PARRAMATTA GIRLS HOME AS AN INTERNATIONAL SITE OF CONSCIENCE

Katherine Knight alerts us to an historical perspective to the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sex Abuse.

On 31 January, Bonney Djuric posted on Facebook “See ABC 7.30 Report NSW, tonight Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Parramatta Girls Home”. For over a decade, the former “Parramatta Girl” Bonney has been leading a movement to research and understand the impact of poverty and the child welfare system, as well as to work for system reform and healing for those whose lives were damaged during their time in the institution. This includes the preservation of the Parramatta Girls Home and the adjacent colonial Female Factory site and its dedication as a living memorial to the Forgotten Australians and others marginalised by society.

Bonney’s argument is that Australia’s convict legacy had an influence on its welfare system. The decades of transportation shaped ideas and beliefs about females who could be charged and committed to institutions for being ‘Exposed to Moral Danger’; a charge which did not apply to males. Not even two per cent of the inmates at Parramatta Girls Home, which operated from 1887 to 1986, had been charged with a criminal offence.

In 2007, Bonney contacted UTS Shopfront, the University of Technology Sydney’s gateway to the community. She wanted help in compiling a history of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct. Since then, Parragirls and Shopfront have worked on several projects. Their fourth is the PFFP Memory Project: trace, place, identity, which aims to preserve the precinct’s history and turn it into an internationally recognised Site of Conscience.

With support from Arts NSW, the PFFP Memory Project is presenting a Children’s Day on site on 9 March 2014. And in May Riverside Theatre will present Parramatta Girls by Alana Valentine. The play tells of the courage, hardship and inequality the Parramatta girls experienced.

The photo (by Mike Chin) shows The Memory Project’s core team: artist, Mike Chin, former Parramatta Girls – Jeannie (Gypsie) Hayes and Bonnie Djuric, indigenous artist and teacher Leanne Tobin, playwright Alana Valentine and artist and teacher Liz Day.

Comments are now closed on this post. If you have a story about abuse at the Parramatta Girls Home we recommend that you contact the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Happy New Year!

As Australia faces a week of soaring temperatures, this post takes us to snow-bound Washington DC where the 2014 American Historical Association (AHA) meeting recently took place. It is a short entry, offering some links to material you might have time to explore before 2014 gets into top gear and which may be useful in the context of the forthcoming debates about Australia’s national curriculum sparked by Christopher Pyne’s announcement of a review to be conducted by Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly. Submissions can be made until 28 February 2014. See http://www.studentsfirst.gov.au/review-australian-curriculum

Kenneth Pomeranz, president of the AHA, spoke in his keynote address about how history teaching is responding to changing geography. He challenged the idea of nations as containers of histories by examining past and present global flows of peoples and commodities. He also argued that history conveys skills in how to frame problems arising in a globalised world.

Pomeranz’s article in the December 2013 edition of Perspectives in History is also worth reading. It reminds us of the importance of explaining what is distinctive about the discipline of history, and how making that distinction clear can help fortify its place in the curriculum. Pomeranz lists skills such as creating context, interpreting texts and understanding change.

On day three of the meeting there was a session sponsored by the Conference on Faith and History (CFH). The session may be of interest in view of Kevin Donnelly’s call for more religious education, and for no airbrushing of Christianity from Australia’s history. A post by John Fea, Professor of American History at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania has some links.

Welcome to 2014, which already looks like a year when history will again be at the fore of political discussion!

Francesca Beddie