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launch of the Eveleigh Workshops Register

O’Brien, G. From Sweatshop to Hard Labour, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30.8.99

Ted Carr started work at Eveleigh Railway Workshops as a store boy in 1935. He was back there yesterday to see his son launch the Eveleigh Workshops Register, a project to record the many thousands who worked there through its long history.

Also present was Jenny Munro, chair of the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council, representing the family of Aboriginal worker, Phillip James Campbell, and Justice John Cahill and his son whose father and grandfather, Joe Cahill, was an apprentice fitter at Eveleigh until he was sacked for his part in the general strike of 1917.

Indeed, as the Premier, Mr Bob Carr, pointed out in his speech, Eveleigh has a proud record in Labor history. It has produced 25 State and Federal politicians, beginning with the first Labor Premier, James McGowan, a boilermaker and Sunday school teacher elected to the State Assembly in 1891 as member for Redfern.

William McKell, "one of our greatest premiers", also a boilermaker, succeeded him, at the age of 25, and much later became only our second Australian-born Governor-General. Then there was Joe Cahill, who gave Sydney the Opera House, and firebrand Eddie Ward, among others.

Mr Carr said the Eveleigh workshops, which started in 1887, were no place for the faint-hearted, with often appalling conditions. His father told of tossing hot rivets into buckets – the only washing facilities – to heat the water.

But Eveleigh workers had fought to improve not only their conditions but those of workers generally, and for causes such as Aboriginal rights.

Dr Lucy Taksa, the labour historian who initiated the Eveleigh project, said the conservation of the material relics at Eveleigh was "crucially important" but heritage was also about the relationship between people and places "and it is this human heritage which is being celebrated today".

She said an interactive Web site was being established, with oral history, film and photographs, which would allow people to look up family members who worked at Eveleigh. It would provide evidence of "the sweat and toil and struggle that underlies our industrial heritage".

reproduced with permission of the author, Geraldine O’Brien.

the State Mine heritage site at Lithgow

From Heritage NSW, Newsletter of the NSW Heritage Office and Heritage Council of NSW, March 1999

The town of Lithgow has a strong mining history, and consequently has suffered the cyclical employment which is the experience of most mining towns. Lithgow is now trying new directions to assist its community to create sustainable employment. One way in which this can be achieved is through mining their industrial past for future employment and income.

Mr Gerard Martin, Mayor of Lithgow City Council says there is "definitely an increasing awareness of our industrial heritage and a recognition by our citizens that we should be doing more to conserve our significant heritage items."

A major initiative in heritage management is the State Mine heritage site. The combined Blast Furnace and State Mine projects received funding totalling $1.5 million under the Commonwealth's Federation funding program.

Built in 1906-7, the Lithgow Blast Furnace was the sole producer of iron in Australia for the first seven years of its life. The significant remnants of the blast furnace complex are currently being stabilised and conserved. Once this essential work is completed, the site will be interpreted for visitors, including a heritage trail with appropriate signage and lighting of the ruins.

The Blast Furnace site is the centrepiece of an ambitious new heritage project. Lithgow City Council, in partnership with the City of Greater Lithgow Mining Museum Inc. and the Lithgow and District Historical Society is developing one of the largest cultural heritage projects in Australia. The project involves the creation of an industrial heritage park which is designed to showcase the birth of heavy industry in Australia.

The heritage park is being created through linking and interpreting a number of key sites: the Lithgow Blast Furnace, Lake Pillans Wetland, Eskbank House and Museum, the State Mine Heritage Park, Eskbank Locomotive Depot and Eskbank Station Precinct.

Lithgow City Council is working with the community to promote heritage conservation. Initiatives include a qualified and experienced heritage officer to give free advice to owners and users of buildings with heritage value. The re-use of heritage buildings is supported and council provides funds jointly with the State for conservation work and paint schemes. Heritage awards are given annually to people who have restored and renovated buildings with heritage value.

"Lithgow has evolved from a grimy, coal-based town to one of clean, scenic beauty where the industrial past is valued by both its community and by visitors", says Mr Martin.

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