National History Week 2016


3-11 September 2016  |  #HistoryWeek16

The theme of neighbours is crucial to our understanding of the past’s impact on the present. It includes stories of individuals, families and communities living near one another and links between adjoining suburbs, regions and countries. As the success of the Australian television program Neighbours shows, the theme has long been a significant component of popular culture. It shaped imagination and memories, created identities and was a source of both conflict and friendship.

How important were class, the economy, gender, governments, the media, race, religion and sport in the formation of ideas regarding neighbours? How have attitudes regarding a nation’s geographic neighbours determined defence, foreign, immigration, refugee and trade policies? Did new types of communication and transport from the nineteenth century onwards radically alter how neighbours and neighbourhoods were perceived? In 2016 History Week focuses on these and other related questions.

To discover events held across New South Wales during History Week, please visit History Council of NSW 


Published in: on September 5, 2016 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Who’s been living in my house ?

Who's been living in my house_Join Marilyn Gallo [ Heritage Services Librarian] at Smithfield Community Library and discover the various resources to use in researching the history of your house in our informative session. These resources include:

  • Maps (Parish maps)
  • Rate books
  • Waterboard plans
  • Sydney Sands directory
  • Phone directories
  • Council Minutes books
  • Street directories
  • Building inspectors reports
  • Surveyors field books
  • Electoral rolls
  • Census records
  • BAs & DAs
  • Trove
  • LPI Torrens Titles information
  • Valuation rolls/books
  • Photographic Database (Achivalware)
  • Probates

Here is a research guide produced by the Victorian Archives Centre that provides a simple and clear explanation  to the process of researching one’s home. Click here to access this publication.

The NSW State Records has also produced a guide for residents from NSW researching their house history. Click here to access the guide.

Published in: on August 26, 2016 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

National Family History Month







National Family History Month (NFHM) is held in Australia every August, an initiative of AFFHO (Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations).

Family history and genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies around the world. There are over 250,000 Australians who are members of family history related organisations and the month has broad appeal across Australia. Libraries, archives and other organisations also participate in National Family History Month.

During August, events will focus on genealogy, family history, heraldry and related subjects. Visit NFHM website to discover the various events and programs that are held around Australia!

Published in: on August 5, 2016 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chinese Australians in WWI

Chinese Australian in WW1 new“If Australia is good enough to live in, it is good enough to fight for. I hope to live in it again after the war.” 

In the month of August, in our new Heritage and History Program, we invite Historian Dr Kathleen Blunt to examine the forgotten history and legacy of Chinese Australians in World War I.

In her seminar, she delves into the causes of their enlistments into the Great War. She also investigates their rights as citizens and ask these vital questions – How did their react when their rights were being denied and their loyalty to Australia were questioned, based purely on racial grounds? How did they perceive themselves in terms of national identity? And how did they cope once they returned to civilian life?

These and other aspects of the “forgotten ingredients” in the Anzac mixture – the “Chinese-Australians” – whose valiant contributions have largely been ignored in Australian history, will be examined. Subsequently, the little known, but vital role played by the Chinese Labour Corps, and the participation of China itself in WWI will also be explored in her lecture.

To learn furthermore about the contributions, achievements and sacrifices of the Chinese Australian soldiers, visit Culture Victoria  .

Chinese Anzacs_CoverDownload a copy of Chinese Anzacs, a researched publication by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Chinese Museum to learn about the history of Chinese Australian families in Australia.


Published in: on July 27, 2016 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Buddhism in the Fairfield LGA

In this month’s post, we feature the work of historian Stephen Gapps, who in 2011 won the NSW Premier’s History Award for Regional and Community history with his publication ” Cabrogal To Fairfield: A History of a Multicultural City“. The following chapter is taken directly from his research as he delves into the rich and multicultural heritage of Fairfield City :

‘Around here you have a lot of Buddhist temples’

Of importance to migrant groups when settling in any area has been finding sites—or building them—to practise their religions.

The increasing number of churches and places of worship that expanded in the 1970s continued through the 1980s and ’90s. The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, the Chaldean Catholic Church of St Thomas the Apostle, the Spanish Gospel Church, Chinese Presbyterian Church, Arabic Baptist Church, Australian Indian Christian Fellowship, ‘Ekklesia’ Spanish Church and Chung Chen Chinese Christian Church, among many others, all developed, built, converted or re-used buildings as places of worship during this period.

From the 1980s, the Vietnamese and Khmer communities very quickly established temporary Buddhist temples in Fairfield. A Vietnamese temple was built at Canley Vale and a Khmer Buddhist Temple at Bonnyrigg in 1990. With the leadership of the Buddhist monk, the Most Venerable Tich Phuoc Hue, who escaped Vietnam by boat in 1980, the Phuoc Hue Temple was built in 1991 at Wetherill Park and became a centre for migrant settlement and welfare assistance.

In fact, the Phuoc Hue Temple had existed from around 1980 in a rented residence on Hamilton Road in Fairfield. In 1982, with rapidly growing numbers, the congregation purchased premises in Landon Street. However, these temporary quarters were never satisfactory. As congregation member Chuc Tanh recalled, members were constantly aware that their temple was in an urban area and that on significant occasions such as Vesak Day or the Lunar New Year, their congregation often numbered in the thousands. Thanh noted that members were aware that ‘this number of cars parking in the streets … would soon invite the protest from the neighbourhood and eventually the local council’.

For several years the Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia struggled to negotiate a different location for their temple. Eventually, with a state government repayment assistance scheme and after a visitto the Land and Environment Court, a block of land was purchased— albeit in an industrial area.

cambodian temple 2Many other temples and places of worship began to appear in the area’s industrial or commercial districts. The Khmer community had been renting a ‘run-down cottage’ in Fairfield until a tract of Housing Commission land at Bonnyrigg was offered to them to construct a temple. Bonnyrigg resident and Khmer migrant Thin Em recalled the ‘big celebration’ that accompanied the Wat Khemarangsaram opening. Built on a prominent ridge adjacent to the Bonnyrigg Plaza, the ‘temple’ is part of a ‘cultural centre’ including management offices, monks’ residences and a community hall.

As Thin Em noted, in the 1980s the ‘neighbourhood’ of Bonnyrigg and wider Fairfield was not quite used to seeing pagoda-style temple buildings, but with the construction of so many other diverse religious buildings in the area, it has become ‘more understanding and accepting’. Bonnyrigg is also home to the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society’s Mingyue Temple. Land for the temple was first purchased in 1982, the foundations were laid in 1987 and the temple opened in 1990. With rich decorations and traditional Chinese Buddhist artwork, several smaller temples and other rooms now contrast with the original ‘small fibro building’.

The once-rare sight of a temple in the Bonnyrigg and Edensor Parkareas—in which there is also a Lao Buddhist temple and a Turkish mosque—had become quite common. Within a decade, at the opening of the Minh Quang Buddhist Monastery at Canley Vale in 2005, the Venerable Thich Minh Hieu was to note that ‘around here you have a lot of Buddhist temples’.

In many ways, just like the early Baptist, Catholic and other churches in the Smithfield, Fairfield and Cabramatta areas in the 19th century, temples were largely created from fundraising activities. The Laotian community held banquets during the 1980s to raise funds for their temple. Their Lao banquets also had ‘displays of handicrafts’, dinner, drinks and entertainment. Not a great deal had changed from the fundraising functions of the district’s early churches—although the ‘traditional Lao food, served with sticky rice in a bamboo basket’would have raised some of the early Baptists’ bushy eyebrows.

By the 1990s the Laotian community in the Fairfield area had grown to number over 3,000. Another Indo-Chinese community to settle in the area during the 1980s were the Cambodians. The Cambodian migration and settlement in Fairfield was similar to the Vietnamese: many first went to Villawood Migrant Hostel and then took up flats or houses in and around Cabramatta. So too the Khmer community settled in large numbers and also built Buddhist temples at Bonnyrigg and Cabramatta. All these Indo-Chinese migrants describe the close-knit nature of their communities. Family and community were very much linked; as one Cambodian woman described it, ‘Cambodian people always moved in with each other’.

[Source: Cabrogal To Fairfield: A History of a Multicultural City/Stephen Gapps, pp. 413-415]


Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 5:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Queen’s Birthday

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor)

queen in ozDid you know that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth celebrates two birthdays each year? Her actual birthday is on 21st April and her official birthday is on a Saturday in June. In Australia, the Queen’s Birthday is a public holiday celebrated in most states and territories on the second Monday in June, making for a much-looked-forward-to June long weekend.

Official celebrations to mark Sovereigns’ birthday have often been held on a day other than the actual birthday, particularly when the actual birthday has not been in the summer. King Edward VII, for example, was born on 9   November, but his official birthday was marked throughout his reign in May or June when there was a greater likelihood of good weather for the Birthday Parade, also known as Trooping the Colour.

The Queen usually spends her actual birthday privately, but the occasion is marked publicly by gun salutes in central London at midday: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park and a 62 gun salute at the Tower  of  London. In 2006, Her Majesty celebrated her 80th Birthday in 2006 with a walkabout in the streets outside of  Windsor  Castle to meet well-wishers.

On her official birthday, Her Majesty is joined by other members of the Royal Family at the spectacular Trooping the Colour parade which moves between Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Horse guards’ Parade.

The Queen during her first visit to Australia in 1954


The Queen in Australia is a rare archival gem from Film Australia that documents the two-month official visit, in February and March 1954, of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This was her first visit to Australia and the first by a reigning monarch. The film was shot by a total of 16 cameramen, documenting her  visits to each state capital and many regional areas. Reminisce the royal tour by watching video clips at:  and Australia Women’s Weekly’s featured article – A royal visit: Queen Elizabeth in Australia

[Source: The official website of the British Monarchy and AWW]

Published in: on June 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Temple Tour

TempleTour_Chinese temple

Are you interested in the Buddhist cultural heritage or history of the Fairfield area? Why not join our guided temple tour in July and discover the splendor of  Fairfield’s temples.

Our guided tour will starts from Whitlam Library, followed by visits to the Phuoc Hue Monastery in Wetherill Park, the Mingyue Lay Temple in Bonnyrigg and Watt Khemarangsaran in Bonnyrigg.

Visitor will be given the opportunity to discover wondrous buildings, statues, shrines and gardens which provides further insights into SE Asian culture and the practice of Buddhism in Australia.

Booking can be made either online via our website  or contacting the library on 9725 0333.

Published in: on June 8, 2016 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Club Marconi



Club Marconi was established in 1956 by the Italians community as a meeting place to play bocce and to socialise. Prior to the establishment of Club Marconi, the Italian community will often gather at private homes.

In April 1956 , Ruben Sartor, Provino Sartor and Lorenzo Zamprogno took decisive steps in establishing a licensed club. They visited an Italian club in Griffith to obtain advice on operating a social club.

An initial meeting was held at Provino Sartor’s house and was attended by Rino Bagatella, Sebastiano Crestani, Oscar Michelini, Antonio Pessoto, Vito Angelo Pessoto, Provino Sartor, Ruban Sartor, Davino Zadro, Lorenzo Zamprogno and Andrea Zulian.

The Sartor brothers offered a piece of land for the club at $6,900 (with no interest). This plot was located at the corner of Prairie Vale Road and what was then Middle Road. To raise fund for the venture, the group advertised in the local newspapers (the Advance, The Biz) and in the Italian newspapers (La Fiamma, Il Corriere and Risveglio) and asked foundation members to lend $100 each to the club. A public meeting was held on 21st September 1956 and 300 people generously offered $100 or more to the building project. 

The members commissioned builders Lorenzo Zamprogno and Gisberto Benedetti for the building of the first building at a total cost of $120,000. To accommodate to the growing numbers of members and guests, a second stage extensions was planned and completed in 1962.


Land around the club was acquired successively in the early 1960s, with the block opposite the club bought for $16,000 in 1960, and the picnic ground purchased for $12,000 in 1962. By 1966 the club’s growth and dominance led to Fairfield Council changing the name of Middle Road to Marconi Road.

Further extensions were added between 1970 and 1990. This included tennis and squash courts, covered bocce courts, a children’s playroom and a football stadium. In 1990 the first car park was completed, followed by a second addition in 1998. The sport centre was completed in 1999 along with the construction of a gym in 2003, this was followed by a child care centre in 2005 and an outdoor gaming area in 2008. Today, Club Marconi is situated on thirty one acres of parkland and playing fields in Bossley Park.

The Ladies’ Auxiliary was formed on 9 December 1962 and is still responsible for organising activities tailored for women and families such as ladies’ nights, mothers’ and fathers’ day celebrations, Gala days, Valentine’s Day celebrations and other festivities. It is worth noting that the Marconi Club was one of the first few clubs of its time to allow full membership rights to women.

Name and Logo

opening of club

1st anniversaryClub Marconi is named after Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi was highly regarded for his pioneering work in sending the first direct wireless message from Great Britain to Australia on September 22, 1918. In addition to this monumental achievement, Marconi switched on 2,800 coloured lights at Sydney Town Hall with a radio signal to open the Electrical and Radio Exhibition in Sydney, sent from his yacht Elettra in Genova.

Club Marconi’s logo consists of a globe of the world, a radio antenna and a boomerang. The boomerang, which consists of the Italian colours, symbolises the connection between Australia, Italy and the rest of the world. The emblem was designed by Guido Zuliani (a well known artist and photographer from Leichhardt).

The following are transcripts taken from Felice Zadro (a foundation member and past president of Marconi Club) ‘s oral history interview with Shirley McLeod in which he recounts the history of the Marconi Club.

Felice Zadro part 3 , Felice Zadro part 4

[Source: Club Marconi , Dictionary of Sydney and Club Marconi : 50th Anniversary, 2008]

Published in: on June 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fairfield Heritage Listed Site

Fairfield School of Arts’ Beginnings…


Fairfield City Council commissioned a historical study of the School of Arts in Harris Street, Fairfield. The study was carried out by Megan Martin, a historian who works with the Historic Houses Trust, and it uncovered a fascinating story of the early days of the School!

Schools of Arts, mechanic and literary institutes were once highly valued public buildings, the forerunners of today’s libraries and community halls. The Sydney Mechanics School of Arts began in 1833. The movement grew steadily from the 1850’s and by 1912 there were 433 throughout New South Wales.

In April 1903 the idea of a School in Fairfield was raised at a meeting of the Fairfield Progress Association. The “ladies” of the district gave impetus to the idea by a major fundraising bazaar in September of that year. It was a huge success and raised 90 pounds, the nucleus of a building fund.

The Progress Committee considered three sites and selected Mrs. Eliza Stimson’s site between the police station and the Methodist Church. A committee was elected headed by John Robinson Wright, an architect who was head of the art department at Sydney Technical College. The committee designed the building. Tenders were called in February 1904, and the builders Thompson and Slater of Granville won the contract and the building was completed by November. It cost 340 pounds. The original plan (the brick part of the current building) shows a triangular plan with a lecture hall, class room library and reading room.

The School got off to a slid start. Regular meetings were held every four weeks (to take advantage of the full moon). There were lectures and entertainments at least once a month. In March 1905 Mr. Tremayne spoke about “science in everyday life and in May Profeesor Harper lectured on “our human brotherhood in relation to speech”. In march 1906 the School held its first fruit, flower and vegetable show. In the same month, it also had an athletics club.

Untitled design

Here is a recollection from Florence Callicott, a resident of Fairfield and a member of the Stimson Family on the Fairfield School of Arts…Click on the image to read Florence’s reminiscences on the early years of the School of Arts!


Building Construction & Design


The building of the School of Arts has social and historical significance as a major centre of social activity from the late nineteenth century. It is a good examples of Late Victorian and Federation period “high styles” buildings which is fairly  rare for Fairfield city.

It is a single storey brick building with corrugated iron roof, built in two sections, approximately twenty years apart.

On the Eastern section, the older section constructed around 1895, the building has close eaves, a parapet to the street, a triangular pediment over the main entrance with circular louvred opening, brick pilasters, two deep parapet cornices, double-hung windows with round arched openings, moulded heads and projecting moulded stone sills.

On the Western section, built in 1915, in the Classical Revival style with roman Ionic giant order columns. The building has a traditional architrave lettered “SCHOOL OF ARTS”, a balustered parapet, two large panelled pairs of entrance doors, double-hung windows with triangular pediments and wreaths.

A few modifications were carry out over the years. For example, the face brick walls was painted. The exterior of the western section is essentially unaltered. However, the street façade to the eastern section has been altered in several respects: the existing entrance was originally a pair of double-hung windows; the central opening now closed up was originally a doorway, and the round arched window is new, it replaces an earlier large rectangular window opening. The interior of the building was extensively altered in 1989 but Council also undertook restoration of heritage facade in 2008. To learn furthermore about the transformation and the restoration of the facade of the School of Arts, please click here.

The works undertaken in this heritage building involved the dismantling of an existing low level roof structure and replacement with a new high level roof structure and roof access system. The replacement of an existing wet areas and the provision of new mezzanine floor, office space, air conditioning system, disabled lift, gallery/foyer space and storage area fit out.

Today, the Fairfield School of Arts is the headquarter of the Powerhouse Youth Theatre, a  leading professional youth theatre company in Western Sydney. The company creates new, innovative and inclusive performing arts programs as well as trains the next generation of outstanding artists from Western Sydney.

[Source: Office of Environment and Heritage &  “The Fairfield School of Arts, Harry Street Fairfield: draft history” by Megan Martin]

Published in: on May 9, 2016 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  

National Trust Festival


16 APRIL – 29 MAY 2016

The annual National Trust Heritage Festival was initiated in Victoria in 1980 to raise widespread community understanding of the value of heritage and the contribution it makes to the present. It was taken up with gusto by the NSW Trust the following year. In 2016 National Trust Heritage Festival coordinators are expecting 15,000 events to be registered nationwide.

This year the theme is Discovery & Rediscoveries. Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed.

The Festival provides a great opportunity for communities, individuals, local government and organisations to celebrate the places and events that have shaped our heritage. It is about sharing our stories and we need your help to make it a success.

To download a copy of the Festival Program, please click here. For more information about the National Trust and their activities, please visit their website at


Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment