Jewel of the West: Female Orphan School open for National Trust Heritage Festival

Female Orphan School painting

The iconic Female Orphan School (opens in a new window) at the University of Western Sydney's Parramatta campus has been witness to some of the most significant social changes in Australian history, so it is only fitting that it become the stunning backdrop for a series of events to celebrate the National Trust Heritage Festival.

The theme of this year's Festival is Conflict and Compassion, and the University's Whitlam Institute – which is based within the Female Orphan School – will be hosting community activities across Friday 22 May and Saturday 23 May as part of the event.

Director of the Whitlam Institute, Mr Eric Sidoti, says UWS is immensely proud to be the custodian of the historic Female Orphan School building – which dates back to 1813, with the foundation stone laid by Governor Macquarie.

The Female Orphan School is the oldest three-storey brick building still standing in Australia, constructed under the direction of Governor and Mrs Macquarie as a home for orphaned and destitute girls of the Colony of New South Wales.

The building predates Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney and the Female Factory in Parramatta, and is one of the most important surviving buildings from the earlier period of European settlement.

"The UWS Parramatta campus has some of the most beautiful buildings and grounds you'll see anywhere, and the University takes great pleasure in opening up the campus to the community at every opportunity," says Mr Sidoti.

"The Female Orphan School is one of the great hidden jewels of Sydney. We hope to see many Sydneysiders come along and enjoy learning more about how this magnificent building plays such an important part of our national history."

On Friday 22 May there is the public lecture, Compassionate interventions: entering and leaving the Female Orphan School. Members of the community will join historian Associate Professor Carol Liston from UWS as she explores some of the stories of those who ended up either in or out of the orphanage because of compassionate intervention.

Then on Saturday, the community can learn more about the restored Female Orphan School and take in the beautiful grounds as part of its Open Day festivities.

The day includes a special guided tour entitled Conflict and Compassion: Macquarie and Whitlam, which will be led by the Whitlam Institute's Bronwyn Coulston, and will weave together the lives and enduring legacies of two significant leaders, whose stories have now come together in the Female Orphan School building.

In association with the A Place to Call Home? Migrant Hostel Memories exhibition which is running in the Female Orphan School's Margaret Whitlam galleries, the National Archives of Australia will also be running a one-hour workshop on Saturday 23 May on how people can contribute their story to the Destination Australia website, which shares our national post-war migrant stories.

To find out more or to book a place to any of the Female Orphan School events, contact the Whitlam Institute on 02 9685 9210 or info@whitlam.org or www.whitlam.org


Compassionate interventions: entering and leaving the Female Orphan School

The Female Orphan School (1813), is a truly fascinating site, with many thousands of lives having been touched by this place for better or worse over the years. Historian Associate Professor Carol Liston from the University of Western Sydney is giving a talk on some of those stories at an event the Whitlam Institute is hosting as part of the National Trust Heritage Festival.

Associate Professor Carol Liston is an Australian historian who specialises in the history of early New South Wales (1788-1860).

Her particular interest is the colonial development of the County of Cumberland (Greater Western Sydney), using land records, family history and surviving buildings to document the past.

She is the President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and co-author of its journal.

When: Friday 22 May 2015, 11am - 12pm
Where: Female Orphan School
Cost: $5 per person
Bookings: 02 9685 9210 or info@whitlam.org

Female Orphan School Open Day

Explore the historic Female Orphan School and discover the Whitlam Institute's A Changing Australia: The time of Gough Whitlam exhibition and enjoy A Place to Call Home? Migrant Hostel Memories from the National Archives of Australia, on display at this time in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries.

When: Saturday 23 May 2015, 10am - 4pm.
Free admission to the Female Orphan School and galleries.

FOS Tour - Conflict and Compassion: Macquarie and Whitlam

A 45-minute guided tour led by the Whitlam Institute's Bronwyn Coulston. This tour weaves together the lives and enduring legacies of two significant leaders, whose stories have now come together in the Female Orphan School building.

When: Saturday 23 May 2015,
Tour times: 11:15am and 12:30pm
Cost: $10 per person
Bookings are essential: 02 9685 9210 or info@whitlam.org

Destination: Australia - Add a Story Workshop

In association with the A Place to Call Home? Migrant Hostel Memories exhibition, the National Archives of Australia is running a one-hour workshop on how people can contribute their migration story to the Destination Australia website.

In this workshop, visitors will learn how to use the new 'Add a story' feature on the Destination Australia website to share their family's migration story.

They will learn how to contribute memories of the journey, first impressions and settling in, upload photographs, and pin locations on a map to illustrate their story.

The workshop is being conducted by a National Archives of Australia staff member.

When: Saturday 23 May 2015, 11am - 12pm
Cost: Free but bookings are required
Bookings: 02 9685 9210 or info@whitlam.org

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