Cities of the world each hold their secrets and Sydney is no exception. This is a city we frequent, one The Man and I grew up in and it is a favoured haunt of ours. It also holds some charming secrets, hiding them in full view and it never ceases to surprise me how so many people overlook these things.
While growing up in Sydney, we had some favourite things to do and see when time and circumstance allowed us. These entertainments ranged broadly from the local beaches to rummaging through the bush, and of course the Manly Ferry ride across the beautiful harbour, particularly when there was a Southerly Buster blowing and the ride was a tad on the wild side. A much loved day out was exploring the City, looking for new wonders as well as the remnant of good ole Sydney Town at the Rocks and other places, those still haunted by the past and family memories.
I have often had a whine about how Aussies are not taught our own history. We are taught instead, at the very best, anecdotal stories. Mostly we are taught about European history, English royalty and the histories of European explorers who came to lay their own uncertain claim to fame in a new world. There is nothing about Asian explorers and traders who had a huge traditional trade business operating on our northern shores for centuries, or even information on the claims the Dutch held in continental Australia. This claim being one much earlier than when Lieutenant Cook made his equally ditzie claim for English sovereignty over the vast swathe of the Australian coastline while standing on a remote island in the Torres Strait.
History is a wonderful thing, it provides us with a frame of reference, a background and tales of the past, ours. It is our greatest shame that our children are not taught Australian history in our schools and are instead taught mostly English maritime history.
Australian history or the deeds and challenges of the past are epic, from the trials of the native Australians to the building of our nation, including both the good, the bad and the downright distasteful.
Deep in the bush, in the region which secreted the dinosaur of trees, the Wollemi pine, is hidden another secret. It is the industrial ghost settlement of Newnes, a testament to mans industry and a ruin of epic proportions.
There is a wonderful tapestry, one that has always intrigued me, to be found in Government House in Canberra and it is in the Great Hall. It is a backdrop to the Grandest of reception rooms and while it is one that I love, I never imagined that I would find such a beautiful landscape. I imagined it drawn from the artists mind, an interpretation of a landscape that is instantly recognizable by any Aussie who is familiar with the Australian bush.
Sydney holds so much of what is our history, both our colonial history and the stories of our ancient culture. We’ve been showing one of our Grandies around this great city, which saw the birth of the modern Aussie culture. It was a journey from the very beginnings of the penal settlement and then on through to Sydney’s current position as one of the great cities of the world.
I am champing at the bit here … hating that I am not on the road but instead camped up in the back yard attending to all those pesky domestics of health, maintenance and fine tuning. Two weeks to go before we head out again on the wallaby and I am gathering together the wherewithal to get back out into a bush freecamp.