Campbelltown Councils, community organisations 1-IMG_4531and schools. Aboriginal families gathered – some of Dharawal descent – others more recently arrived from different Aboriginal lands. Yet others were non-Aboriginal like me – there to give support. Later, we all descended to a large site near the wall of the dam, overlooking the spillway into the gorge, where the crowd could be seated in a wide circle for the ceremony. Nor far above, in a rocky, sheltered niche, right, lay the memorial plaque –

The massacre of men, women and children of the Dharawal nation occurred near here on April 17, 1816. Fourteen were counted this day, but the real number will never be known. We acknowledge the impact this had and continues to have on the Aboriginal people of this land. We are deeply sorry. We will remember them. Wing Myamly Reconciliation Group. Sponsored by Wollondilly Council.

A ceremonial program and smoking ceremony led by Uncle Ivan began, watched by special guests including – Dharawal and Gundungurra descendants, Aboriginal elders, the Governor of NSW, General The Honorable David Hurley,  state and federal MPs and the mayors of Wollondilly, Camden and Campbelltown. The Welcome to 1-IMG_4548Country was given by Dharawal descendants Frances Bodkin (in Dharawal language), Uncle Ivan, Glenda Chalker, and Gavin Andrews. Gavin told the story of the massacre from a Dharawal perspective and described Governor Macquarie’s instructions to ‘punish the hostile natives by clearing the country of them entirely’ as effectively giving vigilante groups permission to pursue this instruction to the military with a free hand, which he said they continued to do. Pictured above are Dharawal descendants and musicians Matthew and Ken Doyle accompanying Linda in an evocative dance.

For an illustrated background story to the day and to the massacre see the excellent account by professional historian Dr Stephen Gapps.

Wagana in Canberra for the meetup festival 0416Two other noteworthy events were taking place during the same weekend as remembering the Appin massacre. Young members of Wagana Aboriginal Dancers from Katoomba were participating in the meetup youth dance companies festival in Canberra, left, from April 15 to 17. The company has been evolving over a long period under the leadership of Wiradjuri dancer and choreographer Jo Clancy. She was raised and still lives on Gundungurra and Darug country in the Blue Mountains and the dancers’ consultation with elders is a vital part of their growth in cultural knowledge and confidence in their identity.

The other activity was mentioned in the last blog post. On April 14, Moogahlin Performing Arts, based at Carriageworks, posted on Facebook, “Today we kick off ‘NgAl-Lo-Wah Murrytula (Darug: together we share/enjoy)’ – a walk and cultural reclamation project that was initiated by two Western Sydney Elders, Uncle Wes Marne (93 years old) and Aunty Edna Watson (75 years old). Over the next three days they are taking 14 young people who were nominated by their community to participate along arterial roads/walking tracks of Western Sydney, laying down and recording their knowledge along the way.

Moogahlin Perf Arts - Darug elders 0416“Chookas to our Elders, young people, and the rest of our creative and production team! We hope you stay warm and have a wonderful time, and look forward to the stories you’ll share on your return!” Pictured: Aunty Edna Watson, Uncle Wes Marne, Uncle Allie Watson. Image by James Photographic Services.

There is little doubt that the title of the Fairfield exhibition earlier this year was absolutely timely. Talk the Change/Change the Talk. Although painfully slow, change is occurring in Australian race relations under the sustained leadership of Aboriginal people. On April 18, the Sydney Morning Herald carried an item by lawyer Tim Dick Reconciliation is still not on the horizon. Next day, his opinion was refuted by a letter writer Rivers of reconciliation running towards true healing. There is substance in both positions, but the scales of justice are tilting towards Aboriginal people and more Australians appear to be responding.

 

 

Get FUNPARKED this weekend!

Funpark 2016 - WorkshopsWow! It’s happening already! School holiday workshops are underway this week in preparation for FUNPARK at Bidwill on Saturday, April 23. Now making it easier than ever to participate in popular activities from previous FUNPARK celebrations are workshops in Parkour, hulahooping, art and craft and “Let’s paint Bidwell” – see times in poster, left. A packed program will run from 12 noon to 3.30pm, on Saturday in Bidwill Square and the adjacent Bidwell Uniting Grounds. FUNPARK specifically targets young people who live in Mt Druitt. The project continues to involve participants in creative dialogue around the social, civic and imagined spaces of Mt Druitt.

FUNPARK is the brainchild of award winning theatre director, Kaz Therese, whose own childhood was spent in Bidwill and inspires so much of her creative output. It was launched as an event of Sydney Festival in January 2014 and became an annualFunpark 2016 boy event as a result of popular demand. Professional development workshops began in January for FUNPARK 2016. Kaz and her team promise food, live theatre performances, games, and workshops in a whole range of activities, including filmmaking, hip hop, food making and mural creation.

There is a close link between FUNPARK, the Bidwill community and last weekend’s walk and camp in which Aboriginal elders from the Mt Druitt area passed stories, knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next: “Ngal lo wah murraytula”. CuriousWorks in partnership with Moogahlin Performing Arts will be working with the young people who attended this camp over a number of years, to help them tell their own First Nations stories of life in western Sydney. “Ngal lo wah murraytula – Culture is the foundation, learning flows from here. Biaime, Stars and Grandfather Sun. Always today and every day.” Mt Druitt and Bidwill are on Darug country.

The community engagement and skills sharing of FUNPARK has already transformed Bidwill by drawing attention to its previous loss of community facilities and achieving recent upgrades to the square itself, and to shopping and services available.

Funpark 2016
Now in its third year, FUNPARK is supported by a coalition of six companies – Bidwill Uniting, Blacktown Arts Centre, Powerhouse Youth Theatre, CuriousWorks, UNOH and Learning Ground. FUNPARK is now cemented as a long-term creative program for Mt Druitt. Come and see what it’s all about at FUNPARK 2016! APRIL 23rd.

A time for reflection and optimism

Jeannie and Governor Marie BashirAs we now know, after 1909, you had only to be an Aboriginal girl to be taken from family and incarcerated  in the notorious Parramatta Girls Home. Jeannie Hayes was one of those girls, who also endured the vicious punishments of the former Hay Gaol, or Hay Institute. Here she is, left, at a much happier time years later, enjoying the moment as she wears the hat of then Governor of NSW, Marie Bashir, alongside her, at the Children’s Day, 2014. The event was organised by the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct – Memory Project. and the Governor was there to acknowledge the sufferings of the former girls and to plant a tree in the memorial garden. Thanks to Jeannie’s Facebook postings, we are being brought up to date and given time to reflect on developments about the site.

The first is her news of a Youtube video, Abandon All Hope – A History of Parramatta Girls Home compiled and presented by Parragirls founder Bonney Djuric, and made possible by a small grant from Parramatta City Council. It follows Bonney’s publication of her 2011 book of similar name in which she outlined the history of the girls home in the context of the development of child welfare legislation in New South Wales. They are both part of a broader project to ensure that the history of the home and its inmates will never be forgotten, while the buildings will be preserved and re-used to memorialise the girls’ experience within the colonial Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. The site is part of the North Parramatta Urban Transformation Project, currently under consideration by UrbanGrowth NSW. The transformation project is provoking strong community protest because of the speed at which the government is propelling planning.

Christina - ABCJeannie also posted a reminder of the life of Christina Green, also known as Christina Riley, who died last month. Chris was Bonney Djuric’s co-founder of Parragirls, which provides support and healing to former girls. Like Jeannie, Chris was of Aboriginal descent and a former inmate of the Parramatta Girls Home and Hay Institute. Christina was present when former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples in Federal Parliament, February 13, 2008. Her photo, above, accompanied an ABC news report by Eleanor Bell in 2009 – Forgotten woman finds peace from lost childhood.

A memorial to girls abused at the Parramatta Girls Home has just been announced by the State Government. Artists and designers will be invited to submit expressions of interest, with the successful applicant receiving $200,000 to develop the memorial in consultation with survivors.

Wagana - Honolulu FestivalMoving from gravity and reflection, Facebook has also carried plenty of good news from Wagana Aboriginal Dancers in the Blue Mountains. With the support of an ever growing number of families and friends they raised the funds to send four dancers to the 22nd annual Honolulu Festival earlier this month. It was clearly a very rewarding and exciting experience, right, sharing culture with other Pacific nations.

Wagana - BM Music FestivalShortly after their return, they took joyous part in last weekend’s Blue Mountains Music Festival. The importance of teaching and sharing culture with the children of their community is vividly illustrated here. It may be a mode of teaching that doesn’t attract government support, but Wagana is working with a natural and ancient tradition clearly enjoyed by the children.