City of Sydney Historical Association
2nd March, 2013 - History of Surry Hills & Darlinghurst
9th February, 2013 - Chinese New Year
12th January, 2013 - Tour of St Barnabas Church, Broadway
8th December, 2012 - Colonial Land Use and the Coxes of Mulgoa Valley
7th November, 2012 - Guided Tour of the Town Hall Vaults
3rd November, 2012 - 1954 Royal Tour
13th October, 2012 - Rise of Sydney's Department Stores
14th July, 2012 - Life & Times of Tommy Townshend
9th June, 2012 - "Reynolds" Cottages
19th May, 2012 - St Paul's College Tour
14th April, 2012 - Motorised Mayhem
10th March, 2012 - The Flying Fruit Fly Circus
4th February, 2012 - Quong Tart: High Tea and Scottish Ditties
14th January 2012: Dictionary of Sydney
10th December 2011: Admiral Arthur Philip - The Man
12th November 2011: Glebe Walk
8th October 2011: Bob Carr at the Annual General Meeting
3rd September 2011: History Week
13th August 2011: Tom Wentworth Wills –Visionary Sportsman
9th July 2011: Henry L'Estrange - Funambulist and Aeronaut
11th June 2011: Afro-American Servicemen in WWII
14th May 2011: Government House Tour
9th April 2011: Amazing Stories from Randwick
19th March 2011: The Ones that Got Away
12 Feb 2011: Chinese Market Gardens of Sydney
8 Jan 2011: St Andews College Tour
11 Dec 2010: Garden Palace Scandal
13 Nov 2010: Cumberland Digs
9 Oct 2010: Painting the Rocks
4 Sep 2010: Celebrate History Week
14 Aug 2010: Whaling, Wool and Wealth
10 Jul 2010: The Ones that Got Away
12 Jun 10: Percy Lindsay
8 May 10: Sydney Tramway Museum
10 Apr 10: Making of our nation
13 Mar 10: Reading photographs
13 Feb 2010: Macquarie Place
9 Jan 10: Sydney's Astronomical History
12 Dec 09: The colony
14 Nov 09: Women of The Rocks
10 Oct 09: History of Kent Brewery
5 Sep 09: Scandal, Crime & Corruption
15 Aug 09: Walk-Darling Harbour
11 Jul 09: Redfern Alexandria & Waterloo
06 Jun 09: Pubs & Publicans of Sydney
09 May 09 : C19th Sydney Firemen
18 Apr 09 : History of Darling Harbour
14 Mar 09: Bewitched!
Annual General Meeting 2009
Jan 2009 - Trade Hall
8th October 2011: Bob Carr at the Annual General Meeting

At our Annual General Meeting on 8th October, 2011 we had the pleasure of hearing a talk by The Honourable Bob Carr

 “He knows nothing of Australia who knows only Australia.”

This was his text for Bob Carr’s address on Saturday in Sydney’s Town Hall to the City of Sydney Historical Association. Bob Carr started by looking at some of the global changes that have defined how the world has developed its present social structure. In particular, he cited the expansion of Western Europe into the Americas and into Africa as the most fundamental changes. As a keen student of American history, he drew parallels between the settlement of Australia and that of America, starting with the English separatists 150 years earlier.  In both cases, that settlement involved annexing land which had been inhabited by an indigenous people. But the individual stories were different. He spoke about the echoes with American history, and in particular about the Ken Burns series The West.

“It had a revelation for me – that history comprises many narratives and you don’t have to settle on one. Burns showed the slaughter of 250 Lakota men women and children at Wounded Knee in 1890 when the military fired shells into tepees. It was a horrific slaughter and the viewer was profoundly shocked. Then, portraying arching Wyoming skies, Burns the film maker switched to the story of an idealistic young teacher, Ethel Waxman, arriving with her degree at a one teacher school. She is wooed by John Love, a rugged sheep rancher. It’s a classic pioneer tale. They survive floods, blizzards, market forces. Their story – this white settler history – coexists with the anguish of Indian blood in the snow at Wounded Knee. Ken made the point that the West comprised many histories, not just one. And this, as I’ve recently argued, is a key to Australian history.”

Recent History produces many Stories

From there he moved to a more modern example of Australian history, describing the way in which the fall of Singapore in the Second World War produced many different stories, including that of General Gordon Bennett. He outlined the story of General Gordon Bennett, who despite the personal bravery he demonstrated at Gallipoli, abandoned his men to flee back to Australia. This was seen by most as having overtones of weakness but more probably was based on defensible motives. Bennett aspired to lead the Australian army in World War Two. Bennett decided that it was his duty to escape from Singapore rather than surrender. He handed over command of the 8th Division to Brigadier Cecil Callaghan.

With a few junior officers and some local Europeans, Bennett commandeered a sampan at gunpoint and crossed the Strait of Malacca to the east coast of Sumatra. There they transferred to a launch in which they sailed up the Jambi River. They then proceeded on foot to Padang, on the west coast of Sumatra. From there Bennett flew to Java and then to Australia. Bennett was never to survive th  public antipathy, and a post war army inquiry found against his actions. Yet when he stood on the wharf to greet returning POWs he was cheered by them. There’s a fascinating Australian story here, but one that has not been fully told. But it is only one of the stories from the fall of Singapore in which Australia lost an army of 20,000 men, plus nurses, and perhaps one of the most dramatic in our country’s history. Many of those captured endured the prison camps and forced labour but returned as different people. Others did not survive. It was a huge loss that touched every town and suburb in the country. These are the stories that need to be told and each is different. They and all the other stories and all the other stories define the history of our country.