Annual Report 2009


The Chair hereby lists the CRWP’s achievements for the year 2009 in accordance with the University of Newcastle’s Building Distinction Strategic Plan 2007‐2011: University Strategic Priority: (2) International research profile and impact (3) Indigenous Collaboration and (4) Community Partnerships and Engagement and Vice Chancellor’s Your Voice Staff Climate Survey Action Plan 2008: Key Action: Cross University Co‐operation.

We thank the University of Newcastle for their support, especially DVC (Academic) Professor Kevin McConkey and Mr Greg Anderson University Librarian. Thanks also to the Administration Team at Facilities Management who provided parking permits for our community members.

In 2009 Newcastle celebrated the 150th anniversary of local government in Newcastle.  It was a year of broadening horizons and we continued to support and promote the Newcastle City Council’s unanimously adopted Coal River Heritage Precinct Interpretation plan (Pizzey Report).

In September we undertook a review of all we wanted to achieve and took the opportunity to refine our mission objectives, goals and the necessary actions needed to achieve them. See here:

Our mission is to attain world recognition for Newcastle and the Hunter Region’s historical contribution to the development of the Australian nation. Newcastle has been all but written out of the history of Australia and even NSW. According to Libby Robin’s How a Continent Created a Nation (2007), Nigeria has played a more important role in the creation of the Australian Nation. Is this an acceptable situation for Australia’s second oldest city?

As you can see there are many activities that our University staff and students, business partners and community volunteers are working on. We greatly appreciate the time and effort everyone has volunteered putting into this essential work.

In May 2009 we featured as one of five case studies in a Family Action Centre report on the University’s Engaged Research. According to this report, the key elements of Engaged Research are an intention to address a critical public issue; a mutual and beneficial exchange of knowledge and/or expertise; and scholarly and rigorous methodologies, including peer review. In Engaged Research, researchers respond to a specific issue or problem that a community has identified or jointly developed through researcher and community collaboration. The community plays an active role in helping set the research agenda. Furthermore, the research is conducted in such a way that it produces a body of work that can be used by the wider community to better the community. (Hartman et al, 2009)

Our achievements for this year illustrate the CRWP’s engaged research in action.


In February a new National Nomination for the Coal River (Mulubinba) Cultural Landscape was prepared on behalf of the CRWP and sent to the Nominations Division of the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts.


Our members are organising a workshop by the Environmental Defenders Office to be held next year as part of the Macquarie 2010 celebrations. This will allow us to understand how the current legislation works.


We continue to identify archival records relating to the region and located elsewhere, which the intention of digitally repatriating these records to the local community.

The following research collections, books and pamphlets held by the University have been digitised and placed online free of charge:

Ralph Snowball Glass Plate Negatives (Norm Barney Photographic Collection) – 38 boxes containing 864 Snowball glass negatives have been documented, cleaned, scanned and uploaded to Flickr, along with NEWCAT catalogue  entries for all. The negatives date from 1885 to 1923. 161 Glass plate original listings have also been digitised and uploaded.

Wallis, James, 1785?-1858. An historical account of the colony of New South Wales and its dependent settlements: in illustration of twelve views / engraved by W. Preston from drawings taken on the spot by Captain Wallis. To which is subjoined An accurate map of Port Macquarie and the newly discovered River Hastings / by J. Oxley London : Printed for R. Ackermann by J. Moyes, 1821. Photographed by Associate Professor Allan Chawner and prepared by Gionni Di Gravio.

Souvenir of the Maitland Flood 1913, (Davies and Cannington Ltd, Federal Printing Works Newcastle, 1913) Digitised by Brenda Sullivan.

Memento of Maitland Floods, (T Dimmock Ltd, Maitland 1913?) Digitised by Brenda Sullivan.

Broughton, W.G. and Threlkeld, L.E. A Selection of Prayers for the Morning and Evening From The Service of the Church of England Intended for the introduction of publick worship Amongst The Aborigines of Australia, 1834. The Venerable W.G. Broughton M.A. Arch Deacon of New South Wales and its Dependencies. Translated Into the Northumberland Dialect by L.E. Threlkeld, 1834. [3.75MB PDF] Courtesy of the Mitchell Library. Thank you to Dr Jim Wafer for alerting us to its existence. We also sincerely thank Mrs Marjorie Raven, great grand daughter of the late Reverend Threlkeld for her permission to publish this manuscript online. Collections/pdf/1834-prayers.pdf

Bramble, Christine W. Relations between Aborigines and White Settlers in Newcastle and the Hunter District 1804-1841 with special reference to the influence of the penal establishment. Dissertation submitted as part of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Letters in History at the University of New England. January 1981. [4.24MB PDF] Made available for download with the kind permission of the Author.

Henry Taylor Plews “On the Coalfield of New South Wales” was published in Volume VI of the Transactions of the North of England Institute of Mining Engineers (1858).

Excelsior Land Investment & Building Company & Bank. Plans, views and particulars of the Toronto Estate, Lake Macquarie, for sale by the Excelsior Land Investment & Building Company & Bank Ltd [Sydney : The Company?, 1887?]

Student Research Papers in Australian History was a serial published by the University of Newcastle’s History Club, Department of History, and featured some of the best papers on Australian history written by undergraduate history students at the time. Nos 1-8 complete of the Student Research Papers in Australian History, published during the period 1976-1983 were digitized and available here:

Legislative Assembly. New South Wales. Breakwater at Stockton. (Report of Mr. Moriarty Upon Advisability of.) Ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be Printed, 27 April 1858. With Moriarty’s Plan of the Harbour of Newcastle Shewing the Proposed Extension of the Northern Pier. Thank you to Mr Rod Caldwell who kindly arranged for his personal copy to be digitised and provided for us to publish to the wider research community.


1801 Carved Tree
On the 208th anniversary, 12 members of the University of Newcastle’s Coal River Working Party and local landowners and community embarked on a mission to Mt Elizabeth. Mount Elizabeth was the furthest west that the original 1801 Survey party led by Colonel Paterson reached on the 10 July 1801. On the peak they left two blazed trees with their initials and date 1801 which we had hoped to re-discover. CRWP investigators located one of these two blazed trees and are now awaiting confirmation from a Dendrochronologist to examine the tree and independently date the tree and the blaze. Please see interim report on CRWP blog:

Stockton ‘Mystery’ Ship
A ground penetrating radar (GPR) attempt to locate the ‘mystery ship’ in Stockton Caravan Park (NCC Council Land) was made on 30 October 2009. This proved inconclusive as the presence of underground water created anomalies in the survey result.

Former James Fletcher Hospital Site
With regards to Newcastle Government House and Barracks Historic Site (1804) – former James Fletcher Hospital site the Government Domain Committee has been formed to ensure that this Government Domain remains in public hands with Heritage Listing and an imaginative Masterplan for its future use. This goal also supports community-engaged research for one of our post grad students, as Ann is researching this historic site as part of her PhD thesis.

Archeological Scoping Document Coal River Heritage Precinct
Work continues on a scoping document for Archaeological investigations of the gunpowder tunnels under Nobbys and underground brick water tank on Nobbys summit, excavation of convict mine drifts under Fort Scratchley and archaeological investigation of Macquarie Pier.

Wollombi – Mt Yengo Research
On 14 February 2009 we participated along with academics from the University of Newcastle and the University of Sydney as guest speakers at the Laguna Community Hall to discuss with the local community the importance of Wollombi and Mount Yengo’s ‘Library of Stone’. Two visits with conservator Amir Mogadam and rock art specialists were conducted to sites in the Mount Yengo and Congewai districts for advice on lichens and natural erosion in rock art and engraving sites.


National Trust Festival 2009 – Our Place in Space – Under the Southern Cross
University of Newcastle’s CRWP assisted with the Heritage Trust Festival 2009 – Our Place in Space – Under the Southern Cross. Chair was MC for Cocktail party at Monet’s Cottage in the grounds of the historic James Fletcher Hospital. The University’s Dr Troy Duncan spoke about the history of this mental health institution that first opened in 1871. Videos of the presentation and poems were uploaded to UoNCC’s You Tube Channel, blog and Facebook site.

Sesquicentenary Celebrations Colin Spiers’ A Slender Strand of Memories and Allan Chawner’s Dawn of a New Era.
It was back in late 2007 that the Coal River Working Party initiated discussions that would eventually lead to a new Symphonic work commissioned in dedication of Newcastle in over 50 years. The work was previewed at the launch of Associate Professor Allan Chawner’s extraordinary ‘Dawn of a New Era’ photographic exhibition in June 2009 to commemorate the 150th celebration of the formation of the Borough of Newcastle. See:

The World Premiere of A Slender Strand of Memories by Colin Spiers was performed on Sunday 1 November 2009 at 3pm in Newcastle City Hall (Australia). The symphony is a commemorative work evoking an emotional response to a great city’s past by linking this to our common, present aspirations and hopes for the future. It uses text that comes from various periods of Newcastle’s history. One text in particular that features in the work is Charles Holmes’ diary (1889) that was donated to Cultural Collections a number of years ago by local historian Wendy Swan. I’m sure she, as well as Charles Holmes himself, will be thrilled that it has now made it into a symphonic and choral work celebrating Newcastle. A Slender Strand of Memories was performed by a 64 piece orchestra comprising University of Newcastle music students and professionals and a 160 voice choir comprising the Newcastle University Choir, the award winning University of Newcastle Chamber Choir, the University of Newcastle Student Choir, and the Callaghan Childrens Choir. A webite containing story, video and photographs from the event was created on the CRWP blog and uploaded to the UoNCC’s You Tube Channel:

Andrew Cavill’s ‘Midden’
We had all but given up hope in attracting architecture students when Andrew Cavill approached us earlier in the year interested in indigenous building techniques and spotting on the website that we needed an interpretive centre. Andrew then went on to meet and discuss the creation of a new ‘Opera House’ iconic building for Newcastle, whose elegant design and beautiful approach brought tears to the eyes. He launched his design for the Coal River Discovery and Interpretation Centre (The Midden) at [In Transit] University of Newcastle Final Year Architecture Exhibition 2009 on Friday November 13th 2009 at the Architecture Design Studio University of Newcastle. Links to the opening as well as display boards were uploaded to the Blog. See:

1828 Mitchell Survey
Mr Chris Towers and Troy Sumner, two final year surveying students have prepared an excellent report on Sir Thomas Mitchell’s survey sketches of Newcastle. They presented their findings at a seminar held on Friday 6 November 2009. Both students will again present their findings and report at the next meeting of the CRWP on the 7 December 2009 1-3pm. Dr Ann Lllewellyn’s scientific illustration students who worked on the identical sketches will also present their work. The survey report has been placed on the Coal River blog. See:

Newcastle’s history in the dramatic arts
Under Gillian Arrighi’s supervision two delightful student productions were created along historical themes entitled The Story of the ‘Big Red Kangeroo/The Tale of Nobbys’ and the Newcastle Rail Line Performance. Honours student Brook Alexander is also being assisted in her Mayfield Pool Community Arts practice research. Another exciting production on the history of the James Fletcher Hospital site by Hunter Writer’s Centre director Brian Joyce The SIGHTSOUNDMIN(e)D theatrical performance premiered at the Conservatorium of Music on Friday 27 November and will be an exciting starting point for public engagement with the James Fletcher site and its place in Newcastle’s history and a good lead-in to the celebrations in 2010.

Next year marks the beginnings of the Macquarie 2010 celebrations, and we hope we will be able to continue to serve the community as best we can, to promote the history of this region and its historic importance to the making of this nation.

I sincerely thank you all for your generous assistance in furthering these aims and objectives.

I Remain,
Your most obedient and humble Servant,
Gionni Di Gravio

One thought on “Annual Report 2009

  1. For detecting “Mystery’ Ship, a number of techniques are available besides ground penetrating radar (GPR). And in many cases they work better than GPR. These techniques include magnetic, electromagnetic and direct current electrical resistivity, etc. These methods belong to the scope of near surface geophysics, which is also called environmental and engineering geophysics.

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