The Makings of a City History Conference 2009

Convicts and Culture

History Conference 2009
Penrith City Library held its 8th Annual History Conference on Saturday 14 March 2009


There is much to celebrate in 2009 and our History Conference focused on some of these interesting bi-centenaries and centenaries.

Our 2009 participants were presented with a unique opportunity to be informed about our important early history and our cultural history in its many forms – our convict heritage, the establishment of the Emu Plains convict farm, our School of Arts, the amalgamation of our various councils to form the one and only Penrith Municipal Council and ten years later our district becoming a City!

  • Introduction and welcome by Lorraine Stacker, Penrith City Library’s Information Librarian
  • Keynote speaker: Babette Smith – spokeonAustralia’sbirthstain and thelegacyofconvictism.

    “Re-envisaging Australian history or how Robert Hughes – and others – got it wrong.” The reality and strongly developed ethos of a flourishing convict society is neither remembered nor understood. Its people have been reduced to caricature. They are ‘Out of Sight’, taking with them knowledge of our civic heritage from the transportation era. Babette is an historian & freelance writer. Her latest book, Australia’s Birthstain, published in 2008, traces the country’s shame about its convict foundations and the distorted history that resulted. Australia’s Birthstain follows the success of her earlier work, A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the Convicts of the Princess Royal, a 2nd edition of which was also published in 2008. The fictional version of Cargo will be published by Picador in 2010.
    History Conference 2009 - 01
  • Lorraine StackerChained to the soil – theatrically speaking – Lorraine gave a brief history of the Emu Plains convict farm’s history and its superintendents. She then went onto outline the rise and fall of its controversial theatre.
  • Dr Roger Morris – provided us with a history of the development of schools of arts and mechanics institutes. He was able to help us put our School of Arts at Penrith and Mechanics Institute at St Marys into an historical context of its time.
  • Associate Professor Dr Carol Liston – reminded us of the life of Mary Vidal – Mrs Francis Vidal of Penrith and St Marys. The Reverend Francis Vidal was associated with both St Stephens and St Mary Magdalene Church of England. Mary Vidal is known as Australia’s Jane Austen, being the first woman novelist in Australia.
  • Lindsay Allen, NSW State Records – entertained us with documents at State Records on picture theatres and drive-ins in Penrith.
  • Lorraine Stacker – updated everyone on the History of Penrith project.

Venue: Q Theatre at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre