In 2015 I posted an item called ‘Camden’s mysterious heritage list’. In it I complained about the travails of trying to navigate Camden Council’s website to find the Camden heritage inventory. I wrote:
Recently I needed to consult Camden’s heritage inventory list for a research project. I also consulted similar lists for Campbelltown and Wollondilly LGAs. They were easy to find. Camden’s list was mysteriously hiding somewhere. It had to exist. The council is obliged to put one together by the state government. But where was it? Do you know where Camden Council’s heritage inventory is to be found? I did not know. So off I went on a treasure hunt. The treasure was the heritage list.
I am very happy to report that many things have changed since 2015.
Committee member LJ Aulsebrook has written about the activities and role of the committee in Camden History, the journal of the Camden Historical Society.
The Camden Historical Society has an ex-officio position on the Heritage Advisory Committee and the president is the nominee of the society.
One of the outstanding activities of the committee was the 2019 Unlock Camden held during History Week run by the History Council of New South Wales. The Camden event was co-ordinated by LJ Aulesbrook.
The aim of the Heritage Advisory Committee are outlined in the Terms of Reference. The ToR states that the HAC aims :
To promote heritage and community education by: a) Generating a wider appreciation of heritage through public displays, seminars, participation in the annual National Trust Heritage festival & history week; b) Promoting and coordination of heritage open days; c) Generating a greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal heritage in Camden Local Government Area; d) Actively encouraging conservation and maintenance of heritage items and heritage conservation areas to owners and the general public; e) Investigating grant opportunities; f) Investigating opportunities for Council run awards/recognition in response to good heritage work; g) Developing a register of local heritage professionals and tradespeople; and h) Assisting in developing education packages for information, school education, and best heritage practices.
Heritage is something that we have inherited from the past. It informs us of our history as well as giving us a sense of cultural value and identity. Heritage places are those that we wish to treasure and pass on to future generations so that they too can understand the value and significance of past generations.
Heritage makes up an important part of the character of the Camden Local Government Area (LGA). Camden’s heritage comprises of a diverse range of items, places, and precincts of heritage significance. Items, places or precincts may include public buildings, private houses, housing estates, archaeological sites, industrial complexes, bridges, roads, churches, schools, parks and gardens, trees, memorials, lookouts, and natural areas. Heritage significance includes all the values that make that item, place or precinct special to past, present and future generation.
In addition Camden Council has set out for general environmental heritage conditions on its website here.
Camden Council has recently offered advice on for owners who want to restore their residential properties along heritage lines. The advice covers materials, colours, and finishes for Victorian, Edwardian and Mid-century residential architectural styles in the Camden Town Conservation area.
The Camden Town Centre conservation area was proclaimed by the state government in 2008 and is subject to a range of development conditions.
It is great to see how Live and Local contributes to the creation of an arts precinct in Camden for a day and a half. All this live music is good for the local economy, job creation and helps build local tourism.
Importance of live music
Live music is central to the Live and Local music festival and acknowledges how live performance is an important part of our culture. Performances are authentic and artists provide a screen-time in 3-D without much assistance from tech-gadgets.
Performers at Live and Local provided a form of engagement of the imagination which is sadly lacking with recordings or tech-devices. Live performances at Live and Local are fresh. It is not canned music.
There was an awesome array of talent on display for all to see – warts and all. Performers were in the moment and provided a physical and emotional experience with their audiences.
Live performance is a shared experience between performer and audience. There is an immediacy that provides an element of surprise and risk, perhaps even the unexpected.
Place making and storytelling
All Live and Local artists are part of the creative industries. They create stories which are expressed in song and music. Musicians, poets, raconteurs, performers and writers are all storytellers. All cultures have story tellers.
Storytelling as song allows the musicians to connect with their audience. Their stories are captivating, and full of emotion and meaning. These stories are one element in the process of place making and construction of community identity.
Stories as songwriting can connect people with memories of the past in the present. Music can tell the stories of place and the history of a community. Music can create a connection with the landscape and create an attachment to place.
Songs are one form of storytelling that can take a successful part of marketing and branding for a locality and community. In this way they help the local economy and local businesses.
Support for music festival
The Live and Local project is a partnership between the Live Music Office and Camden Council. Funding was provided by Create NSW as part of the Western Sydney Live and Local Strategic initiative.
Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak stated
I encourage you to take the time and visit each venue to hear the diversity of the music and let our talented local artists entertain you for hours.
The director of the NSW government Live Music Office John Wardle stated that it
has been truly inspirational and we once again very much look forward to a day that will be a highlight of the broader cultural program in Western Sydney.
Musicians succeed in gig economy
Camden’s Live and Local festival demonstrated how musicians are part of the gig economy. All trying to make a living. These issues were explored in a recent article in The Conversation.
Musicians identified that they did meaningful work according article author Alana Blackburn, a lecturer in Music at the University of New England. She maintained that
Their intrinsic success lies not in what others expect of them, but in achieving personal freedom and being true to their beliefs. It’s about meeting personal and professional needs.
Musicians can survive under these circumstances by developing important overarching and transferable skills.
This type of career is called a ‘portfolio career’ where musicians have lots of jobs. A mix of paid and unpaid, and mostly short term work and projects. Musicians state that the prefer to be in-charge of their own career, despite the financial challenges. They feel that they can control their creative efforts and their music related activities.
Musicians, like other creative arts types, are mostly self-directed and driven by a passion for their artistic work. Musicians often work across industries and are not locked into the music industry. They consider that they are continually learning and are not afraid of failure.
Blackburn maintains that the success of musicians in the gig economy is down to a number of characteristics that they develop: life-long learning, adaptability, flexibility, social networking, entrepreneurial skills, planning, organisation, collaboration, confidence, self-directed, multi-tasking, independence, risk-taking, promotion and others.
Many of the artists at Camden 2018 Live and Local fitted into this category. Some are in the early career stage while others are more successful. The gig economy is here to stay and provides many challenges. It is not for the fainthearted. Live and Local provided a sound platform for the exposure of these artists in a tough industry.
In October 2016 historian and author Dr Ian Willis addressed a Council Council general meeting. He spoke in support of a motion proposed by Councillor Cagney for the formation of a heritage protection sub-committee.
Dr Willis stated:
Camden Council Public Address
25 October 2016
ORDINARY COUNCIL ORD11
NOTICE OF MOTION
SUBJECT: NOTICE OF MOTION – HERITAGE PROTECTION SUB-COMMITTEE
FROM: Cr Cagney
TRIM #: 16/300825
I would like to thank the councillors for the opportunity to address the meeting this evening.
I would like to speak in support of the motion put by Councillor Cagney.
I think that a section 355 sub-committee on Heritage Protection is long over due in the Camden Local Government Area.
A panel of councillors, experts and community members could give sound and constructive advice to Camden Council on local issues of substance related to local heritage.
This could contribute to the Council’s knowledge of heritage matters within the community.
The proposed Heritage Protection sub-committee could allow stakeholders a platform to voice their concerns around any proposed development that effected any issues concerning heritage in the Local Government Area.
The proposed Heritage Protection sub-committee could seek the view of external experts on contentious heritage matters within the Local Government Area.
The proposed sub-committee could provide considered advice to Council on matters of heritage concern to the community.
Perhaps provide more light that heat on matters of community concern. Such advice might lower the noise levels around proposed development around heritage issues that have arisen in recent months.
In 2010 I wrote an article that appeared in Fairfax Media which I called ‘Heritage, a dismal state of affairs’. It was in response to an article by journalist Jonathan Chancellor about the neglected state of Camden’s heritage lists.
In the article I quoted Sylvia Hales view expressed in the National Trust Magazine that in New South Wales there had been ‘the systematic dismantling of heritage protection’ over the past five years.
I also quoted the view of Macquarie University geographer Graeme Alpin who wrote in Australian Quarterly that ‘heritage listing at the local level does not provide much protection at all’’.
I expressed the view at the time that there needed to be a ‘ thorough and considered assessment of historic houses’. And that
The current political climate in NSW is not conducive to the protection of historic houses. Heritage is not a high priority.
Six years later I have not changed my view.
The proposed sub-committee could give greater prominence to the Camden Heritage Inventory, similar to Campbelltown Council and Wollondilly Council.
In 2015 I wrote a post on my blog that I called ‘Camden Mysterious Heritage List’ in frustration after spending a great deal of time and effort trying to find the heritage inventory on the Council’s website. It is still difficult to find.
In conclusion, the proposed Heritage Protection sub-committee would be a valuable source of advice for council and provide a platform for the community to express their view around heritage issues.
Camden Council approves formation of a Heritage Advisory Committee
There is a crying need for a local Camden Residential Heritage Style Guide. Why do other Local Government Areas in Australia have a Residential Style Guide for their heritage housing styles but Camden does not.
Camden is one of Australia’s most historic localities and yet newcomers and locals have to guess what is an historically accurate guide to residential housing styles.
The new Camden Region Economic Taskforce (CRET) is an opportunity to promote the historic and heritage nature of the local area. The Taskforce promotional material states that Camden LGA has a ‘unique history’ and that the aim of the CRET is to maintain ‘Camden’s unique historic heritage and natural environment’.
This is an opportunity to the see if Camden Council is prepared to back its words with action. One easy way to do this would be to draw up a Residential Heritage Style Guide for the Local Government Area.
Camden heritage is a tourism drawcard to the local area. It creates jobs and business opportunities.
creating the right environment to support the growth of business and industry (both existing and future).
Houses are an integral part of our daily lives. We live in them and take them for granted. But they are more than this. A house is an historical statement of its time. As history changes so does the type of housing.
The CRET publicity states that the Camden LGA is a ‘rapidly growing area’ and is subject to change in the form of ‘rapid commercial and industrial development’ and there needs to be an understanding, according to the CRET, of ‘our unique heritage’.
Anyone with enquiries about the taskforce can contact Council on 4654 7777 or email: CRET@Camden.nsw.gov.au.
There a number of housing styles that have been identified by architects in Australia since colonial times. The major periods of the styles are:
1. Pre-colonial period 30,000 BCE – 1788
2. Old Colonial Period 1788 – c. 1840
3. Victorian Period c. 1840 – c. 1890
4. Federation Period c. 1890 – c. 1915
5. Inter – War Period c. 1915 – c 1940
6. Post – War Period c. 1940 – c. 1960.
7. Late Twentieth Century c. 1960 – c. 2000
8. Twenty –First Century c. 2000 – present.
The Camden Local Government Area has residential buildings from most of these time periods.
The housing style of a particular location in the Camden or Narellan area gives the place a definite character and a certain charm. It is what makes a place special and gives it a sense of its own identity (Inter-war period along Menangle Road). The housing style will give the place its special qualities. The houses are a reflection of the times in which they were built.
The style is an indicator of the historical activities that have gone on in that area. It is a statement on changing tastes, lifestyles, social attitudes, cultural mores, and a host of other factors (Inter-war cottages in Elizabeth Street and the use of colour glass in lead-light windows or the appearance of garages for the new motor cars of the day).
The housing style may be complemented by a garden and landscaping that reflected the tastes and lifestyles of the occupants of the building. Even gardens go through fashion trends (English style gardens or native gardens).
The housing style says a lot about the occupants. Whether they were landed gentry who owned one of the large estates in the area (Camden Park House, Brownlow Hill, Denbigh) or ordinary farmers who were making a living from a patch of ground (simple Federation weatherboard cottages like Yamba cottage in Narellan or the Duesbury family in Elizabeth Street or Hillview in Lodges Road).
Camden has been remote from the urban influences that drove the high forms of these architectural styles. But local people adapted the style to suit their particular purpose (simple Federation brick or timber farm cottages like in the Struggletown complex or Barsden Street). Sometimes they created their own vernacular style that used local materials.
Some of these styles have more examples in the Camden area than others. This reflects the economic prosperity in the history of the area. The Inter-war period is one of these times. Between 1915 and 1940 the town grew based on the wealth generated by dairying and later coal. There are quite a number of inter-war buildings in Camden (Californian bungalows in Menangle Road and Murray Street). The post-war period of housing construction in Camden in Macquarie Avenue and along the Old Hume Highway was driven by the economic activities surrounding the mining of coal in the Burragorang Valley.
Each housing style illustrates cultural influences from Great Britain in the Victorian style or from the United States in the Inter-war period in the Californian Bungalow and the Ranch style in the post-war period.
The local housing stock shows the skills and expertise of local builders, such as Harry Willis or Walter Furner who constructed many of the Inter-war housing stock. Ephraim Cross who supplied brick for some of the Federation style cottages in the area or James English in the 1940s or Ron McMIllan in the 1950s and 1960s.
Each period represents the modern and progressive ideas of its time. Each housing style is a representation of the hopes and aspirations of those who built the houses. Just as Oran Park housing developments are representative of the late 21th century so Harrington Park and Mt Annan are representative of the late 20th century. They have been driven by the urban expansion of the Sydney area.
Within each of the major time periods there are a number of sub-divisions. There are around five major styles within the Inter-war period, such as the Californian bungalow (West coast USA influence) or the Art Deco (European influences). The post-war period has around six style divisions ranging from the austerity (which reflected the lack of availability of building materials and labour following WW2) to ranch style (which illustrated the post-war influences from West coast American and Californian housing styles).
Camden needs a Residential Heritage Style Guide to consolidate all these factors and influences in the Local Government Area.
Why is it that other Local Government Areas around Australia can achieve this but Camden cannot? What is the matter with out local government representatives? Examples from other parts of Australia include
‘You are the problem’ railed Michael Pascoe in a recent op-ed about the current imposition of heritage listings by local government authorities.
It prompted me to think about a piece I wrote in 2010 about the loss of Edwardian farming heritage on the urban-rural interface on Sydney’s edge. In that I expressed dismay at the loss of early 20th craftsmanship that was seen by decision makers as redundant and out of date. To be replaced by ubiquitous uninteresting modern boxes.
It is interesting that those who think outside the box can take a simple Edwardian cottage, with flair and patience, turn it into a modern family without devaluing the original craftsmanship that built it.
There is a distinct lack appreciation amongst many contemporaries of simple robust country farm cottages that, with imagination and patience, can be up-dated with contemporary fit-outs that suit the needs of the current homeowner.
Despite Pascoe’s outcries others have a different take on the story.
Neglectful heritage lists
In 2010 Jonathon Chancellor noted (‘Fight to save Tilba underlines heritage neglect’, SMH 22/3/10) that many councils had ‘neglectful heritage lists’.
Even more damming, ‘heritage listing at the local level does not provide much protection at all’, wrote Graeme Aplin, from Macquarie University, in Australian Quarterly (May-June 2009).
‘What we have witnessed over the last five years is the systematic dismantling of heritage protection’, stated Sylvia Hale, Greens spokesperson on planning (‘Heritage at risk’, National Trust Magazine, Feb-Apr 2010).
Demolition of Federation farm cottage
In 2010 Camden Council approved the demolition (Camden Council, 23/3/10) of a simple 1890 Federation farm cottage known as Carinya at Harrington Park. The owner, Nepean Pastoral Company, sought to develop a 97 residential lot subdivision on the farm site.
The Harrington Park housing estate is now fully occupied by newly arrived families from the burbs who are probably completely unaware of the history of Carinya. They come with the own hopes, just as the Cross and Paxton families, who lived in Carinya cottage, did in an earlier generation.
The story of Carinya cottage fits within the Australian Historic Themes identified by the Australian Government (Australian Heritage Commission 2001). These are common national standards for identification and conservation of heritage places. Yet this did not save it from the demolisher’s hammer.
Australian’s have a genuine interest in their past and the story of their ‘historic’ homes. Witness ABCTV’s ‘Who’s Been Sleeping in My House’ and the efforts of what Adam Ford calls housetorians. He is able to ‘unlock the mysteries of the past’ and tell a good yarn about houses across Australia.
One homeowner Dorothy felt that Ford’s investigations increased her sense of attachment to place and her home. She stated
‘I feel like it has been a place that has nurtured and cared for a lot of people over the years. It’s cosseted us and cared for us’.
‘The house will be here long after I’ve gone and I’m just privileged enough to be living here for a period of time.’
These homeowners have a creative appreciation of the worth of the story embedded in their homes. They understand that they are participants in an unfolding history, by providing a new layer in the story.
In 2010 the developers of the Carinya sub-division were selling a dream. For some the dream is realised for others the new estates create a bland homogenised suburban streetscape with little charm or character.
The Carinya sub-division was part Sydney’s urbanization that, like an octopus, devours all in its path. Including ethical standards, community identity, sense of place and apparently local heritage and history.
The destruction of a simple charming 19th century farming cottages was unnecessary. Old and new can blend and add to the vibrancy and interest of emerging urban landscapes.
The council seems to be blind to the possibilities that a creative use of history and heritage has in the urban landscape for tourism, business and the wider community. The pleadings of the Chamber of Commerce for a ‘prosperous’ business sector have fallen on deaf ears at council. Likewise the pleadings of the community for positive and deep engagement in the urban planning process in one of Sydney’s most sensitive and historic town centres.
Heritage values and good urban planning are not mutually exclusive as some commentators obviously think. But they do require patience, creativity, flair and community engagement from all stakeholders.
Camden Town Strategy Community Consultative Process
A trust deficit has opened up between Camden Council and stakeholders in the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. It threatens to re-shape Camden’s sense of place and community identity, according to preliminary research conducted by UOW academic Dr Ian Willis.
Stakeholder cynicism has developed for some around the community consultation process. Suspicion has taken hold around an apparent lack of transparency. Some in the community do not feel that they have an effective seat at the table or ownership of changes.
The community consultation process does not line up with the Grattan Institute’s international research for community engagement on urban planning issues. Its 2010 report ‘Cities: Who Decides?’, which looked at the governance of eight overseas cities, found that residents must be involved in decisions. The cities that made, and implemented, tough choices, had early and deep public engagement.
The Grattan Institute findings have been incorporated in new NSW planning legislation that is currently before parliament.
It is unfortunate that the community engagement process effectively commenced with a story in the Camden press about a decked car park in May 2014. The decked car park is a particularly problematic urban planning issue in Camden. It has had a vexed history that raged for over a decade fromthe mid-1990s.
Camden Council might have been better advised to have engaged the community in planning charrettes in the early 2013 strategy discussion.
Early and deep community engagement by council might have better built community confidence. An open up-front community engagement process from the initial formulation of the town centre strategy in 2013 may have been a more positive approach.
Dr Willis has also prepared a draft discussion paper on the community consultative process around the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. Interested parties can request a pdf copy by contacting Dr Willis on chn(at)live.com.au
This is not the first time that the council has considered a decked carpark. The first investigation of a decked carpark dates from 1996. A later proposal in 2006 was eventually defeated. Over the decade a number of proposals were considered, meanwhile during this process the council developed over 360 additional car parking spaces in the town centre.
The background to the 2006 carpark proposal can be found in the demographic shifts within the Local Government Area (LGA) caused by urbanisation. The importance of central Camden as the commercial hub of the LGA had gradually been eroded by population shifts to the north.
Camden traders faced increased competition from developments in the Narellan area, particularly the opening in 1995 of the Narellan Town Centre with 36 retail outlets and 1200 car parking spaces. Some Camden businesses felt that their viability was being threatened by these changes and approached Camden Council to provide a decked carpark in central Camden to attract shoppers.
In 1996 Camden’s deputy mayor, Eva Campbell, requested that council investigate a decked carpark at the site of an existing ground level parking area, between John and Murray Streets. This was one of three proposed sites in central Camden that were considered for a decked carpark over the next 10 years.
In the late 1990s at least one retail complex undertook a major re-development on the basis that the council would approve the construction of a decked carpark on the John/Murray Street site.
Apart from the John and Murray Streets site, the other two sites were also located at existing ground level carparks in central Camden, one in Larkin Place and the other between John and Hill Streets. The sites adjacent to John Street were on the elevated southern side of Argyle Street, while Larkin Place was located on the floodplain, on the northern side Argyle Street.
The major stakeholder was Camden Council. It was to be the owner, operator, financier, planner, and consent authority for the proposal. The council initially commissioned independent consultants to conduct a feasibility study (2002) and then approved the John/Murray Street site (2003), which was the site favoured by the Chamber of Commerce. The council needed loan funds beyond its budget and had to seek ministerial approval. The Department of Local Government demanded further community consultation in 2003 and a public exhibition period.
The results of the community survey indicated that local citizens felt the construction of a decked carpark was only a low to medium priority for council. Council elections were held in 2004, and the new council wanted further information and deliberation on the proposal. The sticking point was a comparison of the costings for Larkin Place and the John/Murray Street sites. The Larkin Place site yielded more carparking spaces at a lower cost per space, but the total cost for the John/Murray Street site was cheaper and it was still the favoured location of the Chamber of Commerce.
The council engaged a firm of architects to design the carpark in 2005 on the John/Murray Street site and held a stakeholders workshop shortly afterwards.
By mid-2005 public debate had intensified.and a number of parties expressed reservations about the proposal, supported by council’s heritage architects. In July council rejected the proposal. The Federal Member of Parliament entered the debate at this point and suggested an underground carpark.
Council wanted further consideration of the matter in late 2005 and approved the carpark in early 2006 on the John/Murray Street site.
The iconic nature of Camden’s sense of place was not contested by stakeholders. Although some stakeholders did feel that the final design of the decked carpark did compromise these values, including the council’s commissioned heritage architect. The architects felt that the proposal compromised the integrity of the ‘most intact country town on the Cumberland Plain’.
These opinions and others were carried by the Camden press including a diversity of letters from local residents. Public debate on the issue intensified in 2005 and the press reported the progress of the proposal with headlines, like: ‘Don’t dare do it?’, ‘Parking war not over yet’, ‘Fury over backflip’ and ‘Expensive “white elephant”’. The letter pages were scattered with colourful comment under headings like: ‘How to wreck the cultural landscape of Camden’, ‘Deceitful and devious on car park issue’ and ‘Car park cops a serve…or two’.
One issue that complicated the political process surrounding the progress of the proposal through council was the matter of councillor’s pecuniary interests. A number of councillors on the pre-2004 council and the 2006 council had business interests that were adjacent to one of the proposed sites. This raised the matter of a conflict of interest.
Councillors regularly excluded themselves from debate on the proposed carpark because of their declared interests, and one councillor felt she needed to justify her actions in the press. Despite this a complaint was made to the Department of Local Government about four counsellors and their perceived conflict of interest in mid-2006. All were cleared of any wrong doing, although one councillor appeared on the front page of the Camden Advertiser to explain his position.
The council made efforts to develop additional parking spaces and between 1999 and 2003 provided 367 extra parking spaces.
In addition 46 extra car parking spaces for shoppers were provided by ejecting council staff from a carpark adjacent to the council chambers. Where once council office staff had enjoyed free all day parking there was now a three hour time limit. One councillor suggested that it would not hurt council staff to walk an additional 100 metres to work.
Read about the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategyhere on the Camden Council website
A summary of the 2014 Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy process over recent months is being compiled by the author of Camden History Notes. The summary will be posted on this blog at the end of January 2015 for comment by interested parties. These will then be used to draft a submission for a conference presentation on the issues in early 2015. It is hoped to publish a journal article at a later date.
Local government is small scale, specific and administrative in nature, and looks after parochial matters that matter at the micro-level, for example, pot-holes, dog-bites and long grass.
Parochialism and localism are common characteristics of local government politics that can have positive and negative effects.
In this context parochialism refers to the over-emphasis on the particular at a local scale and prioritises the local to the exclusion of the wider community. Localism, which can re-enforce parochialism, is anti-centralist, and in rural areas looks back to the rustic traditions and values of the pre-industrial viliages, it shares many of the elements of rural ideology.
In Ian Willis’s article ‘Democracy in Place‘, he examines the role of parochialism and localism played out in the 2008 New South Wales local government elections in the Camden Local Government Area.
In another of his articles ‘Democracy in Action’ Willis undertakes an historical analysis of the influence of parochialism and the competing role of rural gentry and townsmen.
Willis maintains that there is a strong anti-party sentiment in local politics and that this related to parochialism. Resident action groups are perhaps an exception as they have successfully harnessed parochialism to foster their form of local activism.
Local government politicians are known by people at a local level. Local politicians are often local identities who are well known to the community and are highly accessible to members of the local community.