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sal05288 - Transforming the Female Orphan School David...

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1 Transforming the Female Orphan School David Saltmarsh School of Education, Macquarie University Presented at AARE 2005 conference Creative Dissent: Constructive solutions Abstract The Female Orphan School has been referred to as a national heirloom, Sydney’s forgotten colonial icon, a jewel and a national treasure, but how much do we know about the original purposes of this building? And should we care? This paper reviews the transformation of this building from orphan school to hospital for the insane to university research centre. The case study data is drawn from historical documents, art works, newspaper reports and interviews with architects and heritage consultants. This material is analysed using a combination of critical discourse analysis and a theoretical framework developed largely from the work Michel de Certeau. The paper argues that while the building’s status as an icon, its importance to the local area and Australia’s history is strongly promoted in the press, this appreciation is largely superficial. The paper concludes that the greater significance of the Orphan School that we should seek lies in the ways that the building has been discursively formed to produce a range of ideological representations. Introduction The impetus for this paper came from a desire to document the ways in which our understandings of the Female Orphan School have been distorted by reporting of it as a recent acquisition of the University of Western Sydney (UWS). I suspected that in the University’s enthusiasm to gain prominence and market advantage by claiming a piece of Australian cultural heritage as its own some aspects of the institution’s history would have been overlooked, while other aspects emphasized. The ‘transformation’, then, was originally meant to refer to a presumed distortion of our recollections of the past. However, I discovered not a single transformation, but a number which include the following: 1. The creation of the Female Orphan School by Governor King in 1800 2. Governor Macquarie’s creation of the building at Parramatta, opened in 1818 3. The transfer of boys from the Male Orphan School in 1850 and the facility becoming the Protestant Orphan School and its eventual closure in 1887
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