Your History, Our Vision – WHS Seminar 28 June 2023
By Barbara Miller, Karen Wilson & Matt Christie
On 28th June, members of the Whittlesea Historical Society held a seminar hosted by Jacinta & Carol Walsh from Whitehaven Receptions to discuss the importance of creating an historical & arts precinct with the inclusion of a historical museum and art gallery.
Guest speakers on the night included Professor Richard Broome, President of the Historical Society of Victoria, Dr. David Harris, Department of Archaeology & History, La Trobe University and Rosemary Cameron, Executive Officer of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.
The night was a huge success with a large crowd of people from all over the city of Whittlesea attending.
The current problem for WHS is not one of succession faced by many other societies, as they have a dynamic group of younger people in the Society ready to create an exciting future over the coming decade.
However, the Society, now 48 years old, has never had a home, temporary or otherwise. While almost all historical societies across the state have a home, often supplied by the local council, the WHS is homeless. Its significant collection remains precariously stored at various sites on private property.
Jacinta Walsh, Founder and Artistic Director Ballet Arts Australia, and a passionate Whittlesean, opened the proceedings with a plea for a brighter future for the Whittlesea Historical Society. Jacinta recently decided to settle back in Whittlesea after an international ballet career.
RHSV President Richard Broome spoke on the ‘Power of Place’ and expressed his astonishment and bitter disappointment at the Society’s homeless situation and urged action. Either the Council, a Whittlesea philanthropist, or local developers needed to step up to help find the WHS a home. The members are prepared for hard work and are ready to embrace change, but need help. Without a home the memories and identity of Whittlesea may be lost.
Rosemary Cameron spoke on ’What Made for a strong Historical Society’. She argued it was not about numbers, but commitment and the partnerships the society forged with the local community and with the local Council. The WHS, and indeed all societies, need to take every opportunity to engage with their local community through having a table at all local events, and to continually lobby council and build relationships with councillors once appointed.
Dr David Harris from La Trobe University’s History Department spoke about how a community in Mitcham saved and now runs the former German farmhouse of ‘Schwerkolt’. The community agitated for ownership of the farmhouse, which was bought by the City of Nunawading in 1964, and restored by volunteer labour. It opened as a local history museum in 1965 and since then new buildings have been added, making for a magnificent complex (Schwerkolt Cottage and Museum Complex).
Local Historian David Ovenden spoke of his connections to Whittlesea and how Whittlesea had a lot to offer as a tourist destination, in which enterprise the historical society could play its part.
It was a powerful and inspiring meeting.
The live stream is at: