On 9th April, historian Pauline Curby spoke to us as COSHA’s event in the National Trust Heritage Festival. Pauline has spent the last two years researching and writing a definitive history of the City of Randwick, commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of the Council.
The Municipality of Randwick was incorporated on 22 February, 1859 one of the first to be proclaimed in New South Wales. The book covers the full spectrum of social diversity, cultural groupings and occupations of this historic part of Sydney. As it was not possible to cover all aspects detailed in the 400 pages of this impressive book, Pauline selected three themes that she felt epitomised Randwick. She described the three themes as Aboriginal Presence, Caring for Groups and People of Vision. Pauline described Randwick as being “a legendary place”.
The Aboriginal Presence – All My Country
The indigenous people from the northern shore of Botany Bay have often been referred to as Kamerygal/Gamerygal – the people from Ko-may (Botany Bay). However there is no easy answer to the question of clan boundaries in Sydney mainly because of a massive disruption caused by an epidemic amongst the indigenous population in 1789. The La Perouse area still retains strong aboriginal connections. Some of the present community has a Dharawal heritage drawn from south of Botany Bay.
Caring for the Children
By the early 1850s child destitution was recognised as a social problem, often due to the abandonment of children by parents who had caught ‘gold fever’ and left for the diggings. The Society for the Relief of Destitute Children was established to attempt to come to grips with the scale of the problem. The number of children in the asylum increased to 364 in 1863 and extensions were needed, starting in that year as a three-storied building. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the asylum was offered to the military authorities and up to 4000 soldiers were camped in the asylum. In June 1915 the institution was taken over as a hospital for wounded soldiers and by October 1915 all children and staff had vacated the buildings. Remaining buildings are now part of the Prince of Wales Hospital complex.
Caring for Lepers
In 1881 when a smallpox epidemic occurred in Sydney, notification of the disease was optional. This changed in December 1881 when the Infectious Diseases Act was passed after widespread panic in the city. Quarantine and isolation procedures were established and a camp was constructed at Little Bay. This became the infectious diseases hospital for New South Wales, later named the Prince Henry Hospital. But the treatment of smallpox cases ‘paled into insignificance’ compared with measures put in place to isolate sufferers from leprosy.
It was a widely misunderstood disease and admission to the lazaret was seen as a ‘life sentence’. Treatment continued at Little Bay until the 1960s.
Looking After Criminals
The idea of a penitentiary in Randwick was first raised in 1899 to be located near the rear of the Asylum for Destitute Children, but this idea was rejected as being too close to housing. An alternative was proposed in 1902 at Long Bay to become the State Reformatory for Women. It was intended for ‘treatment and reform rather than punishment’.
The People of Randwick
Randwick has undergone many changes since it was first incorporated as a municipality and each of the twenty-one chapters in the book contains stories about individuals that illustrate the times in which they lived.
The book ‘Randwick’ by Pauline Curby is published by Randwick Council and includes an extensive index and bibliography for researchers. ISBN: 9780908510085 (hard back)