The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct: Beyond Commemorating Trauma | Lauren Schutz

The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct: Beyond Commemorating Trauma | Lauren Schutz

On November 16, 2009, then prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd stood before the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, and delivered the National Apology to the Forgotten Australians and Former Child Mi grants. “Forgotten Australians” is the term developed to represent more than half a million Australians who grew up in “out- of- home” care during the twentieth century. “Child migrants” are those children transported to Australia and placed in homes and orphanages on arrival, until the scheme ceased in 1970. Collectively referred to as “care leavers”  because  these terms are contested, the National Apology followed multiple Senate inquiries. Culminating in The Lost Innocents: Righting the Record—Report on Child Migration (2001), The Forgot-ten Australians: A Report on Australians Who Experienced Institutional or Out-of-Home Care as Children (2004) and “Forgotten Australians” and “Lost Innocents”: Revisited (2009), all three reports had unanimously called for a national apology.

In the Forgotten Australians report (2004), thirty- nine recommendations were out-lined, including access to records for all care leavers, and the provision of funding for counseling services, education programs, and additional support services. Recommendation 34 outlined recognition of the hardships of the care leavers, including neglect, abuse, and mistreatment through memorials and exhibitions, with funding to be provided by the Commonwealth and state governments. Decisions concerning the location and design were to be made in consultation with the care leavers and relevant support and advocacy groups:

Where possible, memorials could take the form of: memorial gardens constructed in conjunction with local councils; the placement of plaques at the site of former institutions; and/or the construction of heritage centres on the site of former institutions.

This article explores the implementation of this recommendation regarding the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct (PFFP), situated in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW). In examining the development of the precinct since the recommendations outlined in the Forgotten Australians report in 2004, an apology by then– NSW premier Nathan Rees in September 2009 and the National Apology in November 2009, this article examines the role of advocacy groups, heritage experts, and the Sites of Conscience movement, within the political context of the existing Western heritage management framework.

Following a brief overview of the history of the International Sites of Conscience Coalition (ICSC) and an examination of the Sites of Conscience model, links to the dominant Western heritage management framework are drawn, including the focus on physical conservation and the role of experts. This paper then examines the history and uses of the PFFP, as a sacred place of the First Nations Australians to the first purpose- built convict Female Factory in Australia, followed by the establishment of a Roman Catholic orphanage.

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