Vale Brewarrina’s Café De-Luxe

‘Living history… Angelo and Margaret Pippos continue the Café De Luxe’s tradition of serving Brewarrina for 84 years.’ Photo: Edwina Pickles, from Saffron Howden’s ‘Brewarrina without Café De Luxe would be a Greek tragedy’, The Land, 23 August 2010.

According to ABC news on twitter this morning, the legendary Café De-Luxe, in Brewarrina’s main street, has burned down. A 2010 article from The Land made the point that Brewarrina without this café would be a tragedy, but alas, it has come to pass.

I spent a week in Bre during the 2000 Olympics, and had a chocolate milkshake every day at Café De-Luxe. The vaulted fibro interior of the café was cool and inviting in a town that, even in early September, was stinking hot. It’s terribly sad to think that the ornate bar, the display cabinets and the precious silverware, accumulated over nearly 90 years of continuous service of ice cream sundaes, is all gone. What a loss for the Pippos family and the township, and for lovers of Greek cafés everywhere.

Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis at Macquarie University have done beautiful exhibitions and a book documenting Greek cafés, including this one, but it’s not quite the same as being in the real, atmospheric, deal. Every time we lose one of these rare survivors, it really is a tragedy.

A launch

Visit by Mrs May to Girls’ Institution, Parramatta, 1939 [Hood Collection, NCY43/265, State Library of NSW]
This is the first official post of this blog, so welcome and hello. I thought I would start with some news, so here ’tis.

This week I am heading to Canberra for the launch of Silent System: Forgotten Australians and the Institutionalisation of Women and Children, which is edited by Paul Ashton and Jacqueline Z Wilson and is being published by Australian Scholarly Publishing this month. It features an article I wrote called ‘Tracing the Past: the Find & Connect web resource’.

The book is the result of a symposium held last year at the University of Technology, Sydney, which was hosted by Transforming Cultures and the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Memory Project, an offshoot of the remarkable work of Parragirls, and of Bonny Djuric. Over two days, a diverse group of scholars and artists talked about memory, museums and history, while exploring the Parramatta Female Factory site and the stories of the convict women and Forgotten Australians who lived there, under the strictest of government controls.

I began my involvement with Parragirls when I joined the Find & Connect web resource in 2011, but I had learned about the Parramatta Girls Home in the 1990s, when I was beginning my studies into child welfare history for my PhD. The institution began in 1887, when girls under sentence for petty crimes or being ‘neglected’ were moved from the Biloela Industrial School to the buildings formerly occupied by the Roman Catholic Orphan School. The new institution, Parramatta Girls’ Industrial School, survived in various forms on the same site until 1983, and more than 10,000 girls passed through its doors. The Parragirls website is a powerful guide to this place, that brings together all the usages of the site from the 1820s until after 2000, and you should read it at once.

It’s been a great honour and privilege to meet Bonnie Djuric and Parragirls, and to become acquainted with the work of the Parramatta Female Factory Memory Project, and that of artist Lily Hibberd. It’s fabulous that so many fine scholars have engaged with this site to produce the articles that feature in this book and although I have a mad week of busy ahead, I’m looking forward to this launch immensely. It will be bittersweet, as it takes place on the last day of my contract with the Australian Catholic University, and marks a pause in my work with the Find & Connect web resource. But it’s a good way to go out, celebrating the work of recovery and recognition, and the movement of these formerly hidden and private stories into the scholarly domain.

This photo dates from the early-mid 1970s. It appeared in Esther Han’s Herald Sun article of 4 November 2012, ‘Female Factory Tales to be Told.’ It was captioned ‘”Inmates” of the Parramatta Girls Home. Photo: Jeffrey Smith’, but was most probably taken by a Government Printing Office photographer, to promote Kamballa, the institution that succeeded Parramatta Girls’ Home. I assume the girls’ eyes were blacked out by Mr Smith.