Werrington South

‘Coallee’, the southern element of Mary Bligh Putland O’Connell’s demesne, was sold off in pieces and disassembled. As Liston and Jack (1991) point out, however, there would be a 'happy coincidence', as part of the Werrington South site would belong to Thomas Fisher, the great benefactor of Fisher Library at the University of Sydney (Liston and Jack, 1991, 41). With the decision to establish a federated University, the leadership of UWS Nepean set about to energetically reconstitute significant land for extension over O'Connell Street. Whenever another government agency (such as the Housing Commission) nominated a use for the land, UWS Nepean was quick to attempt to put a stop to it, while at the same time lobbying a supportive Gabrielle Kibble at the Department of Planning every time a block came up for sale.

As land became available, buildings were planned as 'outposts' in order to lay out the margins of future campus developments, and prohibit resumption by competing educational bodies. When Werrington TAFE was opened on the site, UWS Nepean worked hard to integrate its activities into their own, holding joint staff sessions, to teaching programmes, creating mutual exchange between the libraries, and building roads seamlessly between the two campuses. Likewise, negotiations for the formation of the University stipulated the establishment of a road bridge between Werrington North and South as a visible claim of unity between the campuses. By the time it was built, the politics had changed, but the project went ahead anyway.  Overall, the grand design was to re-centre Kingswood on an integrated campus which would centre on a new library on the top of the Werrington South rise, framed to the south by an extensive business and technology Park. The central Library (for all campuses would have their own) would sit within the Penrith/ Werrington precincts of the university much like Fisher library sat at the University of Sydney. The failure of any such development explains the relative isolation of the Werrington South Library building through to the end of the 2000s. Suitably, it was named after the University’s first (Acting) Vice-Chancellor, John M Ward.

Ward understood the link between learning resources, repositories and quality higher education. Both in the planning stages, and after the University's Board of Governors met, he took a special interest in library provision for the new institution. 'We believe', he wrote to Rodney Cavalier, the Education Minister, in 1987, 'it is critical that the College open with an adequate library and associated systems - it cannot be simply a Branch Library of [the University of Sydney]' (Ward to Cavalier, 12 May 1987, 072/0001/00005,University of Sydney Archives). Using a $1 million grant promised under the Bicentennial Funding agreement, Ward’s aim was to produce, within the first three years, a 'core collection of 150,000 volumes and 2,000 periodicals' in addition to books received as gifts ('Library Requirements for Chifley University College in 1989', p. 2, 071/00001/00026, University of Sydney Archives).  Arguments arose as to the relative value of books as against electronic and computing resources, and exactly where the centre of academic life (in the middle of which the library would sit) would be.

A building of some 1,680 square metres would be required from the starting year,  expanding to over 4,300 square metres within the first 15 years. (Neil A. Radford, 'Space Planning for Chifley University College Library, a Preliminary Paper', June 1987, 071/00001/00015, University of Sydney Archives). Fewer books meant committing to a normal level of postgraduate and research output, which in turn (at least in the short term) undermined the special purpose of the Werrington campus. Due to their commitment both to the Chifley University vision and to Ward himself, many University of Sydney staff members strongly supported the establishment of a central library facility, encouraging donations of books and funds from communities not previously supportive of the local College of Advanced Education. For many years, a group led by Freda Whitlam and the University of the Third Age supported the emerging University, and its institutions (Mikol, 1999). John Mackinolty (Dean of the Law Faculty, and Chairman of the Academic Board at Sydney) and his wife Judy were particular supporters, donating trees, books and finances for new acquisitions. The first major contribution was a set of the Journals of Royal Australian Historical Society purchased by Civil and Civic at auction for $4,500, and a $1 million grant from the NSW State Bicentennial program (spent by the University of Sydney on behalf of Chifley). This latter, announced by Cavalier at the Werrington site in October 1987, was aimed at creating 'a first class library' from the core collection which it established. The former were presented to CUIC on 19 May 1988 as a record of the 'first privately funded acquisition for the Chifley Library' (Stead to Interim Council, 5 May 1988, P198, series 2, University of Sydney Archives).

Buildings are, of course, long cycle commitments. At the same time as the rapidly expanding new university was developing courses, drawing new types of students, it was attempting to put in place the built structures necessary for their housing. Kingswood was thus expanding at the same time as Godfrey Lucas, Dean of the new Engineering school, was attempting to accredit courses, draw students, and attract the requisite capital funding. ‘There just weren’t enough hours in the day’, he remembered. On 3 September 1994, however, Ross Free, the Minister for Schools, opened Werrington South’s first major expansion after the Ward Library. Named the ‘Ben Chifley Engineering Building’, the name captured the railway connections of the great Labour Prime Minister, and was a gentle jibe at the Coalition, who had refused to put his name to the new University as a whole. Engineering facilities were extended in 2010, with the renovation and refurbishment of Building Z, which included facilities for the newly established Civionics Research Centre. The development of the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Building took rather longer than the Chifley development, running into the ‘dry’ mid-1990s. By the time it was built, the sort of VPA programs which the building had been designed to house were being considered too expensive to run on the funding models allowed by Canberra. Development of Television Sydney (TVS), however, gave it a tenant with high-end demands.