Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stand up for the Parramatta Female Factory

Issue 1 of Inside History brought you the story of the wonderful and unique female factory precinct at Parramatta in New South Wales.

The buildings in the precinct date back to 1819 and are an incredibly important part of Australia's heritage. It was in convict institutions such as these that the Australian spirit of mateship and comraderie, a sense of humour and standing up for the underdog were developed.

It's estimated that one in seven Australians are descended from someone who went through the Parramatta Female Factory. That means you either are related, or you know someone who is. And many of the women who spent time there were exiled from Ireland.

It's incredible to believe, but these historic buildings are not on the national heritage list and thus protected, even though they predate other world heritage listed convict sites such as Port Arthur in Tasmania, and Sydney's Cockatoo Island.

On the state government-owned site at Parramatta are two Francis Greenway buildings, original walls dating back to 1819, and the third class sleeping quarters with turnkey’s apartment, completed in 1825. All are in need of protection and conservation. One Greenway building is now a building society, and the matron's quarters, meeting and administration rooms are used for storage and training. The third class sleeping quarters and turnkey’s apartment in recent years has been a storage facility for broken beds, then computers.

And right now the Parramatta Female Factory needs your help more than ever, especially the third-class quarters, known as Building 105.

Sydney Western Area Health Services have lodged an application with the NSW Heritage Office seeking approval for alterations to be made to this building for the purpose of housing internal computer equipment and cooling systems. The proposed changes to Building 105 will not only seriously damage the historical fabric of the structure, but it will also deny access by the public to this important building.

How you can help

Gay Hendriksen, from the Female Factory Precinct Action Group, is calling for people to sign a petition to help save this precious area. Their goal is to get 5000 signatures, and you can do your bit to help here.