$2.3m restoration work for Sydney landmark

Date: 05/09/2002

A $2.3 million restoration program will give Sydney's historic landmark, the Female Orphan School at the University of Western Sydney's Parramatta campus, a new lease of life.

A special ceremony on Tuesday, 10 September, at 10.30am, will mark the renaissance of the school which had its foundation stone laid in 1813 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie.

The conservation and adaptation program will complement the heritage significance of the building, which opened in 1818 as an orphan school and was used as a psychiatric hospital from 1888 to 1987.

The university intends for the building to be a public space for community activities, research and educational outreach, providing a series of spaces for engagement and exchange, and ultimately linking the university's research strengths with an ongoing exploration of the history, development and future of Western Sydney.

UWS Vice-Chancellor, Professor Janice Reid, says the restoration project aims to return one of the country's most architecturally and socially significant buildings to the community.

"The Female Orphan School has a long history as one of Australia's most important institutional buildings. However, from the time of Rydalmere Hospital's closure this national heirloom has been left unoccupied and in a state of deterioration,'' says Professor Reid.

"As the caretakers of this national treasure, UWS is working to ensure its history is preserved and showcased for the benefit of not only the local community but all of Sydney.''

Home to orphan girls aged 4-12 between 1818 and 1850, the Female Orphan School was Australia's first three-storey brick building.

Associate Professor Carol Liston, historian with the School of Humanities at UWS, is researching the history of the orphan school.

She will lead the tour of the premises after the ceremony on 10 September. Her work is set to become an integral part of the new life being injected into the school.

"The first pupils arrived in 1818 and by 1829 there were 152 girls in a building designed for 100,'' says Associate Professor Liston.

"They came from all sections of colonial society - the children of convicts, children orphaned during the long voyage to Australia and even Aboriginal children referred to the orphanage by colonial clergymen and magistrates.

"Girls received a basic education and were apprenticed as domestic servants at thirteen.''

The development has been funded through a $1 million grant from the New South Wales Heritage Council. UWS provided the remaining $1.3 million.

The building, with more than 180 years of continuous use has gone through the following phases as an institution:
* Female Orphan School: 1813/1818 - 1850
* Protestant Orphan School (male and female orphans) : 1850-1888
* Rydalmere Psychiatric Hospital: 1888-1987
* University of Western Sydney, Parramatta Campus: 1993-present.

For details on the ceremony contact:
Suzi Blair
Phone: 02 9678 7312
Email: s.blair@uws.edu.au


For more media information or requests for interviews:
Asha Chand
Senior Media Officer
Phone: 02 9678 7429
Email: a.chand@uws.edu.au