FLEET STREET HERITAGE PRECINCT
The previous Baird Government labelled 30 hectares of public land in North Parramatta’s heritage precinct as “surplus to need”. Well our communities have a new vision for the future of our heritage and it doesn’t include it being ‘barangarooed’.
How can the cradle of our Nation’s beginnings as a British colony be treated with such blatant disrespect by our political leaders, selling off our heritage for inappropriate and unsupported residential development? How can the land’s custodians of millennia be disregarded so readily?
With much more heritage than The Rocks, Parramatta is bursting at the seams with narratives from these original custodians, to those of forced convict migration. It is also evolving daily with diverse free migration and myriad communities developing from all over the world.
Why is the State Government not nurturing this precinct and the once-in-a-generation opportunity to make Parramatta the home of the Museum of NSW? Bringing together, celebrating and learning about the Premier State with all our cultures from indigenous to Indian.
The community want to see the creation of Australia’s best and biggest integrated arts & cultural campus – the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct. Set amongst a 30 ha garden environment alongside Parramatta River. Boasting narratives of Darug custodians, alongside our forced migration of over 5000 convict women from the British Isles who went through the Parramatta Female Factory. The women that shaped Australia, the mothers of our colony – all came through Parramatta as convict or free.
Arthur Phillip camped on the banks of these lands just 4 months after the first fleet landed in camp cove, searching for fertile farms lands to feed the colony. Parramatta was the oasis that saved the explorers from starving.
These government lands in North Parramatta have shaped our nation and cradled our most damaged and destitute with over 200 years of mental health care by institutionalization and, often sadly, with incarceration at Parramatta Gaol. Tragedy, courage, grief, creativity and triumph over adversity are all abundant here.
There are over 77 state heritage listed buildings around the Cumberland Hospital grounds. The Female Factory Precinct, filled with buildings from our government architects Francis Greenway to Walter Liberty Vernon, is undergoing a National Heritage Listing Assessment and is a more than worthy candidate to be added to the current 11 convict locations on the UNSESCO world heritage listing.
If sympathetically reinterpreted and re-developed this huge site could become Australia’s equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg but with one unique advantage- it is all real, all still there physically and historically and not some modern confection channelling the past. A wonderful, undisturbed happenstance waiting to bloom again as the centre of our early cultures and our manifest evolution into a culturally diverse region and creative city.
This is a rare opportunity to create a cultural legacy for future generations which will bring together the celebration of indigenous and colonial history with contemporary creativity for the first time in Australia. A tangible, lasting reflection of reconciliation.
Over a decade we could develop- affordably- a hub for creative minds with rehearsal spaces, artist studios, community centres with a world class art gallery and museum of NSW celebrating our migration history together with the first centre of indigenous reconciliation and excellence, surrounded by an interactive-family focused sculpture park amongst renewed colonial botanical plantings. There would be an outdoor performance space and indoor auditoria, with practice and smaller presentation rooms. There would be a connection with Parramatta Park via a foot bridge to link the government lands and the cultural ribbon along the river. All keeping this green public space accessible for the expanding population of Parramatta to both recreate and create in.
The retention of this precinct for the public is vital with burgeoning high density housing and expanding population predictions. Green open space is paramount for physical and mental health and cultural well-being and this will morph into long term economic benefits for western Sydney.
This unique precinct will bring long term economic wealth to western Sydney with domestic and international tourism. For too long Victoria has surpassed NSW in multicultural celebration and community cohesion.
Having a hub where for the first time the narratives of indigenous Australia, forced migration of convict women within the full panoply of Colonial settlement and convict life through to modern day free migration, will be celebrated in one place with the deepest historical context and background. For all to learn about and enjoy the diverse tapestry of our multicultural backgrounds.
Parramatta needs the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct. It can both respond to the site’s history, integrating past creativity while encouraging the creativity of all Western Sydney’s present communities.
It will house incubator start-ups, museums (potentially NSW/Migration/State Collections), galleries, artist studios, community hubs, botanic and family-orientated gardens, performance spaces, cafes, etc.
Given Government’s recent application for over development of this site the time has come to stand up and demand the people of Parramatta and the west are widely consulted and that the full potential of this unique Regional site, culturally, is then planned, funded by central government and fully realised over the next decade.
This state will see a refresh in politics this week with a new Premier to replace Mike Baird – never has there been a better time for a fresh approach to a new more inclusive and cost effective vision, intelligent cultural funding, consultation and constructive community building.