Keep your eyes open in central Campbelltown for inspiring public art installations that brighten up dull spaces around the town.
The Campbelltown Arts Centre, in conjunction with Campbelltown City Council and the NSW Government, have a program to re-invigorate the city centre using public art.
Public art positively affects the community and people’s self-esteem, self-confidence and well-being. Campbelltown Arts Centre has created a public art website to assist people in this process and shows several murals around the Queens Street precinct.
This blog has promoted the benefits of public art in and around the Macarthur region for some time now. There are lots of interesting public artworks around the area that are hidden in plain sight. This blog has highlighted the artworks and other artefacts, memorials and monuments that promote the Cowpastures region.
The public art program of the Campbelltown Arts Centre and Campbelltown City Council is creative, innovative and inspirational. It is playful yet takes a serious approach to a contemporary problem, urban blight.
These urban planning decisions came from the 1968 Sydney Regional Outline Plan of the NSW Askin Coalition Government.
Sydney-based planning decision created tensions between Campbelltown City Council and the Macarthur Development Board around what constituted the city centre. The Queen Street precinct, supported by the council, gradually declined in importance as a retail area as newer facilities opened up.
Queen Street could not compete with the new shopping mall Macarthur Square opened in 1979 by the Hon. Paul Landa, Minister for Planning and Environment in the Wran Labor Government.
High-value-added retailing deserted the Queen Street precinct and became populated by $2-shops and op-shops.
Campbelltown’s sense of place and community identity has taken a battering in the following decades.
Reinvigoration of the Queen Street precinct
The public art program at the Campbelltown Arts Centre is trying to ameliorate the problems of the past through community engagement in art installations.
In 2012 Campbelltown City Council commissioned a mural board across the bus shelters at Campbelltown Railway Station supervised by Blak Douglas in Lithgow Street called ‘The Standout’. The art installation is the work of 28 artists across 70 panels with a full length of 175 metres.
The Standout pays homage to the Dharawal Dreamtime Story of the ‘Seven Eucalypts’, and Douglas’ previous photographic series of deceased gums standing alone within landscapes and casting shadows within urban facades.
The public art installation ‘Three Mobs’ by Chinese-Aboriginal artist Jason Wing was commissioned by Campbelltown City Council in 2022. The mural is located on Dumersq Street and Queen Street, the south side of the 7Eleven wall, and features a rainbow serpent as an intersection of cultures.
Defined as any artistic work or activity designed and created by professional arts practitioners for the public domain, Public Art may be of a temporary or permanent nature and located in or part of a public open space, building or facility, including façade elements provided by either the public or private sector (not including memorials or plaques).
Public art can….
make art an everyday experience for residents and visitors
take many forms in many different materials and styles, such as lighting, sculpture, performance and artwork
be free-standing work or integrated into the fabric of buildings, streetscapes and outdoor spaces
draw its meaning from or add to the meaning of a particular site or place.
The paper maintains that public art has the potential to reinvigorate public spaces and add to their vibrancy. It states:
Throughout history, public art can be an essential element when a municipality wishes to progress economically and to be viable to its current and prospective citizens. Data strongly indicates that cities with an active and dynamic cultural scene are more attractive to individuals and business.
Public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions. Placed in public sites, this art is there for everyone, a form of collective community expression. Public art is a reflection of how we see the world – the artist’s response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are.
Updated 17 May 2023. Originally posted on 16 May 2023 as ‘Public art at Campbellton brightens up a dull space’.
The Elderslie area has been identified in Sydney’s strategic growth plans for land releases on the metropolitan rural-urban fringe. It is a valuable exercise to see how and when Elderslie was identified as part of Sydney’s planning framework.
Elderslie was not part of the NSW Government’s first attempt at town planning with the 1948 County of Cumberland Planning Scheme. A greenbelt surrounded the metropolitan area, and Elderslie was beyond it and not destined for the development. The scheme was prescriptive and met with significant opposition, including local government and the development industry, and the scheme was dissolved in 1963.
The Elderslie area was included in the next planning iteration with the Askin Government’s 1968 Sydney region: Outline plan 1970-2000 A.D.: a strategy for development. This plan led to the 1973 New Cities of Campbelltown Camden Structure Plan and the Commonwealth Government’s Macarthur Growth Centre. This plan offered flexibility and changes and turned into a developer’s dream. Sydney’s urban sprawl continued to spread, and nothing much eventuated at Elderslie. (Ashton & Freestone 2008)
The first hint of real change at Elderslie occurred with the third strategic plan: the 1988 Sydney into its third century: a metropolitan strategy for the Sydney region. This plan envisaged that Sydney’s growth would be contained in newly developing areas along the transport routes: Northwest, Southwest, Bringelly and Central Coast, with higher densities to consolidate Sydney’s growth. (SRANSW 1995) These plans resulted in suburbia encroaching on the boundaries of Elderslie with the development of Mount Annan, Narellan Vale, Harrington Park and surrounding suburbs.
Air pollution and water quality issues in the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment further postponed the rezoning of land in the Elderslie area beyond 1990. (BBC Consulting) Meanwhile, another new metropolitan plan appeared in 1995, Cities for the 21st Century.
The Elderslie Urban Release Area was identified by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning in 1995 under the 1980 Urban Development Program managed by the department. (BBC Consulting 1998) At the time, the department was looking for opportunities to drive Sydney’s urban growth (SRANSW 1995) and the identification and coordination of new residential land. (BBC Consulting 1998) The Elderslie Release Area consisted of 180 hectares, and it was envisaged that the area might yield 2800 lots, which was revised down to 1700 lots. (BBC Consulting 1998)
Sydney’s strategic planning was further updated with the 1998 Shaping Our Cities. This plan called for higher densities with familiar themes of better integration of land use and transport and promotion of suburban activity centres with a more explicit concern with urban design at a regional scale. (Ashton & Freestone 2008)
In 2000 the state government identified the Elderslie Urban Release Area for redevelopment under NSW Urban Development Program. The Elderslie area was zoned rural then, with a minimum subdivision of 40 ha. (Godden, Mackay and Logan 2001)
The 180 ha. Elderslie Release Area was developed as part of the Camden Local Environmental Plan No 117 when it was put on public display in 2000 to replace the Camden LEP No 46. The LEP described the desired character of the area in a list of planning controls and was legislated in 2004. (Godden, Mackay and Logan 2001)
Elderslie was within the South West Growth Centre as part of the 2005 City of Cities: a plan for Sydney’s future metropolitan strategy of the state government. The plan reflected familiar urban planning themes of the end of sprawl with a more compact city, higher densities, sub-regional centred, transport integration and urban design. (Ashton & Freestone 2008)
Elderslie land releases
The names given Elderslie land releases range from the commodification of the rural aesthetic of the local area to a locality name, names of local identities or hints of the historical past.
2000-2014 Elderslie Masterplan and community meetings
2004-2007 Camden Acres
2005-2014 The Ridges
2007-2014 Vantage Point
2008-2009 Camden Hillside
2009 Mount View Estate
2010 Elderslie Estate
2012-2013 Camden Heights
2013 Studley Park
2016 Franzman Ave
2017 Lodges Road
BBC Consulting 1998, Elderslie Open Space and Social Plan. Camden Council, Camden.
Hidden out of the way in the back streets of Mount Annan is a memorial to Governor Hunter.
This memorial is located in the Governors Green reserve in Baragil Mews, Mount Annan.
This is another hidden and largely forgotten memorial to the Cowpastures in the local area.
A bronze statue of Governor Hunter is at the centre of a circular colonnade with artworks celebrating the Cowpastures.
The land developer AV Jennings commissioned Lithgow sculptor and artist Antony Symons (1942-2018) in 1995 to construct the work.
Governor Hunter and the Cow Pastures
The story of the Cowpastures begins in 1787 with the First Fleet and HMS Sirius, which collected 4 cows and 2 bulls at the Cape of Good Hope on the way out to New South Wales. After they arrived in the new colony, the stock escaped within 5 months of being landed and disappears.
In 1795 the story of the cattle is told to a convict hunter by an Aboriginal, who then tells an officer and informs Governor Hunter. Hunter sends Henry Hacking, an old seaman, to check out the story. After confirmation Governor John Hunter and Captain Waterhouse, George Bass and David Collins headed off from Parramatta, crossing the Nepean River on 17 November 1795. They find good farming land covered with good pasture and lagoons with birds. After climbing a hill (Mt Taurus), they spotted the cattle and named the Cowpastures.
Governor John Hunter marked area on maps ‘Cow Pasture Plains’ in the region of Menangle and elsewhere on maps south of Nepean. The breed was the Cape cattle from the First Fleet, and the district was declared out of bounds to all by 1806; the herd had grown to 3,000.
British colonialism and a settler society
Governor Hunter was part of the settler society project and the country’s dispossession of First Nations people. Hunter was a representative of British imperialism and how it implemented its policies on the colonial frontier of New South Wales.
The Cowpastures was a site of frontier violence and the displacement and dispossession of Indigenous land in the early 19th century.
Governor Hunter Statue
Plaques below the Governor Hunter statue
Governor’s Green Heritage Park was presented to the people of Camden by AV Jennings and was officially opened by the Mayor of Camden Councillor FH Brooking on the 6th April 1995 in celebration of the centenary year of the discovery of the herd in 1795 at Cowpastures Camden.
Camden Mayor Frank Brooking
Frank Brooking served as Camden’s mayor from 1993 to 1997. Mr Brooking was a motor dealer whose business was located on the corner of Cawdor Road and Murray Streets and sold Morris and Volkswagon brands. Frank was a community-minded person who volunteered for the Rural Fire Service, Camden Rotary Club, Camden Show Society, Camden Area Youth Service and other organisations. He died in 2013 aged 74.
Plaque Governor Hunter statue
Governor John Hunter (1737-1821), Governor of New South Wales September 1795 – November 1799.
‘On the evening of my arrival…, I was directed to the place where the herd was feeding,… we ascended a hill, from which we observed an herd…feeding in a beautiful pasture in the valley I was now anxious to ascertain of what breed they were, whether natives… or the descendants of those we had so long lost, but in this attempt we were disappointed by being discovered and attached most furiously by a large and very fierce bull, which rendered it necessary for our own safety, to fire at him. Such as his violence and strength, that six balls were fired through, before any person dared approach him. I was now satisfied that they were the Cape of Good Hope breed…. offspring of these we had lost in 1788, at this time we counted sixty-one in number, young and old. They have chosen a beautiful part of the country to graze in…
Historical Records of Australia, Governor Hunter to the Duke of Portland, 21st December 1795.
Other elements of the artwork
Updated on 21 May 2023. Originally posted on 13 June 2022 as ‘Cowpastures memorial at Mount Annan’
Public art as wayfinding, placemaking, memorial and urban development
The story of the Cowpastures is represented in public art across the Macarthur region; one example is found along the Harrington Park Lake walkway.
A pleasant stroll around the lakeside path will bring the walker to a wooded section where there is an art installation with cows hiding under the trees.
The public artwork is a mixture of elements that combine wayfinding, placemaking, memorialisation and urban development in a new suburb.
The artwork installation called Cowpastures was created by artist Jane Cavanough of Artlandish Art and Design in 2001. The signage states ‘The cows represent the history of cattle grazing in this region, formerly known as “The Cowpastures”.
Cavanough has achieved her aim with Cowpastures on the Lakeside Walk, where walkers can engage with the artwork and ponder what the real cows might have looked like over 200 years ago. The artwork has weathered well over the last 20 years and still carries the story created by the artist.
The considerations in Cavanough’s Cowpastures parallel the aims of public art in the Northern Beaches LGA. Important considerations for the community and the council along the Northern Beaches Coast Walk were eight principles:
Respect and acknowledge the Aboriginal cultural heritage
Celebrate and conserve significant natural and cultural values
Connect places and people along the coast.
Foster artistic and cultural expression and encourage creative collaboration
Enrich places through high-quality art and design.
Interpret the history and significance of the coast
Value artistic and cultural diversity and be inclusive
Public Art refers to a range of artwork and art-based activities that interface with the public, including private ownership property with publicly accessible space and the public domain. Public Art can include sculpture, place-making elements, wall embellishments, art integrated into the design of buildings, artist-designed seating and fencing, paving work, lighting elements and other creative possibilities. Public Art can serve both an aesthetic and functional purpose.
The public domain means public places and/or open spaces that are situated within, vested in or managed by Council, including parks, beaches, bushland, outdoor recreation facilities, streets, laneways, pathways and foreshore promenades and public buildings, facilities or enclosed structures, owned and managed by Council which are physically accessible to the general public. (Council 2019)
Defined as any artistic work or activity designed and created by professional arts practitioners for the public domain, Public Artmay be of a temporary or permanent nature and located in or part of a public open space, building or facility, including façade elements provided by either the public or private sector (not including memorials or plaques).
Public art can….
make art an everyday experience for residents and visitors
take many forms in many different materials and styles, such as lighting, sculpture, performance and artwork
be free-standing work or integrated into the fabric of buildings, streetscapes and outdoor spaces
draw its meaning from or add to the meaning of a particular site or place
To assist Harrington Park Lakeside walkers in engaging with Cavanough’s Cowpastures artwork, information signage provides an interpretation of the installation. It states:
In 1788 a herd of 4 long horn cattle and 2 bulls escaped from the Government Farm at Rosehill. [sic] They were found seven years later in 1795 as a herd of 40 in a rich expanse of grassland. Later that same year Governor Hunter surveyed this region and appropriately named it “Cowpastures”. Harrington Park with [sic] the Cowpastures region.
The pastoral industry in Camden began when Governor King granted John Macarthur 2000 acres, which became known as Camden. Further land grants were handed out across the region, including Harrington Park in 1815 to Captain William Douglas Campbell.
The Davies family purchased Harrington Park from the Campbells in 1833. The Rudd family owned the property from 1902/3 to 1944 when it was sold to the Fairfax family.
It operated as a dairy in the 1920s-1930s and then, in 1946, under the Fairfax family’s ownership, it was operated as a poll hereford [sic] stud, nursery and dairy.
Harrington Park-Taylor Woodrow-Fairfax
The storyboard has a supplementary map of the Harrington Park property in the Cowpastures.
<info board pic>
Hidden in the past
Cavanaugh’s Cowpastures tells the story of the site and reveals the layers of the past to the viewer. Yet there is more to the story hidden in the shadows. Some of these hidden stories are hinted at, while others are still to be revealed. One example is the violence of the colonial frontier in the Cowpastures as the settler society project unfolded and Europeans took up territory from the Indigenous Dharawal. (Karskens 2015)
At Harrington Park Lakeside Cavanough has taken part in placemaking, wayfinding, memorialisation and urban development with her creation of Cowpastures. She has engaged in telling the cultural heritage and contributed to the construction of place and community identity in a new suburb, directed visitors to discover the stories of Cowpastures from the past in an aesthetic landscape setting, and celebrated the history of the site and the Europeans who farmed the land.
Recently I came across an article about the future of the Airds shopping mall in the Macarthur Chronicle headed ‘Dilapidated centre set to be transformed’. It stated:
A wrecking ball could be swinging towards a dilapidated shopping village. The grand plans propose to demolish Airds Village shopping centre, on Riverside Drive, and replace it with a $21 million centre.
A story of decay and neglect
The imminent demolition of the decaying and neglected Airds shopping mall is a sad indictment of the dreams of many and the ultimate demise of the 1970s Macarthur Growth Centre.
The shopping mall is an example of urban decay in the middle of our local suburbia. It is a failure of modernism and the town-planning utopia of city-based decision-makers.
The decay at Airds is not unusual and symbolic of more significant trends in global retail where shopping malls are declining.
The current dismal state of affairs hides the issue that in the mid-20th century, Campbelltown’s civic leaders had great hope and optimism for the area’s development and progress.
Progress, development, and Modernism
There were grand plans for Campbelltown as a satellite city within the New South Wales state government’s County of Cumberland Plan.
Local confidence saw the construction of the 1964 modernist council chambers and, in 1968, the declaration of city status, electrification of the railway and the announcement of the Sydney Region Outline Plan by the state government.
Airds was one of several ‘corridor’ public housing suburbs following the American Radburn principles. The Airds shopping centre was built as part of the 1975 Housing Commission of New South Wales subdivision of ‘Kentlyn’, renamed Airds in 1976.
The Radburn principles were applied to five public housing estates developed by the Housing Commission of New South Wales in the Campbelltown area between 1972 and 1989. The other four estates were Macquarie Fields, Claymore, Minto and Ambervale.
The design concept originated from Radburn in New Jersey in 1928 and reflected the optimism of American modernism around the motor car and consumerism.
Houses were developed ‘back-to-front’ with a front-facing walkway or green open space and the back door facing the street. This meant a separation of pedestrians and cars, with a large communal open area centred on the walkways between the rows of houses. This resulted in a streetscape with rows of high blank fences enclosing backyards.
Travis Collins from the University of New South Wales argues that the Radburn principles were initially designed for aspirational upper-middle-class areas and their desire for a garden suburb where pedestrian walkways and common areas linked across the estate. These areas were expected to be the centre of neighbourhood life without needing a car.
Radburn watered down
The suburb of Airds, and other Campbelltown public housing estates, started off with grand plans that evaporated over time due to: changes of government; cost-cutting; abolition of government instrumentalities; and neglect. This resulted in a ‘watered down’ Radburn vision.
The public housing estates did have extensive open space, which was true to Radburn principles. Yet there were compromises, and the Housing Commission built townhouses, that were counter to the Radburn concept.
The tracts of open space became wastelands of neglect and vandalism that were poorly provisioned and maintained by the Housing Commission, with a lack of privacy and security. The back lanes and streets were isolated, lacked security and resident surveillance and were sites characterised by dumped rubbish and graffiti.
The estates were populated with single-parent families, who suffered from high levels of social exclusion, unemployment, and low incomes.
Collins argues that the Radburn principles were a failure, and contributing factors included: poor surveillance of the street by residents because of high rear fences fronting the street, anti-social behaviour along the walkways and open space areas, and the low socio-economic status of residents.
The failure of the Radburn scheme was finally recognised by the authorities in the early 2000s. They acknowledged that: the design was unsuitable for concentrated public housing estates; they created confusing neighbourhoods with unsafe walkways, poor car access, and poor surveillance of open space; the poorly constructed housing stock became run down and dilapidated; the housing stock was infested with termites. These issues were reflected in Airds and the shopping mall from the mid-1970s.
Memories of hope
In the 1970s, I taught at Airds High School, adjacent to the shopping mall, and my memories are mixed. Young people, who came from dysfunctional backgrounds, yet their resilience allowed them to rise above it, grow and mature into sensible young adults. This process is supported by the life experience of former Airds resident Fiona Woods (Facebook, April 2020), who grew up in Airds in the 1970s and 1980s. She says:
I have the best memories of Airds, especially that shopping centre. Riding our bikes to buy lollies. Growing up in Airds in the 70s was very communal. I loved it. I arrived at Airds in 1977 when I was 3 and lived there until 1984. I went to John Warby [Public School]. There was such a strong sense of community. My mum met her best friend when they moved into their new houses in Airds. They have been friends for over 40 years and still speak daily.
Fiona tells the story of her sister, who taught at Airds High School in the 1990s. She found the teaching experience challenging, as I did 20 years earlier, yet the youngsters were confident, grounded and without airs and graces.
Similarly, I found Airds’ school children had a refreshing unsophisticated innocence generated by difficult circumstances. They were unpretentious, and you quickly knew where you stood with them teaching in a classroom that was always full of unconfined energy. You always had classroom ‘war stories’, and this is where I did my ‘missionary work’.
Bogans galore and more
The Airds shopping mall is a metaphor for what happened to Campbelltown between the 1970s and the present. It represents the collision of modernism and neoliberalism in place. The optimism of the 1960s contrasted with the despair of the 1980s.
Oran Park Raceway was doomed in 2008 to be part of history when it was covered with houses in a new suburb with the same name. It was also the name of a former pastoral property that was part of the story of the settler society within the Cowpastures. The locality is the site of hope and loss for locals and new arrivals.
The suburb of Oran Park is on Sydney’s southwestern urban fringe just east of the history, and picturesque village of Cobbitty, and the relatively new suburb of Harrington Park is to the south.
Oran Park Raceway was a glorious thing
The Oran Park Motor Racing Circuit was located in the southwestern and western part of the original Oran Park pastoral estate. The main Grand Prix circuit was 2.6 km long with a mixture of slow, technical and fast sweeping corners and elevation changes around the track.
The primary circuit was broken into two parts: the south circuit, the original track built in 1962 by the Singer Car Club and consisted of the main straight, pit lane garages and a constant radius of 180-degree turns at the end.
The north circuit was added in 1973 and was an 800-metre figure-8. Apart from the primary racing circuit, there were several subsidiary activities, and they included two dirt circuits, two four-wheel training venues, a skid pan, and a go-kart circuit.
The racing circuit has been used for various motorsport, including club motorkhanas, touring cars, sports sedans, production cars, open-wheelers, motocross and truck racing. In 2008 several organisations used the circuit for driver training, including advanced driving, defensive driving, high performance, and off-road driving.
The track hosted its first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1971, a battle between racing legends Bob Jane and Allan Moffat. The December 2008 V8 Supercar event was the 38th time a championship was held at the track. Sadly for some, the track will go the way of other suburban raceways of the past. It turned into just a passing memory when it closed in 2010.
The Daily Telegraph noted that several other Sydney tracks that have been silenced. They have included Amaroo Park, Warwick Farm, Mt Druitt, Sydney Showground, Liverpool and Westmead speedways. The public relations spokesman for Oran Park, Fred Tsioras, has said that a few notable drivers have raced at the circuit including Kevin Bartlett, Fred Gibson, Ian Luff, Alan Moffat, Peter Brock, Mark Weber, and others.
Innovations introduced at the Oran Park Raceway included night, truck, and NASCAR racing. Tsioras claims the track was a crowd favourite because they could see the entire circuit.
In the early days, the facilities at the circuit were pretty basic, including the control tower. The circuit was a glorified paddock, and race organisers held mainly basic club events. The track surface was pretty rough, and there was a make-do attitude among racing enthusiasts.
The control facilities in the early days at the track were very rudimentary. The first control tower used in 1962 by the members of the Singer Car Club, who established the track, was a double-decker bus. Race officials and timekeepers sat in the open air under a canvas awning on the top of the bus at club race meetings.
The Rothmans tobacco company funded a new control tower, built around 1980. The Rothmans company was a major sponsor of motorsports in Australia then. Tobacco sponsorship of motorsports was seen as an efficient marketing strategy to reach boys and young men.
Tobacco & cigarette advertisements were banned on TV and radio in September 1976. While other tobacco advertising was banned from all locally produced print media — this left the only cinema, billboard and sponsorship advertising as the only forms of direct tobacco advertising banned in December 1989.
Motorsport projected an image of style, excitement, thrills and spills that drew men and boys to the sport. Motorsport has been symbolized by bravery, strength, competitiveness, and masculinity. This imagery is still portrayed in motorsport like Formula One racing.
According to Will Hagan, the influence of the tower’s design was the El Caballo Blanco Complex at Narellan, which opened in 1979 and was a major tourist attraction. The control tower, like El Caballo Blanco, was constructed in a Spanish Mission architectural style (or Hollywood Spanish Mission) like the Paramount cinema in Elizabeth Street (1933) or Cooks Garage in Argyle Street (1935) Camden.
The Spanish Mission building style emerged during the Inter-war period (1919-1939). It was characterised by terracotta roof tiles, front loggia, rendering of brickwork and shaped parapets.
The Spanish Mission building style was inspired by the American west coast influences and the relationship between the automobile, rampant consumerism and the romance promoted by the motion pictures from Hollywood.
According to Ian Kirk and Megan Martin from their survey of interwar service stations, the Spanish Mission building style was popular with service stations in the late 1920s and early 1930s, particularly in the Sydney area. Their survey discovered more than 120 original service stations surviving in New South Wales from the interwar years.
Some examples of Interwar garages included the Broadway Garage and Service Station in Bellevue Hill, the former Seymour’s Service Station in Roseville, Malcolm Motors in King Street, Newtown and the Pyrmont Bridge Service Station in Pyrmont. Kirk and Martin have maintained that, unlike the United States, early service stations in Australia were privately owned and did not have to be designed according to an oil company’s in-house style.
Motorsports became popular in the Interwar period and were associated with the glamour and excitement of the cars. The interwar period (1918-1939) is interesting in the history of Australia. It was a time that contrasted the imperial loyalties of the British Empire with the rampant consumerism and industrialisation of American culture and influence.
The interwar period was one in which country towns and the city were increasingly dominated by motor vehicles. It was a time when the fast and new, the exotic and sensual came to shape the style of a new age of modernism and competed with the traditional and conservative, the old and slow, and changes to social and cultural traditions.
There were many motor car brands competing for consumers’ attention, and the aspirations and desires of a new generation were wrapped up in youth, glamour, fantasy, and fun.
This was reflected in the growth of elegant and glamorous car showrooms and the appearance of service stations and garages to serve the increasing number of motor car owners.
In Camden, this period of modernism generated Cooks Garage at the corner of Argyle and Elizabeth Street, not far from the new slick and exciting movie palace, the Paramount Movie Theatre. In central Camden, the Dunk commercial building at 58-60 Argyle Street was a shiny new car showroom displaying Chevrolet motor cars from the USA. Advertisement boasted that the cars were:
Beautiful new Chevrolet is completely new. New arresting beauty of style; new riding comfort and seating; …with more comfort.
The buyer had the choice of car models from commercial roadster to sports roader, tourer, coupe and sedan, which sold for the value price of £345.
In New South Wales, motor vehicles increased from 22,000 in 1920 to over 200,000 in 1938. There was an increasing interest in motorsports in Sydney by enthusiasts of all kinds.
Dreams and development on the raceway site
In 1983 the Oran Park Raceway track was owned by Bill Cleary, and he stated to the Macarthur Advertiser that his family had owned the property for 38 years. In 1976 he put together a proposal to create a sports and recreation centre for the raceway area. The proposal was raised again in 1981 and included a themed entertainment park, an equestrian centre, a dude ranch, a motel, a health and fitness centre, a model farm and cycling, hiking and bridle trails. But it all came to nothing.
The current track was purchased in the mid-1980s by Leppington Pastoral Company (owned by the Perich family) and in 2004, was rezoned for housing. It was estimated at the time that there would be 21,000 houses. Tony Perich stated in 2007 to the Sydney Morning Herald that he planned to build almost one-fifth of the 11,500 dwellings in Oran Park and Turner Road in a joint venture with Landcom. Mr Perich’s company spokesman, Greenfields Development Corporation, stated that the first houses would be on the larger lots.
Oran Park 2008 planned housing development
In 2008 Oran Park is part of the South West Growth Centre area, which is the responsibility of the New South Wales Government’s Growth Centres Commission, which was eventually planned to accommodate 295,000 people by 2031. The Oran Park and Turner Road Development were expected in 2008 to house 33,000 people.
In an area east of the raceway, it is planned that an aged care facility will be developed for elderly and retired citizens with work starting in 2011. The project will consist of independent living villas and apartments, assisted living units, a daycare centre and a high and low-care aged facility with a dementia unit.
In 2008 the raceway made way for 8000 homes to house 35,000 people, complete with the town centre, commercial precinct, and entertainment facilities. It was planned to include primary schools, two high schools, a court, a police station, and a community centre. The suburb, Raceway Hill, was planned to have streets named after the old track.
The colonial history of Oran Park
In the colonial days of early New South Wales, Oran Park was initially made up of two principal land grants, one of 2,000 acres, Harrington Park, granted to William Campbell in 1815 and another to George Molle in 1817, Netherbyes, of 1600 acres which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road. According to John Wrigley, the name Oran Park appears on the pre-1827 map as part of Harrington Park, Campbell’s grant. Campbell arrived on the brig Harrington, in 1803 as a master.
The New South Wales State Heritage Register states that the Oran Park portion was subdivided from the Harrington Park estate in 1829 and acquired by Henry William Johnston in 1852. The Oran Park estate is representative of the layout of a country manor estate, with views afforded to and from the manor over the landscape and to the critical access points of the estate. These were representative of the design philosophies of the time.
Oran Park House was located in a picturesque Arcadian pastoral scene by using the best of European farming practices and produced an English-style landscape of a park, pleasure grounds and gardens. The house was located in a ‘sublime landscape’ with the integration of aspect, orientation, and design, drawing on influences of Scotsman JC Loudon, Englishman Capability Brown and Sydney nurseryman Thomas Shepherd.
Oran Park House
The two-story Georgian-style house was built in c.1857 and is described as having a roof with a simple colonial hipped form, windows with shutters, an added portico and a bridge to the two-story original servant’s wing at the rear. There are detailed cedar joinery and panelling on the interior. The house is located on a knoll creating an imposing composition set amongst landscaped grounds with a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
According to the NSW State Heritage Register, the house is an example of the Summit Model of a homestead sited on a hilltop with the homestead complex. The entrance to Oran Park is on an axis with the house’s southern façade, with a carriage loop with mature plantings in front of the house.
Oran Park house was acquired by Thomas Barker (of Maryland and Orielton), who sold it to Campbelltown grazier Edward Lomas Moore (of Badgally) in 1871. The property was leased and subsequently owned by Atwill George Kendrick, who had a clearing sale on the site in 1900. The house had alterations, possibly under the direction of Leslie Wilkinson (professor of architecture, University of Sydney) in the 1930s.
The Moore family sold the Oran Park House, and land to B Robbins and Mr Smith operated a golf course with trotting facilities. It was sold in 1945 for £28,000; in 1963, 361 acres were purchased by ER Smith and J Hyland, farmers. The homestead and stables were sold in 1969 by John and Peggy Cole and purchased by the Dawson-Damers, members of the English aristocracy. The Dawson-Damers undertook restoration guided by architect Richard Mann. John ‘DD’ Dawson-Damer was an Old Etonian and car collector.
John Dawson-Damer was a prominent motor racing identity and was killed in an accident while driving his Lotus 63 at a race meeting at Goodwood, West Sussex, in 2000. Dawson-Damer was the managing director of Austral Engineering Supplies Pty Ltd and was involved with the International Automobile Federation and the Historic Sports Racing Car Association of New South Wales. Ashley Dawson-Damer, his wife and socialite, was a member of the council of governors of the Opera Australia Capital Fund and a board member of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation.
After her husband’s death, she sold the house, with its historic gardens and 107 hectares of pasture, in 2006 for $19 million to Valad Property Group. The State Heritage Register describes the house and surrounding estate as an outstanding example of the mid-nineteenth-century cultural landscape with a largely intact homestead complex and gardens within an intact rural setting.
Oran Park House was renamed Catherine Park House
Oran Park was renamed Catherine Park House in 2013 by the developers of the new housing release Harrington Estates Pty Ltd (Mac Chronicle 10 Oct 2013). The name change was agreed upon by Camden Council and celebrated Catherine Molle, the wife of George Molle.
In 1815 Molle was allocated a grant of 550 acres which he called Catherine Fields after his wife Catherine Molle, on the northern bank of South Creek opposite his grant of Netherbyres.
In 1816 George Molle was granted Netherbyres, of 1,600 acres (647.5 hectares) which ran between South Creek and the Northern Road on the south bank of South Creek. In 1817 he was granted Molles, Maine, 1550 acres east of the Great South Road.
George Molle was baptized in Mains, Berwickshire, Scotland, on 6 March 1773. George joined the Scots Brigade (94th Regiment) as an ensign and served in Gibraltar, The Cape of Good Hope, India, Egypt and Spain. He was promoted to Colonel and served at Gibraltar before transferring as the Colonel of the 46th Regiment of Foot when ordered to serve in the Colony of New South Wales.
On 20 March 1814, he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony, second in command to Governor Macquarie.
George and his wife played an active part in the public life of the colony of New South Wales, patron of the Female Orphan School and a member of the committee for the Civilization, Care and Education of Aborigines.
In early 2018 the developer Greenfields and Landcom reported in their newsletter that construction of the new Camden Council Library building is progressing well. A new off-leash dog area was under construction in the new release areas around the new high school. It is the second area developed in the land release.
The newsletter detailed the road construction for Dick Johnson Drive, one of the many roads named after motor-racing greats. The street will connect with The Northern Road in 2019. Works are progressing on the latest release areas around Oran Park Public School and on earthworks associated with Peter Brock Drive. The school opened in 2014 with new staff and students adjacent to Oran Park Podium shopping centre. The shopping centre was opened by New South Wales Premier Mike Baird in late 2014 with 28 speciality shops.
New parkland was opened in a recent release area in 2018, and new traffic lights were operational at Peter Brock Drive and Central Avenue.
A new free monthly 20pp A4 newspaper, the Oran Park Gazette, appeared in the suburb in 2015. It is published by the Flynnko Group based at Glenmore Park. The Gazette started with a circulation of 3500 and is part of a stable of five mastheads distributed across the Western Sydney region.
Camden Council transferred an administrative function to the new office building in 2016. An open day inviting residents to inspect the new facilities was a huge success.
Elderslie is a suburb of Camden, the traditional land of the Dharawal people. It lies on the southern end of the Camden Municipality, 62 km southwest of Sydney, on the rural-urban fringe.
Elderslie borders the Nepean River to the west, Narellan Creek to the north, Camden By-Pass to the south, and Studley Park Golf Course to the east. The population at the 2001 census was 2,638.
Under Governor Macquarie’s stewardship, the area now known as Elderslie was the site of several smallholder land grants along the Nepean River between 1812 and 1815.
One large grant was given to John Oxley, a member of the colonial gentry, in 1816. He called it ‘Ellerslie’, although by 1828, he had changed it to ‘Elderslie’. Oxley’s grant was one of the five large estates in the Camden area that used convict labour.
Elderslie can lay claim to the first building in the Camden area. This was a small hut erected at the Nepean River crossing, after the 1803 visit of Governor King, for the government man who looked after the cattle in the Cowpastures. It is reported that the hut was still in existence in 1822.
The village of Elderslie was planned along the Great Northern Road (now Camden Valley Way) with a subdivision and sites for a church, parsonage and marketplace.
A post office was opened in 1839 – and closed in 1841 when it was moved to Camden. Several village blocks were sold by auction in 1841; three months after the Elderslie land sales, the village was effectively overwhelmed by land sales across the river in Camden.
The first church in Elderslie was St Mark’s Anglican Church, built in 1902 of plain timber construction. The church is framed by a substantial 150-year-old camphor laurel tree and has only ceased functioning in recent years.
Hilsyde is one of the more significant homes in the Elderslie area and was built in 1888 by Walter Furner, a local builder. Several significant cottages were owned by the Bruchhauser family, who were viticulturists and orchardists in the Elderslie area, as were the Fuchs, Thurns, and most recently, the Carmagnolas.
Viticulture has been re-established at Camden Estate Vineyards on the deep alluvial soils of the Nepean floodplain. There were plantings of mixed varieties in 1975 by Norman Hanckel, and in the 1990s, these had been entirely converted to Chardonnay, which best suited the soil and climate of the area. Grapes for wine had previously been grown in this location by Martin Thurn, one of the six German vinedressers brought out by the Macarthurs of Camden Park in 1852.
Table grapes were grown throughout the Elderslie area and sold in the Sydney markets. Vegetables were grown on the floodplain adjacent to Narellan Creek by Sun Chong Key, one of several Chinese market gardeners in the Camden area, in the first half of the 20th century. Apart from farming, the floodplain and surrounding areas have been subject to extensive sand mining for the Sydney building industry.
Elderslie was the first stop after Camden on the tramway between Camden and Campbelltown, which began operations in 1882. The locomotive (affectionately known as Pansy) had 24 services each weekday, including passenger and goods services.
Observant travellers to the area can still make out the earthworks of the tramway on the northern side of Camden Valley Way along the floodplain. The tramway operated until 1963, when several branch lines in the Sydney area were shut. The tramway, which ran beside the Hume Highway between Elderslie and Camden, was often closed due to flooding.
Swimming became one of Elderslie earliest organized sporting activities after the Nepean River was dammed in 1908 with the construction of the Camden Weir. Water backed up behind the weir for four kilometres through the Elderslie area and provided relatively deep water suitable for swimming. The Camden Aquatic Sports Carnival was organized in 1909 and attracted over 1000 spectators, and this was the location of the Camden Swimming Club in the 1920s.
There were two popular swimming holes at Kings Bush Reserve and Little Sandy, where the Australian Army built a footbridge during World War II (and there is still one in that location today). By the 1950s, increasing river pollution put pressure on authorities for a town swimming pool, which was eventually opened in Camden in 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of coal mining contributed to local population growth and demand for residential land releases on farmland adjacent to the floodplain. This created a need for education facilities and led to the establishment of Mawarra Primary School (1972) and Elderslie High School (1976).
Elderslie was also identified as part of the growth area for Greater Sydney, initially as part of the Macarthur Growth Centre Plan (1973), then the Metropolitan Strategy (1988) and most recently in the Cities for the 21st Century plan (1995). Some of these land releases caused concerns over air quality issues and deteriorating water quality in the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, and consequently, they were deferred until 2005.
In the most recent Elderslie land releases, developers have commodified the rural mythology and imagery of ‘the country town’ and associated rural vistas, with names like ‘Camden Acres’, ‘The Ridges’ and ‘Vantage Point’. These values have attracted ‘outsiders’ to the area, hoping to find places where ‘the country still looks like the country’. Part of this imagery is found in Elderslie’s older residential streets, a picture in November when the Jacarandas provide a colourful show of purple and mauve.
One of Elderslie’s most notable residents was possibly the Australian poet and actor Hugh McCrae (1876-1958). He lived in River Road in the 1930s and occasionally after that. He was a member of the Sydney Bohemian set, a friend of Norman Lindsay and a member of the Camden elite: for example, local surgeon Dr RM Crookston and his wife, Zoe. McCrae wrote about the local area in works like ‘October in Camden’ and ‘Camden Magpie’. He was awarded an OBE (1953) for services to Australian Literature.
As Sydney’s rural-urban fringe moves across the countryside, it becomes a contested site between locals and outsiders over their aspirations and dreams. The conflict revolves around displacement and dispossession.
Sydney’s rural-urban fringe is similar to the urban frontier of large cities in Australia and other countries. It is a dynamic landscape that makes and re-makes familiar places.
More than this the rural-urban fringe is a zone of transition where invasion and succession are constant themes for locals and newcomers alike.
Searching for the security of a lost past
As Sydney’s urban sprawl invades fringe communities, locals yearn for a lost past and hope for some safekeeping of their memories. They use nostalgia as a fortress and immerse themselves in community rituals and traditions drawn from their past. They are drawn to ever-popular festivals like the Camden Show and Campbelltown’s Fishers Ghost Festival, which celebrate the rural heritage of Sydney’s fringe.
Local communities respond by creating imaginary barriers to ward off the evils of Sydney’s urban growth that is about to run them over. One of the most important is the metaphorical moat created by the Hawkesbury-Nepean River floodplain around some of the fringe communities of Camden, Richmond and Windsor.
Fringe communities use their rural heritage to ward off the Sydney octopus’s tentacles that are about to strangle them. In one example, the Camden community has created an imaginary country town idyll. A cultural myth where rural traditions are supported by the church on the hill, the village green and the Englishness of the gentry’s colonial estates.
Hope and the creation of an illusion
Outsiders and ex-urbanites come to the new fringe suburbs looking for a new life in a semi-rural environment. As they escape the evils of their own suburbia, they seek to immerse themselves in the rurality of the fringe. They want to retreat to an authentic past when times were simpler. It is a perception that land developers are eager to exploit.
Ex-urbanites are drawn to the urban frontier by developer promises of their own piece of utopia and the hope of a better lifestyle. They seek a place where “the country still looks like the country”. These seek what the local fringe communities already possess – open spaces and rural countryside.
The imagination of new arrivals is set running by developer promises of suburban dreams in master-planned estates. They are drawn in by glossy brochures, pollie speak, media hype and recent subsidies on landscaping and other material benefits.
Manicured parks, picturesque vistas and restful water features add to the illusion of a paradise on the urban frontier. Developers commodify a dream in an idyllic semi-rural setting that new arrivals hope will protect their life savings in a house and land package.
Destruction of the dream
Dreams are also destroyed on Sydney’s urban frontier for many newcomers. Once developers of master-planned estates have made their profit, they withdraw. They no longer support the idyllic features that created the illusion of a suburban utopia.
The dreams of a generation of ex-urbanites have come crashing down in the suburbs like Harrington Park and Mount Annan. The absence of developer rent-seeking has meant that their dreams have evaporated and gone to dust. Manicured parks have become overgrown. Restful water features have turned into dried-up cesspools inhabited by vermin.
Paradoxically, the ex-urbanite invasion has displaced and dispossessed an earlier generation of diehard motor racing fans of their dreams. The destruction of the Oran Park Raceway created its own landscape of lost memories. Ironically new arrivals at Oran Park bask in the reflected glory of streets named after Australian motor racing legends and sculptures that pay tribute to the long-gone raceway.
The latest threat to the dreams of all fringe dwellers is the invasion of Sydney’s southwest urban frontier by the exploratory drilling of coal seam gas wells. Locals and new arrivals alike see their idyllic surroundings disappearing before their eyes. They are fearful of their semi-rural lifestyle.
So what of the dreams?
Sydney’s rural-urban fringe will continue to be a frontier where conflict is an ever-present theme in the story of the place. Invasion, dispossession, opportunity and hope are all part of the ongoing story of this zone of constant change.
Sydney’s urban growth is about to invade the Macarthur region yet again. This is a re-run of the planning disasters in Campbelltown of the late 1970s. These planning decisions were originally part of the 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan and the 1973 New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden, Appin Structure Plan.
These urban plans were grossly over-optimistic then and only appeared in the Camden LGA in the 1980s at Mount Annan and Currans Hill. Tracts of land were sold off for housing in 1973, including part of Camden Park Estate, while historic buildings in Camden were demolished – Royal Hotel.
The areas in the current proposal are: Appin & West Appin, Wilton Junction, South Campbelltown, Menangle Park, Mount Gilead and Menangle areas.
Sydney’s metropolitan fringe is a theatre for the creation and loss of collective memories, cultural myths and community grieving around cultural icons, traditions and rituals. European settlement took the Aboriginal dreaming and then had its own dream removed by an east invasion in the form of Sydney’s urban growth.
The re-making of place in and around the fringe community of Camden and Campbelltown illustrates the destruction and reconstruction of cultural landscapes. Locals dream of retaining the aesthetics of inter-war country towns and have created an illusion of a historical myth of a ‘country town idyll’.
In the new suburbs of Oran Park, Mt Annan and Harrington Park, urbanites have invaded the area drawn by developer spin, which promised to fulfil hopes and dreams and never really lived up to the hype. Unfulfilled expectations mean that Sydney’s rural-urban fringe is a transition zone where waves of invasion and succession have created perceptions of reality, and all that is left is imagination.
Learn more about urban development in the Macarthur region.
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