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Landmark women: Carolyn Forster

Carolyn Forster OAM, 28 March 2014

CARISSE FLANAGAN: Just a reminder that we still have after Carolyn’s talk today three more Landmark Women before the end of the financial year. Next month we have Professor Kaarin Anstey, who is the director of the Centre of Research of Ageing, Health and Wellbeing at the Australian National University. Following that we have Dr Mary-Jane Mountain, and this will coincide with National Archaeology Week. I am particularly excited, being just about to have a baby, because when I read Mary-Jane’s bio, it talks about how she spent some eight months in Papua New Guinea in 1978 excavating with a three-month-old baby. I think that’s a story I am pretty interested to hear. Following Mary-Jane we have Dr Julia Newton-Howes in June, which is the CEO of Care Australia. We know that will be a fascinating talk as well. I would like to introduce you to Helen Kon.

HELEN KON: Thank you, Carisse, and welcome everybody. I am personally delighted to introduce and welcome today’s guest speaker Carolyn Forster. Carolyn is vice-president of the Children’s Medical Research Institute board and a member of their Canberra committee since 1973, serving three times as its president. She worked in the federal parliament, as many of you know. She has chaired the ACT Heritage Festival for 11 years. She was chair of the board of Phillip College and is a past president of the Women’s International Club in the ACT. She also serves as chair of the Church of St Andrew Conservation and Restoration Foundation and is a very active council member of the Australiana Fund.

Carolyn is very dear to our hearts in this institution. She is currently a committee member and a former president, twice over, of the Friends of the National Museum of Australia. Carolyn has guided us here at the Museum into a very important future for our Friends, which is a growing part of the National Museum of Australia and one that we want to nurture even further.

She is the delegate also to the World Federation of Friends of Museums and is about to head off on a trip to Berlin and a member of the Australian Committee of the International Council of Museums. So Carolyn is not only a friend of this Museum but of all museums, and the work that she has done to engage communities with museums and to help us understand how other museums are engaging with their communities is absolutely vital to our future.

She has received an ACT Women’s Award in 1996, a Centenary Medal in 2003 and an Order of Australia Medal in 2006. I would now like to welcome Carolyn to give us today’s talk. Thank you, Carolyn. [applause]

CAROLYN FORSTER: Thank you, Helen, for those very lovely words. Today I find myself on the other side of the lectern. Many has been the time when I have asked people to participate in what was first Women’s Voices, a program initiated by an architect from Spain, who introduced me to the work of Gaudi. She, like many trailing spouses [of diplomats], had multiple talents to share and she wanted to give a voice to women. This program Landmark Women, which Sandy Forbes has expertly managed and now Carisse Flanagan, has been running here at the Museum for I think about 11 years, and it has me in the hot seat today.

I glibly asked those who we thought would be ideal speakers, ‘We have a very broad topic for you: your life, your work and/or your passion.’ This does not seem quite so easy from my perspective today and I am not sure that I have a lot to offer, but I do feel I am amongst friends in a place that has become very much part of my life. Thank you for coming and, to those of who that I know, thank you very much for your support.

I am going to show you some slides. These are my parents June and Bill who were wonderful. The first house we lived in was that of my grandparents at Castle Hill. The house was in quite a rural outer Sydney area and was often termed ‘where the country meets the city’. It was where Patrick White lived at one time and where the Fairfax family had an out-of-town house, and where my grandfather settled after moving from the country. He had three daughters and so remaining on the land in those days was not thought suitable.

I have put this photo up of my father, who was very fond of horses and was in the reservists and did a lot of preparing of horses for war.

These are the grandparents that I lived with, Euphene Jane and Robert Slessor-Crawford.

It was a great house, full of family, a large garden, aviaries with wonderful birds, especially a sulphur-crested cockatoo. This bird called ‘Cocky’ became part of our lives. If we walked by the cage he would chat to us, asking us to dance with him. My mother tells the story of one time when my father had brought her home very late from a dance that there was a call in my grandfather’s voice saying, ‘Is that you June, is that you June?’ Dad fled down the drive, little knowing that ‘Cocky’ was a very fine mimic. As it was quite a large family with many Mr Crawfords, ‘Cocky’ was used to win bets with male family members betting their guests that the cocky knew their name. He was so good at saying, ‘Hello Mr Crawford.’ I have a large picture of a sulphur crested cockatoo over my desk in memory of ‘Cocky’.

Here is another photograph of the house. Along with the garden, birds, Jock and Judy the goats, chickens, my crystal wireless set (a treasured possession), and cousins living next door, there was a lot of land that ran down the hill to the bush and a creek. What a wonderful place to grow up! When we ventured further into the bush, and perhaps onto other people’s land, we found disused pisé (mud brick houses), python snakes and heaps of blackberries.

Castle Hill had a strong Aboriginal history, and the first European visitors to the district were Governor Phillip on an excursion from Parramatta in April 1791. Governor King began a government farm with convict labour in 1801 which was referred to as Castle Hill. In 1804, the convicts rebelled in ‘The battle for Vinegar Hill’.

Here is a photograph of my wonderful mother and me. I must have needed some restraining with that brace around me. Here is a photograph of the cousins. Watermelon was a great favourite. That is me in the middle. My brother was three years younger than me, so that is the cousins that I grew up with.

When my cousins went off to school, I cried at the thought of being left behind so I went off with them to Glenhaven Public School, which in those days was a one teacher school, just a relatively small building with a verandah front and back, run by Mr Bunker and his wife, who gave sewing lessons. Now having cried to get to school, I soon realised that school was not all wonderful because I am left handed, and perhaps some of you had the same experience as me of being slapped for using your left hand. I actually still remember how much it hurt. Being left handed was commented on and considered different, which made me uncomfortable for quite a bit of my life.

The mail car delivered us to school in the mornings, but in the afternoons we walked up the hill and met the car on the main road. Being very little, some days the teacher needed to piggyback me up the hill, poor man, it was too big a walk for me.

Just like children today, there was always something either to make us aware of others or to fundraise via schools. The Gould League for Birds and the Red Cross come to mind. At a pet show - they were very big in my day; I don’t know if any of you remember the pet shows - my mother dressed my pet bantam with a little hat and an apron which had a red cross. I don’t remember winning a prize, but the bantam did look very cute.

Here I am with Judy and Jock. They were the playmates in the garden.

This house is the house of my other grandparents. It was called Grantham in Grantham Street, Burwood. So here we had another wonderful house to play in – lots of stairs, cubby holes. You can see the roof on the other side where the house is now developed. The land had been sold but that was also a play area for us. When we visit there, of course there was another set of cousins. So we had a wonderful time with those children.

Once our house was completed and fenced, we moved closer to the village of Castle Hill. As it was not very long after the war building materials were still very short, and my father had a large Nissen hut built in the back of the garden - you remember those curved, corrugated iron buildings that we associate with military establishments. This he had built as a storage area where he could collect the building materials until he had sufficient to warrant getting the builder.

The fencing was extremely relevant as my brother Christopher wandered. One day, while we were living with my grandparents in the other house that you saw, the bus driver brought him inside as he had found him driving his toy cars up and down the yellow line in the centre of the road. The other thing that my mother used to do. She used to put the vacuum cleaner at the door because Christopher was frightened of the vacuum cleaner so that assured he would not move.

At our new house on Old Northern Road there was another wonderful garden: some 20 orange trees, passionfruit vines on the fence, a great cubby house and pets - and a shortish walk to the Castle Hill Public school. The main building of that school dated from 1879 with newer less attractive buildings to accommodate the increasing population of the area. Again, the school was not my favourite place. I am sure if it is not just me who remembers the warm milk, the bitumen yard, hard school seats and very hot February days. I did the regular things like Brownies, ballet, bike riding, basketball and had plenty of freedom.

Then from Castle Hill I went to the Presbyterian Ladies College, Pymble, the school my mother and her two sisters had attended. The train timetable had not changed since my mother went to school, and the travel was very long - at least three hours each day with a bus, two trains and then a walk to the school. Heaven help you if you missed a train connection or the bus. We quite often don’t tell our children the risky things we used to do – jumping across to a waiting train instead of rushing up and down the steps is one of those things I have not mentioned.

Pymble was a very beautiful school – and the image on the screen now is the chapel of the school, which was finished in my time at school. Here we have the gymnasium lawn. The gymnasium was a huge room with lots of tortuous ladders and bars and things. Pymble was a very beautiful school with many facilities. However, along with the unchanged train timetable there were a number of teachers, mainly those in the sporting area, who were there in my mother’s time. I really enjoyed swimming and received my Bronze Medallion for lifesaving along with the Intermediate Star. Miss Wylie, an Olympic swimmer, was our teacher. I never saw her get into the water, nor did my mother when she was at school. I still love swimming and now there are three generations catching the same wave when we surf together.

Being involved in fundraising and community organisations commenced quite early. A group of us started a Legacy Younger Set. We raised about 32 pounds at our first dance. We organised many other functions and activities and had a great time doing so. This was one of the balls that we organised. Most of my family members were involved in the community one way or another. Words such as ‘volunteering’ and ‘giving something back’ were not used then, people just got on with what needed to be done.

My grandfather was a Presbyterian Church elder, a shire councillor, patron of the local agricultural society and a man who collected antiques. My grandmother was involved with the hospital. My parents were great community workers. Dad audited books for a number of community organisations and was very involved with the local Castle Hill Show with the judging of horses. Mummy was involved with the CWA and Red Cross. I do remember her coming home one day being quite cross about the greedy women she was serving at a function and how they wanted more tea before others had even been served. I do laugh at this as I, too, have had the same experience.

My first job was in stockbroking which I found fascinating. The opportunity to go to the trading floor to see just what news item had affected which stock was a great delight. My fascination with the stock market turned into dollars and I was able to fund an around the world air ticket and have some spending money. I was to travel with a cousin but at the last minute she decided not to go, so off I bravely went on my own.

Fortunately I had another cousin who was married to a Qantas pilot and he was posted in Mexico City where I stayed for two months. It was an exciting city to visit! A most vibrant place with an equally vibrant, extraordinary culture. I visited museums, wonderful shops filled with large paper flowers, silver galore, archaeological sites, and even my first big supermarket. The Anthropological Museum in Mexico City was a favourite and, unlike when I was a child and taken to museums where my legs ached as soon as I got in the door with that musty smell, or even before I got out of the car, this place changed my perspective entirely.

The Museo Nacional de Antropologia was different. It sold me on museums. Designed in 1964 by Pedro Ramirez Vázguez, Jorge Campuzano and Rafael Mijares, it has an impressive architecture with exhibition halls surrounding a patio with a large pool and a vast square concrete umbrella supported by a single slender pillar, around which splashes an artificial cascade. The halls are ringed by gardens, many of which contain outdoor exhibits. The museum has 23 rooms for exhibitions and covers an area of almost eight hectares. There is that wonderful pillar. The museum has a number of significant exhibits, such as the Stone of the Sun, (like the one - not quite like the one on the wall of the Mexican Embassy here in Canberra - giant stone heads of the Olmec civilisation, which had been at the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, and much more. There is that wonderful stone. When I was there it was in an outside area, but they have obviously moved it inside now.

After a two-month visit and, with a promise from my old boss at the stockbrokers in Sydney of a job on Wall Street, I set off for New York. Unfortunately there was no job! I was staying at the YWCA and needed employment. I was just a tad desperate and a bit disappointed, if I remember rightly. So I went to the Australian Consulate in Rockefeller Centre and, when presented with the form asking what skills I had, I ticked all the boxes. I became the assistant secretary to the assistant consul and after a very short time I became the teleprinter operator. There I encountered many machines that I had no idea how they worked but somehow I got by.

I trolled through the paper and found an apartment on the east side with a great English girl called Jane. It had a five floor walk-up. When Carisse said this morning she was a bit puffed, this is my answer to that. This is the reason I don’t have milk or sugar in my coffee or tea and can do without a number of things, as items become very heavy after five flights of stairs.

One day Jane came to have lunch with me and, as we walked out of the Rockefeller Centre, a young man said, ‘I know you’. My reply was, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know you’. The rejoinder to this was, ‘Your name is Carolyn, and we met in Acapulco’, followed by, ‘Will you have lunch?’ Well lunch is safe, so Jane and I went to lunch. The young man was Rick Forster, and the following evening we went to dinner. Rick then left New York for Ireland where he was to advise on a problem they were having with Galway ewes, who were very bad mothers.

Jane was very sweet and was concerned that the Australians did not pay very well, so she suggested that I go and work for the British. I got a wonderful job with their information and promotional area, starting at 10 am and finishing at 6 pm. One of the things that I really found fun was doing the cuttings relating to the UK and their designers from the fashion paper Women’s Wear Daily. I could string that out for hours.

To this day I cannot really say why I left New York but I did have all that air ticket yet to use and perhaps I felt I would stay forever if I did not make a move. I flew to Ireland and did lots of tourist things, and on the ferry from Dublin to Glasgow I met an incredible Catholic nun Sister Catherine, who was appalled to find that I did not have any accommodation organised. She insisted that I stay in their convent guest accommodation. She was kindness itself, and there was even a hot water bottle in my bed when I came home. Sister Catherine took me to the first multi-bed hospital cum nursing home. I was shocked and humbled. I kept in touch with her and was very sad when she died.

I spent time in England and then went to Frankfurt where I worked for an American who had PX stores, those places that serviced the American forces in Germany and other places. The work was in English, thank goodness, as I had no German, but I did go to classes which were completely conducted in German as those attending came from many different countries. I still have my Samsonite suitcases that I was able to buy through the office, along with my non-stick baking trays.

Ever since the dinner in New York, Rick and I corresponded. He claims he had nothing better to do because by this stage he was managing a property that, along with some friends, he had bought at Eneabba in Western Australia, which was miles from nowhere.

After getting back home after stops in France, Italy, Greece, India, Asia and more – you can see I wasn’t in a hurry to come home - I still had some air ticket left. In those days around the world tickets are not like they are now, you could stop whenever you liked, you could change the ticket willy nilly, as I did. So when Rick suggested I come to visit, I said yes to come for the weekend to stay with his parents but instead of staying a weekend I stayed a week. This was in the September of 1967. We were engaged in December and married in April of the following year.

The day after Rick asked me to marry him he took all the breeding ewes droving on the road as there was no feed at all on the property. Three thousand sheep, Rick and his dogs and a horse roamed the districts looking for grass almost all of the time we were engaged. My friends thought poor Carolyn, she has come home, everyone is married, and she has invented this bloke. No engagement ring either. Rick could not leave the sheep to come to Sydney to buy the ring but, when he did, his station hand Colin took over for just one day. This was a bit of a disaster – I got the ring - but some silly person did not pay attention to the signs and ran into the sheep killing 27 of them but, worst of all, Colin’s dog was also killed. Needless to say, with the drought and droving I saw very little of Rick while we were engaged. When we got married he did employ a drover.

Rick, with all his travels in South America, had made arrangements with the Guatemalan government to start a sheep industry for them using Australian Corriedale sheep, which we had a Corriedale stud. We were to go to Guatemala straight after we were married with a plan to stay for four years. I packed twice and contracts were signed, but thank goodness we never did more than that because at that time there was the most terrible unrest and civil war. We would have been there at a time when there were many disappearances and killings and the proposed site for the project was in a relatively remote province so I am sure that if we had gone I would not be here today. This is a picture of the house and the area that we would have been living in. It looked a lot more glamorous in 1968 when I first saw the photograph. Here we are, some of the women of that period.

Instead we settled into the cottage on our property ‘Cullinga Creek’ at Cootamundra. This was the house that the station hand moved out of because of the drought and the snakes in the garden. Cootamundra was a great district with many young people. Rick’s parents were next door – well, across many paddocks - and his cousin was also a neighbour. It was easy to settle into rural life. He had a great mum who taught me heaps about how to cope.

Just before Emma, our first child, was born, we had a day trip to Canberra from Cootamundra and we saw Leonard French’s 7 days, an exhibition I will never forget, so moving and exciting. It was the first exhibition that I had been to that had a theatrical aspect to it, each painting in a dark space and then the seventh, the grand finale. Leonard French described 7 Days as ‘simple, joyous works, that have a clarity of expression of their universal meaning’. The other aspect of the visit was that Canberra was green, and I was living with a continuum of brown. It was another world.

After five years in Cootamundra, Rick still wanted to do something more, so we moved to Canberra where he had been offered a position in rural advisory work. So we bought a house and moved here in 1973 but we still kept the property. Emma literally went to pre-school the very next day, the Rutherford Crescent pre-school just a walk across the park from home. How great to have the school so close! I was delighted. I have to admit that I still appreciate city facilities and having the garbage removed and the paper and the mail delivered.

Two of the children were born in Cootamundra, with our Canberra baby born on this site at the old Canberra Hospital. For many, or rather most of us, Canberra was not our place of birth so I was quite passionate about getting to understand my new town. I joined the pre-school committee and found myself as president. I still see the pre-school teacher who told me that when she had asked Emma who the new baby looked like, Emma said, ‘He looks a bit like a friend of Dad’s’. Lucky that Patrick is the image of Rick.

Then there was the 15th Canberra Boy Scouts, the school committees and, not unlike many of you, as the children moved through school activities so did I by getting involved and understanding the town and, even better, the children and their mates. Once Patrick went to school, I went back to work, firstly with a stock broking firm in Civic and followed by a job at the Canberra and South East Region Environment Centre where I became involved with the Heritage Festival, as Helen said, for 11 years. This festival is still running and is on in April so look out for the program.

With a taste of grassroots politics, I was most fortunate to move to a job at Old Parliament House and then later to the new House. These years were wonderfully hectic and informative, with my favourite place being the Parliamentary Library. Until the children left school my jobs were part time or job sharing, so I was still able to juggle school committees and fundraising. I once made 1,000 pancakes for the boys’ school, but never again.

I really enjoy being able to sew and was able to do some fine sewing for Lanyon, Calthorpe’s House and Mugga Mugga, the historic houses in the ACT. The work was intriguing as it was replica work, shell stitch on muslin curtains, bed hangings with 1860s fabric, cording for the edge of curtains.

You can see here we are working on this 1860s fabric. It came in pieces and we had to make a calico model because the fabric was so precious. The part that looked less beautiful we put on the side of the bed that you didn’t see so much.

I also made 30 convict shirts for a school program in the same sort of design that the convict shirts were made, replica convict pants and a jacket. There was also restoration sewing. You can see here the dressing table that was draped in muslin.

Another involvement is with the Church of St Andrew Conservation and Restoration Foundation, the beautiful neo-gothic style church built in 1934 on State Circle. Many of you will know this lovely building. The stone clad brick church was designed by Mr John Barr, with the foundations stone laid by the then Governor General His Excellency Viscount Stonehaven on 27 November 1929. As one history puts it, ‘Unfortunately, not long afterwards the Great Depression fell upon the world with the result that many promises of support could not be honoured.’ As a result, only part of the church (apse, transept, tower and spire) was built and the Warriors’ Chapel could not be finished. However, the Warriors Chapel was finished and is a charming aspect of the church.

The church has needed many repairs, and it was wonderful to be part of a successful submission and to receive $500,000 in the Centenary of Federation round of grants, which enabled urgent work to be undertaken. The stone cladding was falling off the building so it really was urgent. Since then with further grants and huge support from the congregation, we have been able to restore the beautiful windows and other areas of the church, and most recently the spire. You may have seen the scaffolding which has just been taken down.

Another great sewing job about this time was to make the unveiling cloak, or cloth, for the John Dowie sculpture of the Queen, which she unveiled at the opening of the new Parliament House in 1988. The statue is on the Queen’s Terrace on the first level of new Parliament House. Prior to that, in March 1988, I made an unveiling cloth or curtain – these were much smaller - for the plaques when the foundation stone was repositioned in front of new Parliament House. Here is the Parliament building, those two buildings which are really magnificent.

I have been a long-term member of the Women’s International Club of Canberra and have run programs or circles for members. One of these was for mothers and children - such a delight - and the woman in this picture with all the children is back in Canberra after some ten or so years in Chile and we have renewed our friendship.

A strong interest in Australian culture flowed on to the Australiana Fund where I have been a member for many years. This organisation, independent of government, seeks to provide items of cultural significance to the four official Establishments: Government House and the Lodge here in Canberra, and Kirribilli House and Admiralty House in Sydney.

My most long-term involvement has been with the Children’s Medical Research Institute. Firstly, and still with, the Canberra Committee established in 1960, one of 26 committees mainly in New South Wales, who support the basic research conducted by the scientists into cancer, epilepsy, embryology, and gene therapy at Westmead in Western Sydney. The signature fundraiser for the Institute is Jeans for Genes, which most people are more familiar with than the name Children’s Medical Research Institute. We put on this really wonderful function at Old Parliament House and we had a lot of support from the family members. Here are many of the family members’ children and the director of the institute. We had marvellous piles of jeans which were tied up with bows. So it really was a Jeans for Genes night.

Another fundraising effort was to produce a cookbook. As petit fours are the signature at the end of our annual luncheon, which has been running for as long as the committee has been running here in Canberra.

We were also very privileged at the Institute to have a visit from the Queen of Sweden. When in Australia she also visited the Museum and, when she saw me a day later at the Institute, she said ‘You do get around.’ In 1996 I was invited to join the board and in 2000 was elected vice president. This is quite a large commitment as I also sit on four board committees, chairing one. The involvement started when I was asked to help with one of their annual lunches, and I am still helping more than 40 years later.

I joined the Friends of the National Museum of Australia before the building was opened and have membership number 44. Many years prior to my joining I had been part of a community consultation where government was seeking feedback about the Acton Peninsula, and from that moment on I was intrigued to find out what the site would be used for. Little did I know that it would be this lovely Museum as I had thought the proposed Yarramundi site was perfect. Again I found myself on a committee, the Friends of the National Museum of Australia. Winnifred Rosser was the president and a driving force for the building of the Museum.

I served firstly on the committee and then two five-year terms as president of the Friends, which was after the Museum was built. So we needed to move from a lobby group to one that served the needs of its members. One time I was sitting in the broadcast studio - many of you will remember the small theatre just off the Hall with the steps -where there was a presentation and I, along with others, was taking notes. I could not believe it - so many people were left handed. It was like I was coming home!

When speaking to Professor John Mulvaney one day about his work on the Piggott Report into a national museum he talked about a museum - it was the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. I was so fascinated to hear that this was the museum, which I visited in 1966 and loved, was the one they wanted to use as a model for the NMA.

Once involved with the Museum, I found that there were other organisations which were a broader part of the Friends network: the Australian Federation of Friends of Museums, of which I became President and did a four-year term; and this is part of the World Federation of Friends of Museums where I have been a vice president – the title was Africa, Asia, Pacific - and now I serve as the Australian delegate.

This was our birthday celebration in the Garden of Australian Dreams. You can see the first director here when the Museum opened, Dawn Casey, and I and some of the other hosts enjoying the celebration.

This last museum photo is of Professor Frank Fenner, a special NMA Friend and a legend in his own lifetime, and whose story you can see here at the Museum.

My life is not all museums, CMRI, the church and the commitment but a canoe, children, sometimes champagne, the beach and the blessing of family. Here we are all at Christmas. Missing is the 16-year-old grandson and my brother and sister-in-law and their family. They were in Hong Kong. Thank you very much for listening to me. [applause]

CARISSE FLANAGAN: Thank you. Carolyn. If anybody would like to ask Carolyn any questions, please raise your hand.

QUESTION: Because I live here in Canberra and I go past St Andrew’s all the time as I am zooming around in the car, why can’t we see it? Why are the trees allowed to be so huge and covering it all up?

CAROLYN FORSTER: You can see it. Just drive around it. You can call in. It is gorgeous. It is not ornate inside. It was a time when they used cement and made it look like faux stone. The coping stones on the top are cement; they are not sandstone. It is really interesting. Do call in. I don’t think we will get them to chop the trees down.

QUESTION: No, I didn’t think so. I just thought I would ask. It is such a gem and it is all covered up – or it seems to be.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for an interesting presentation. Given you very wide exposure to museums, how do Australian museums fare compared with what is happening with other museums in other countries? Are we interactive? Are we dynamic? Do we do things differently?

CAROLYN FORSTER: I think we do things a little differently but that is one of the joys - isn’t it? – of going to look at a different museum. It is very hard to make comparison. A lot of the things that Helen and I talk about, perhaps the programs that are being run, what is on offer for members, because I don’t have curatorial or design expertise, but I certainly can comment when I am there. They are all different, and of course it is subject matter that makes it different. Some stuff has to be in cases; some can be readily available with big items like we have in the Hall here. Each is a real joy to visit, I find.

QUESTION: Carolyn, it is interesting to hear that your family background was Castle Hill so your grandparents would have been very familiar with the early colonial Parramatta Hospital. At the moment we are – that is, ex graduates of the Colonial Parramatta and Districts Hospital - trying to convince the Premier of New South Wales not to sell it all off. We have one section, a beautiful old historic home, that has such history and was used for second and third-year nurses that is now set up as a medical museum with the history of Parramatta as well. With the hospital first being built for Governor Arthur Phillips’ sick soldiers when he built Government House there, it has such history. It is such a shame to think that it is going to be completely sold off. With the Heritage Council and the mayor of Parramatta and all the ex graduates writing to the Premier of New South Wales, we are hoping to save it. We wondered whether with your interest with the heritage committee you were aware that the early colonial hospital was going to be completely sold.

CAROLYN FORSTER: I think these things are always extremely difficult. I don’t know what the answer is. If you have heritage listing of the buildings, that should have some protective mechanism for you. But who’s to say? That is a state matter which federally people can’t delve into that, I don’t think, but you could try federally to see if that would work. The mayor of Parramatta is very supportive and very strong on the district so he should be a very good advocate for you. I wish you well. It is very hard, but perhaps we can talk later.

CARISSE FLANAGAN: With that, could you please put your hands together for Carolyn.

Date published: 8 May 2014