Public to get a sneak peek inside one of Australia's oldest buildings

Female Orphan School painting

The University of Western Sydney is throwing open the doors of the fully restored Female Orphan School (1813) (opens in a new window), Australia’s oldest three-story building, for the first time at 5.30 pm on Tuesday 24 September.

Once scheduled for demolition and abandoned in 1969, this historic jewel, located on the university’s Parramatta campus, has been subject to a remarkable restoration and transformation. Unknown to most Australians, the Female Orphan School was one of the most majestic and ambitious projects in the young colony: originally as an orphanage and then as a psychiatric institution for the best part of a century. The Female Orphan School founded in 1813 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and inspired by Mrs Macquarie’s family home in Airds (Scotland), is one of the nation’s finest examples of colonial construction.

Now fully restored as a public exhibition space and home for the Whitlam Institute (opens in a new window), the building is to be opened for the public to explore and enjoy.

This is an occasion of national significance as the University of Western Sydney makes good its promise to create a ‘democratic and cultural space’ within the heart of Western Sydney in this magnificent building which holds a unique place in the story of our nation.

In addition to a newly created heritage interpretation space in the building’s central wing, visitors can enjoy three original exhibitions presented by the Whitlam Institute: A Changing Australia: The Time of Gough Whitlam exhibition (East Wing); Uplifted Horizons: The artists of the Whitlam era exhibition (Margaret Whitlam Galleries, West Wing); Larger than Life: Gough Whitlam in cartoons exhibition (Margaret Whitlam Galleries, West Wing).

The Female Orphan School re-opens two hundred years to the day that Governor Macquarie laid the foundation stone and UWS invites members of the public to join in the celebrations for a free evening of discovery, music and simple refreshments.

If you can’t make it on the night, from September 26 the Female Orphan School will be open for the public from 10am – 4pm on Thursdays, Fridays and selected Saturdays.

The restoration of the Female Orphan School has been supported by the Australian Government.

WHAT: Female Orphan School Public Opening Event

WHEN: 17:30hrs to 20:30hrs, Tuesday 24 September 2013

WHERE: Female Orphan School (Building EZ), University of Western Sydney Parramatta campus, corner James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road, Rydalmere

INFO:  Light refreshments will be served. Bookings for the Public Opening Event are not essential but are encouraged via the online registration form.


Image: View of the Female Orphan School, Near Parramatta by Joseph Lycett, 1825

(State Library of Victoria 30328102131561/13) 

23 September 2013

Media contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer

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