Category Archives: Good news

Event: the Katoomba launch of New South Wales and the Great War

Megalong Books invites history buffs and students and teachers to an afternoon at Katoomba Falls Kiosk with Katoomba local Dr Naomi Parry and Sydney University’s Professor Stephen Garton, two of the four authors of a New South Wales and the Great War, a new book that Governor David Hurley called “visually arresting and authoritative account of NSW during and after the Great War”.
When the Great War began in August 1914, the people of New South Wales took up the call to arms. NSW sent more people than any other state to serve overseas and many more worked and volunteered to support the war effort. But the economic, political and emotional strains of war, and the loss of so many young men, and some women, in the service of their country, fanned social and political divisions and wrought lasting changes to the society to which serving men and women would return.
New South Wales and the Great War tells this story. It is drawn from the rich visual and written records held by the Anzac Memorial, the State Library of NSW, NSW State Records, the NSW Department of Education and the University of Sydney, as well as collections from Bourke to Gilgandra and Newcastle to Lithgow.
It is the official publication of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Committee and over summer it was distributed, free of charge, to all public and Catholic schools in New South Wales and to most libraries.
This event is an opportunity to meet the authors and the publisher learn about the writing of this important publication.
Venue: Katoomba Falls Kiosk, Cliff Drive, Katoomba
Date: Sunday 30 April 2017
Time: 2-4pm
Entry by gold coin donation.
Megalong Books will be selling copies on the day.

A decade

Today is the tenth anniversary of the submission of my PhD thesis, ‘”Such a longing”: black and white children in welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1880 to 1940’. I graduated in September 2007, after a revision or two. I’ve had a pretty good run since then – a couple of years as a project officer, a couple as a cultural development officer, three wonderful years as a research fellow on the Find & Connect web resource, before heading to the Dictionary of Sydney and writing New South Wales and the Great War. And now I’ve come back to the substance of my PhD, in a way, working as a senior policy officer at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

Workwise, it’s all been good and I’m pretty happy with that particular life choice. My son was born 18 months after I started my PhD, which I don’t really recommend, although he is the best thing I’ve ever done. Once when he was four and tucking him into bed he told me he wanted to stay up to help me write my PhD. It seemed like it would take forever and it did because he was six before I was done with it. Now, of course, he’s six foot two. Ten years. Wow.


Dr Naomi Parry, MPHA

I just got news that I’ve been accredited as a professional historian by the Professional Historians’ Association of NSW & ACT. This means I can add another set of letters after my name: MPHA.

It’s very exciting to be accepted as a peer by a bunch of historians I respect. On a more personal level, way back when I was a baby heritage practitioner, just after I arrived in Sydney, I worked with some fabulous professional historians. I used to wonder how they got their jobs and now I guess I know.

I feel both grown up and rejuvenated.

New South Wales and the Great War is launched, and for sale!

In front of a portrait of George III at Government House, with my beautiful son, after the launch.

New South Wales and the Great War was launched by His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales, at Government House on 9 November 2016. He was very kind about it and his speech is here. It was rather amazing to sit there and listen (intently) while our book took on a life of its own.

The book was a headline project for the New South Wales Centenary of Anzac Committee, and their press release is here. Proceeds will go towards the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park. You can also buy it from the State Library’s online bookshop and from Gleebooks for $35.

New South Wales and the Great War

fullsizerender-3I have received an advance copy of this, my first book, and I am pleased to say it’s going to be launched by the Governor of New South Wales, The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), at Government House on 9 November 2016, with Lieutenant General Kenneth James “Ken” Gillespie AC, DSC, CSM, who is the chair of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Committee. I and my co-authors, Brad Manera, Will Davies and Stephen Garton, will all be signing copies in advance and the book will be sold through Dymocks.

On a more personal note, here’s some images of a historian getting her first book in her hands.

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Little treasures

‘Oxidised silver plated badge with real enamel’. Amor Ltd, 1918. State Records NSW, Colonial Secretary’s Special Bundles, NRS906, 5/5341.1

Archival research is one of the best things about being a historian. Although it usually involves inhumane levels of reading on microfilm, every now and again we get to don gloves and rifle through piles of old letters. Most of the archival material I’ve looked at for NSW and the Great War is old and little-used so remains in its original bundles. And sometimes those bundles contain tiny, overlooked objects.

These are badges, made as samples by WJ Amor of Amor Ltd, Newcastle, for Australia Day on 26 April 1918. They were tucked into one of the Colonial Secretary’s Special Bundles (NRS 906, Australia Day Red Cross Appeal, 5/5341.1) and were in amongst letters about race meetings, fund-raising and other issues that mattered on the day when the whole country stopped to raise money for the Australian Red Cross Society to help Australian soldiers. When I found them I was very excited – an excitement shared by my colleagues in State Records NSW, which owns these little treasures.

During the Great War ‘Australia Day’ was a day of pageantry and fund-raising that had nothing to do with the arrival of the First Fleet. Dreamed up by a Manly woman, Mrs Ellen Wharton-Kirke, who had four sons at the front and wanted to raise money for the Australian Red Cross Society, the concept was taken over by the NSW Government, who got expatriate American theatre entrepreneur Hugh Ward to organise it. It ended up being a nationwide event, was a roaring success, and became a feature of the fund-raising calendar from 1915 to 1918.

I like to think these little badges were made and adorned the patriotic breasts of Australians on 26 April 1918. I wonder if anyone has one?

My favourite place, Lockleys Pylon

DoS logoI’ve written a new piece for The Dictionary of Sydney on my favourite walk in the Blue Mountains, the path to Lockleys Pylon. It’s part of the lovely Blue Mountains Icons Project, which has been supported by Blue Mountains City of the Arts Grants and Varuna, the National Writers House. This project supported the writing of essays by John Low on Darwin’s Walk, Mark O’Flynn on Varuna, Julian Leatherdale on the Hydro Majestic and my dear friend Delia Falconer on Echo Point. It’s a privilege to be in company with such distinguished authors, and I’m looking forward to talking about the project with them and the City Historian, Dr Lisa Murray, at Varuna’s Writer’s Festival event on Monday 16 May.

Sydney Writer’s Festival Varuna Programme


It’s pretty exciting to be able to announce that I’m going to be on Varuna’s programme for the 2016 Sydney Writer’s Festival. With Delia Falconer, John Low, Julian Leatherdale and Mark O’Flynn, I was selected to write a piece for the Dictionary of Sydney and Varuna on Blue Mountains icons, as part of a Blue Mountains City of the Arts project. We’ve all been fellows of Varuna at one time and another and it’s been a big part of my life so it’s lovely to be able to do this.

I’ll be able to tell link to the piece when it’s published on The Dictionary of Sydney but I hope you’ll come and see us speak. I’ll be at the Carrington Hotel on Monday, 16 May, at 3pm. We’ll be there with the likes of Magda Szubanski, Tegan Bennett-Daylight, Charlotte Wood and Mireille Juchau if you need more reasons to go!

Who Do You Think You Are, Series 7, Episode 4

So here’s a link to the WDYTA episode on David Wenham that aired last night, during which I make my tele-visual debut.

It was so much fun working on this, and I had no idea that the episode would feature so many former and current colleagues. At times like these you realise that Sydney, an ‘international city’, is really very small indeed.