It is not often that the historian can get a view into the past through the lens of the present in real time. I was able to this in Camden New South Wales recently at a photo shoot for the History Magazine for the Royal Australian Historical Society.
Photographer Jeff McGill and author Laura Jane were the participants in this activity. We all walked along Camden’s historic main thoroughfare, Argyle Street, which still echoes of the Victorian period. Our little group made quite a splash and drew a deal of attention from local women who swooned over the ‘gorgeous’ vintage dress worn by Laura Jane.
Mid-20th century enthusiast Laura Janes lives the lifestyle in dress, makeup and hairstyle and made the perfect foil for her History article on Sydney fashion, the David Jones store and their links to the fashion house of Dior. Laura Jane modelled her 1950s Dior style vintage dress in front of Camden’s storefronts that were reminiscent of the period. With matching handbag, gloves, hat, hairstyle, stiletto heels, and makeup she made a picture to behold captured by Campbelltown photographer Jeff.
Laura Jane encompasses the experience of the country woman going to town when Camden women would dress-up in their Sunday best to shop in Camden or catch the train to the city.
A city shopping expedition would entail catching the Pansy train at Camden Railway Station, then change steam trains at Campbelltown Railway Station, then another change at Liverpool Railway Station from steam train to the electric suburban service for Central Railway Station in Sydney. The suburban electric trains did not arrive at Campbelltown until 1968.
City outings for country women often happened around the time of the Royal Easter Show when the whole family would go to the city. The family would bring their prized horses and cattle to compete with other rural producers for the honour and glory of winning a sash. While the menfolk were busy with rural matters their women folk would be off to town to shop for the latest fashions for church and show balls or to fit out the family for the upcoming year.
Country women from further away might stay-over at swish city hotels like the up-market elegant Hotel Australia near Martin Place. These infrequent city outings were a treat and a break from the drudgery of domesticity and women would take the opportunity to combine a shopping trip with a visit to see a play or the Tivoli theatre.
The intrinsic nature of the city outings for country women were captured by the Sydney street photographers. They operated around the Martin Place, Circular Quay, Macquarie and Elizabeth Street precincts and are depicted in an current photographic exhibition at the Museum of Sydney.
The images of the Sydney street photographer captured of moment in time and their most prolific period was during the 1930s to the 1950s. The country woman would be captured on film as she and a friend wandered along a city street. They would be given a token and they could purchase a memento of their city visit in a postcard image that they could purchase at a processing booth in a city-arcade. The Sydney street photographer captured living history and has not completely disappeared from Sydney street.
Laura Jane, whose lifestyle encompasses the mid-20th century, in an expression of the living history movement in motion. The living history movement is a popular platform for experiencing the past and incorporates those who want to live the past in the present, aka Laura Jane, or relive it on a more occasional basis as re-enactors who relive the past for a moment. There are many examples of the latter at historic sites in Australia, the USA, and the UK.
The Camden photo shoot was an example how a moment in time can truly be part of living history where the photographer captures a glimpse of the past in the present. An example of how the present never really escapes the past.
What’s in a name? Quite a lot if you live in the fringe urban communities of Campbelltown, Camden or Picton in the Macarthur district on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe. In the past these communities have been fiercely parochial country towns with clearly identifiable differences based on history, heritage, traditions, mythology, rituals, demographics, local government and a host of other factors. With the encroachment of Sydney’s urban sprawl they have been wrapped up by the tentacles of the metropolitan octopus and faced challenges on a variety of fronts. The questions that this article raises concern Macarthur regionalism. Is it authentic? How representative is it of the former country towns that are now incorporated within it?
Careful what you call south west Sydney
The issue boiled over in May 2013 when it raised the hackles of locals and outsiders alike in an opinion piece published by Fairfax Media. Campbelltown journalist and editor of the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, Jeff McGill, wrote an article for the Fairfax Media called ‘Careful what you call south west Sydney’. In the article he maintained that Campbelltown, Camden and Picton residents did not want to be identified as part of Sydney’s south-west or west by Sydney media. McGill stated:
Residents of Campbelltown, Camden and the Picton-based Wollondilly Shire are fed up with being thrown into the same geographic area as Lakemba, Punchbowl and Campsie in a distant, unconnected part of Sydney.
McGill’s article hit a raw nerve and highlighted the contested nature of community identity and a sense of place in three of Sydney’s fringe communities.
The contentious nature of regional identity
The contentious nature of regional identity was reflected in over 200 comments on the blog accompanying McGill’s article. Many bloggers expressed their anger and for CSKN, ‘If you don’t live on the North Shore or the Northern Beaches, then you’re all westies’, or Peter who staunchly maintained that ‘Campbelltown in not Sydney’. Jenny was struck by the snobbery of city-types because she was from Campbelltown.
‘If you mention to someone that you live at Campbelltown you see them slightly recoil, the expression of contempt passing fleetingly from their face. Then they want to know how on earth you managed to get the job, but get through uni. Because, after all, isn’t everyone from Campbelltown slow-witted, lazy, anti-social and committing crimes? Don’t we all have babies at 16, then abuse them while we are drinking and taking drugs?
McGill was surprised by the strength of the anger expressed in the numerous responses to his article. He said that ‘it got an unexpectedly large reaction. I’ve rarely ever been stopped, or contacted, by so many enthusiastic backers. A raw nerve was touched.’ He maintained that local residents got ‘annoyed’ when they are lumped together with ‘Campsie or Punchbowl’, which are over 40 kilometres away. The Sydney media are happy to identify other smaller regional parts of Sydney including the ‘upper north shore’, the ‘lower north shore’, the ‘northern beaches’, yet they lump everyone from Pyrmont to Picton into one amorphous mass.
A local storyteller
As a local storyteller McGill has worked hard to build a narrative of place that underpin people’s identity and attachment to Campbelltown. He is a local identity who grew up in the area, went to Campbelltown High then worked as a journalist at The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror, and returned to the area as the senior journalist with The Macarthur Advertiser. He later became editor of The Penrith Star, then The Liverpool City Champion and finally progressed to be the editor of the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser. He has published a number of local histories and stated that ‘local history gives people pride and a place in our town’ and accords with SM Low’s typology of people’s cultural and symbolic linkages with place that are based on stories, family, loss, land ownership, mythology and spirituality.
A crisis of identity
McGill’s article has highlighted a crisis of identity amongst locals around the ownership and usage of place-names and has created a level of sensitivity in the community. It offends their sensibilities when they are lumped together with other parts of Sydney’s west and south-west, which have their own challenges and stereotypes. Campbelltown resident’s have created an emotional investment in place through the ownership of their stories, traditions and celebrations including family births, marriages, deaths, christening, birthdays, first day at school, sporting events, first day child went to school and a host of other events that give meaning to their lives. These events contribute to a landscape of memories with multiple layers of meaning that build across the generations of human activity. McGill and others want to take possession of their identity and rest it away from the Sydney media and others who proclaim their ownership of the same identity.
One factor that underpins these sensitivities is a perception by many Sydneysiders that the fringe communities of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton, which is located in the Wollondilly LGA, have a distinctive uniformity that extends across parts of Sydney’s west and south-west. This is simply not true. While regionalism in Sydney’s west and south-west are a product of the post-war period when Sydney’s urban growth spread across the Cumberland Plain, regional labels are administrative conveniences used by politicians, planners, economists, technocrats and bureaucrats who fail to understand the diversity of these areas. Take two examples, the jurisdiction of the Ministry for Western Sydney in the New South Wales state government. It takes in the 10 Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and has added Camden, Campbelltown, Wollondilly and The Hills. On the other hand the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) definition based on labour force regions includes the 12 LGAs: Auburn; Blacktown; Blue Mountains; Camden; Campbelltown; Fairfield; Hawkesbury; Holroyd; Liverpool; Parramatta; Penrith and Wollondilly, while excluding Bankstown and The Hills, which are included in the state governments definition. The one unifying demographic factor identified by the state government is the area’s diversity. The Fairfield LGA has over 70 different languages spoken while Auburn LGA is home to over people from 100 nations. Blacktown, Campbelltown, Liverpool and Penrith LGAs have largest urban communities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while 37.3 per cent of the regional population is under 24 years of age, while the area has a projected population of 2.96 million by 2036. Diversity in itself is not a solid basis for the development of any coherent sense of place or a cohesive narrative that has any real meaning to the community. The lack of any identifiable uniformity across these LGAs for ethnicity, culture, history, tradition or other social or cultural factors means that there is no real basis for any true sense of unity. Bruce Baskerville notes that even the term Western Sydney is only quite recent and was first used by Prospect County Council in 1961 and it did not include the Macarthur LGAs of Campbelltown, Camden or Wollondilly. While the state government and ABS are happy to use these administrative regions they have made no serious attempt to develop a cohesive narrative that contributes to the development of any authentic regional identity.
Local resistance to the imposition of these administrative regions by government only complicates the picture. BM Taylor has discussed oppositional identities in regionalism where local interests come together around a regional identity for a particular purpose. The local resistance can be based on local opposition to an arbitrarily imposed regional identity by an administrative body, in this case the New South Wales state government or the ABS. He maintains that regionalism is strongest where other elements of place construction are acting to draw locals together based on a range of other factors including landform, economic factors, socio-cultural factors including common traditions, cultural background, histories, and other spatial considerations.
Smaller regional identities
In reality Sydney’s west and south-west has a host of different smaller regional identities including the communities of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton, a form of local tribalism. Bernard Salt maintains that Sydney is ‘a city of tribes and precincts’, a product of the city’s geography and the values of its residents. Kirsten Craze identified seven tribes of Sydney including ‘the Might West’ while Sacha Molitorisz has identified eight youth tribes and sociologist Gabrielle Gwyther says Sydney’s west contains ‘mulitudes’ of groupings. In 1996 a delegate at a local tourism forum stated that Sydney’s west ‘is too large an area to function with unity. What does Wollondilly have in common with Hawkesbury’. These sub-regional identities are reflected in the local editions of the two principle suburban newspaper publishers across Sydney’s west and south-west. Fairfax Community Newspapers publishes five weekly mastheads in Sydney’s south-west and a further 12 local editions across the remainder of western Sydney, while News Corp stable, publishes 12 mastheads in Sydney’s west and south-west as well as 3 local editions in the Macarthur region under NewsLocal, a division of Nationwide News. These weekly newspapers regularly carry a host of local stories, advertisements and notices that reflect local identity and branding. They are the voice of the local community and act as a noticeboard, which is not a characteristic of the national daily newspapers. Community stores, which are personal and small-scale, are the lifeblood of these newspapers. In many ways these newspapers are purveyors of the gossip that circulates through family and inter-personal networks, the essence of the local.
Sterotypes and bogans
Sydney’s west and south-west have also been stereotyped as regions that are dangerous foreign places, a form of Otherness. According to Diane Powell Sydney’s west is seen by some,, ‘as some kind of ‘third world’ space in relation to the rest of Sydney’. Western Sydney ‘inhabitants are stigmatized, made ‘other’ – victims perhaps of disadvantage, but passive and often hopeless’. Powell quotes a number examples of the Sydney media that portray the western suburbs as ignorant, illiterate yobs. She goes further saying that ‘the many hundreds of newspaper clippings about the western suburbs I have collected illustrate a peculiar pre-occupation with people ‘living on the edge’. One outburst by media commentator Eddie McGuire typified the attitude of many when he dismissed the western suburbs of Sydney as the ‘land of the felafel’. Sydney’s western suburbs, according to philosopher Michael Symonds, are seen by many as ‘an ugly, barren wasteland’, to lack ‘beauty and a history of enchantment’ and the ‘tranquil prettiness of the leafy suburban home’ that can be found in the eastern suburbs, north shore or Sutherland Shire. The west is ‘a cultural wasteland’ which was ‘ugly and dangerous’, the home of ‘the yobbo’, and the ‘westie’, who are part of the ‘otherness’ created by city folk. Bruce Moore has stated that the term westie originated in the 1970s as a pejorative for someone living Sydney’s western suburbs and perceived to be socially disadvantaged and that the term bogan became common in the 1980s. These perceptions are not helped by media headlines that portray the area as a type of war zone. Some examples include: ‘Man stabbed in Sydney’s west’ (Location: Parramatta); ‘Man short in Sydney’s west’ (location: Granville); ‘Man shot dead in Sydney’s west’ (location: Chester Hill); ‘Four men wounded in western Sydney shooting’ (location Smithfield); ‘A house and cars have been damaged in another shooting in Sydney’s southwest’ (location Lakemba); and ‘South-west Sydney ‘a recruitment for Islamic fundamentalists’ (location Auburn).
Some sort of ‘cultural wasteland’
Macarthur residents state that they are not part of Sydney’s west or south-west, which they perceive as some sort of ‘cultural wasteland’. Yet the remainder of Sydney, in the eyes of McGill’s bloggers at least, do see Macarthur residents as part of that so-called wasteland. McGill maintains that the Campbelltown, Camden and Picton area ‘is so much deeper that the bogan stereotype portrayed on TV’. The Campbelltown Chamber of Commerce president Anne Parnham has stated that she is ‘sick of people saying ‘You had another shooting over your way’, when they were in Bankstown’. Campbelltown’s state MP, Brian Doyle, said that ‘he was often… frustrated by broad references to the south-west’. The Deputy Mayor of the Wollondilly Shire, Councillor Benn Banasik said that he ‘didn’t find a real commanlity between people from Fairfield and people for Wollondilly’. One newcomer to the suburb of Harrington Park, who moved from Sutherland, told Gabrielle Gwyther that Harrington Park was not the western suburbs. ‘Its more rural. I wouldn’t live in the western suburbs’. When asked ‘why not?’, the newcomer replied ‘well, they’re a different type of person’.
McGill wants Campbelltown, Camden and Picton to be known as the Macarthur region so as to differentiate them from the rest of western and south-western Sydney. While at the same time admitting that the regional name Macarthur, which he staunchly defends, has ‘nothing to do with Campbelltown’ and yet has become the generic regional identity of the area. So what is the justification for using the place-name Macarthur for the Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly LGAs? Is it authentic?
First official use of the term Macarthur
The first official use of the term Macarthur as a regional place-name was the proclamation of the new Federal seat of Macarthur in 1949 after the 1948 re-distribution and the Federal House of Representatives was increased from 75 to 122 members. The new seat of Macarthur was named after the colonial wool pioneers John and Elizabeth Macarthur of Camden Park, which according to a recent heritage report from TKD Architects ‘is the most important surviving early colonial estate in Australia and ranks amongst the most historic houses in Australia’. The original land grant to John Macarthur in 1805 took place on the Nepean River floodplain and eventually the familiy’s colonial estate of Camden Park covered parts of what is now the Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly LGAs. The current Camden Park Heritage Precinct listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register is primarily located in Wollondilly Shire, with a small northwestern section in the Camden LGA, while the northeastern boundary borders the Campbelltown LGA. The historical importance of the Macarthur legacy is closely aligned with the story of the Cowpastures which is located in today’s Wollondilly and Camden LGAs. On a broader level the Macarthur story is just one part of the history of the network of gentry estates that extended across the western Cumberland Plain, when the Macarthur family established Camden as an estate village on the family’s pastoral property. The Campbelltown story is linked to the smallholders who took up the early land grants and the market town that served them, while Picton’s history is a mix of influences linked to the Antill’s estate village and the development of the government town. Daily life in these country towns was ruled by intimacy, class, inter-personal and familial networks, rugged independence, patriarchy, sectarianism, rural poverty and a host of other factors. Each community had an authentic and natural distinctiveness that has contributed to their identity and sense of place. Locals residents had an emotional attachment and a patriotic loyalty to their locality, expressed as parochialism and localism. Today the close geographic proximity of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton means that they are a natural fit for the type of regionalism of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe that is represented by the place-name of Macarthur.
The use of the Macarthur place-name got a leg up in 1958 when local media baron Sydney Richardson felt that local regionalism provided a great business opportunity. There were enough unifying characteristics across the three country towns, he thought, that justified launching a new regional newspaper using the Macarthur masthead. He re-named the Camden Advertiser, a free Camden weekly newspaper he took over from Ken Gibson in 1955, as the Macarthur Advertiser. Richardson had two competing newspapers – the Camden News and the Camden Advertiser – in the same Camden market place. He had previously purchased both the Camden News and Campbelltown News from the Sidman brothers in 1952. Richardson promoted the Macarthur Advertiser as a free regional newspaper and expanded its circulation to included Campbelltown and Picton. The newspaper had a broad regional compilation of news and advertisements from the three towns and he ‘forged and popularized a new regional name for Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly’. Richardson, like McGill, was a local patriot and understood the significance of parochialism to the success of his local newspaper empire. Richardson was also president of the Country Press Association of NSW 1960-1962, the Picton RSL, the Camden RSL, the Camden Chamber of Commerce, an alderman on Camden Council and a member Camden Rotary Club. In 1982 Richardson merged the Macarthur Advertiser with other local newspapers – Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, Camden News and Picton Post – which he had previously sold to Suburban Publications, a joint venture between John Fairfax and Sons and Australian Consolidated Press, in 1969.  Richardson’s new regional newspaper prospered and was a builder of community and identity by being a regional voice and notice board for the first time, and in the process strengthened people’s attachment to the concept of a regional identity.
Macarthur Development Board
Town planners and administrators strengthened the official support for the use of the Macarthur place-name in 1975 with the establishment of the Macarthur Development Board, with its head office in Campbelltown’s heritage precinct. Peter Kacirek, the chairman of the Sydney SW Sector Planning and Development Board, renamed it as the Macarthur Development Board, against much local opposition which local residents felt affronted the legacy of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who proclaimed the town in 1820. Campbelltown parochialism was piqued as many felt that the place-name of Macarthur was more the province of Camden and the Cowpastures, an argument that was more pointed given the decades of rivalry between Campbelltown and Camden. The purpose of the board was to implement the 1973 New Cities Plan for Campbelltown, Camden and Appin as part of the 1968 Sydney Regional Outline Plan. The New Cities Plan called for the development of the Macarthur growth centre, located away from the Campbelltown central business district in Queen Street. The aim of the Macarthur Development Board was to ‘plan, co-ordinated implement’ the New Cities Plan with power to compulsory acquisition of land. Town planner James Deane, from the Urban Development Institute of Australia, felt that the name Campbelltown should be completely abolished and replaced with the City of Macarthur. The New Cities Plan incorporated the colonial story of the Macarthur family and Camden Park and felt that the Macarthur legacy was essential to the identity of the new growth centre. The board stated in 1976 that ‘the area of Macarthur is steeped in rich tradition and much of the early history of New South Wales was recorded here. The aim of the Board it to link the historic past with an exciting and vigorous future and to plan for the enjoyment and benefit of all members of the community’. Unfortunately the Macarthur family felt otherwise and sold most of the pastoral property to housing developers in 1973 against a national outcry.
Town planner Peter Kacirek
Town planner Peter Kacirek, an amiable well meaning person, was chairman of the Macarthur Development Board between 1975 and 1984. He had worked for the UK Ministry of town and country planning and was a major figure in British new town movement. He established the School of Town Planning at the University of Queensland and was at the New South Wales State Planning Authority from 1967 where he was deputy chief planner then chief planner. He was integral to the formulation of Sydney Region Outline Plan and growth centres at Bathurst-Orange and Albury-Wodonga. In 1976 Kacirek was awarded Sidney Luker Memorial Medal awarded by Planning Institute of Australia for the person who has made a notable contribution to urban and regional planning. His part in the development of the Sydney Regional Outline Plan and new Macarthur growth centre were seen as international best practice at the time for urban planning development.
Town planner’s pipe-dream
To the disappointment of many the Macarthur growth centre was a short lived town planner’s pipe-dream. The new regional centre was planned to have high-rise office blocks, conference facilities, sports stadiums, transport interchange and become a city within a city and to be located on Campbelltown Golf Course (1971), which was acquired against significant local opposition. There was some progress within the growth centre precinct with the construction of Macarthur Square (1979), Macarthur Railway Station (1985), the Macarthur Institute of Higher Education (1983) and the launch of a new Macarthur community radio station 2CT (1978) yet the new TAFE college (1981) and hospital (1977) both carried the place-name Campbelltown, not Macarthur. The Federal Whitlam government promised funding of $25 million in 1975, which was slashed in 1976 to $2 million dollars by the incoming Fraser Government but by 1978 all funding had dried up. Open hostilities broke out between Campbelltown City Council and Macarthur Development Board over the ‘regional centre’ in 1979 when the Wran state government approved the construction of Macarthur Square funded by State Super. The Macarthur Development Board continued to foster the regional centre over Campbelltown’s Queen Street precinct as the retail and community hub in 1980, and by 1984 the Board was $200 million in debt. Peter Kacirek was sacked and Ian Henry, former Campbelltown council planner, was appointed by the state government. In 1985 the regional centre was slashed by Wran Labor state government and the Board was stripped of planning power and restructured to Macarthur Development Corporation, which was a small promotion unit. Ian Henry stated that the Macarthur Development Board was ‘an over-expanded planner’s dream turned nightmare’ and in 1989 the MDC restructured and renamed Business Land Group, which was little more that a sales unit.
The Macarthur growth centre road crash had been driven up onto the rocks of divisiveness by the state government’s push of large scale public housing into the Campbelltown area, the development of the ‘ugly Campbelltown’ stereotype and the moral panic that ensued. Problems originated in 1969 when Campbelltown Council was forced to sell large tracts of land at Macquarie Fields to the state government for welfare housing. Fortuitously McGill notes in his history of Campbelltown that critics of the sale were concerned at the time that it would result in ‘slums for the future’, claims that were dismissed by the New South Wales Housing Commission. In 1975 there was a recession and private developers were forced out of housing market and the New South Wales Housing Commission took up the slack. In 1975 the Sydney media portrayed an image of Campbelltown as an ‘ugly houso wasteland’ and in 1976 The Sunday Telegraph stated that ‘Campbelltonians were so embarrassed by their address that they would not admit it’. In 1978 Catholic Bishop Dr William Murray visited Minto and criticized the high density public housing and by 1978 one third of all Campbelltown residents were ‘public housing tenants’. In 1980 the Sydney media generated moral panic around public housing ‘ghettos’ and there was continued criticism of public housing enclaves at Macquarie Fields, Airds, Minto, Claymore and Ambervale. Public housing was accused of generating a ‘demoralised’ way of life and public meetings of tenants labeled criticism at ‘cheap, shoddy journalism’. By 1984 the New South Wales Housing Commission had changed its priorities and abandoned a new public housing estate at Bow Bowing.
Local politician Elizabeth Kernohan,
From the 1970s one of the biggest champions of the Macarthur legacy was local politician Elizabeth Kernohan, whose political activity indirectly supported the Macarthur place-name. Kernohan, an agricultural scientist, was originally politicized by the 1973 release of the New Cities Plan, which she felt would destroy the area’s rurality. She was subsequently elected to Camden Council and in 1991 state parliament. Her political mantra centred on the powerful combination of the Macarthur mythology at Camden Park, along with Camden’s rurality, Englishness, rural heritage and conservatism. She used this an effective weapon to batter the supporters of both Sydney’s urban sprawl and the Macarthur growth centre at a local and state government level. Her political activities were enlivened by the public outcry at a local, state and national level in 1973 by the sale of most of Camden Park by the Macarthur family to land speculators. She vigorously defended the history and heritage of the Macarthur legacy in a bitter 1995 election campaign in defence of her Camden seat where Kernohan raised the folk devil of public housing and ‘the ugly Campbelltown’ stereotype against a residential development at Cawdor. She successfully elevated the iconic symbolism associated with presence of the Macarthur brand across the region while staunchly defending the areas rurality assisted by her immense popularity. One of her legacies is the location of the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute on the former pastoral property of Camden Park, with the institute’s website boasting that it continues the traditions of John and Elizabeth Macarthur.
The communities of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton have an ongoing connectedness to their rural heritage and in the face of Sydney’s urban sprawl the region’s rurality takes a number of forms. There is the annual country show in each community and other community festivals that honour their colonial past. There is also a common nostalgia about the loss of their country town status and the countryside that went with it with its rural landscape of fences, paddocks, haysheds, farmhouses, and other features. At Campbelltown the rural landscape and vistas have been protected along the ridge line between Denham Court and Mount Annan under scenic protection zonings as the ‘Scenic Hills’ in 1972, which restricted development of an area that is still today characterized by its rural acreages and large homes. Even in the late 1960s, as McGill notes is his Campbelltown’s history, as new suburbs started to appear at Bradbury, Ruse and Leumeah Heights newcomers were complaining in letters to editor in local newspapers that ‘they had escaped the rat race and wanted Campbelltown to remain as the same uncomplicated, semi-rural haven they had first found’. Even under the 1951 County of Cumberland Scheme where Campbelltown was identified as a satellite town there were green belts of open space, which effectively aimed to protect the area’s rurality. The scheme acknowledged the both natural and historic landscapes and County of Cumberland Scheme undertook a historic survey of historic buildings in Campbelltown in 1963 and purchased Campbelltown’s Queen Street Georgian buildings. This was the first time that the New South Wales Government had acquired privately owned buildings and was seen as a landmark in the state’s conservation movement.
Macarthur regionalism and peri-urbanism
Today the most important unifying theme between Campbelltown, Camden and Picton in their peri-urban location, on the city’s rural-urban fringe which acts to foster Macarthur regionalism. Their community identity and sense of place has been re-shaped by the forces of urbanization as the Sydney juggernaut as it moved across the Cumberland Plain. The urban fringe has attracted newcomers and Sydney’s ex-urbanites looking for an imagined rural arcadia promoted by land developers and other rent-seekers in master-planned estates. The rurality of these edge communities is contested as a range of actors seek to commodify it on a stage of competing interests around stereotypes and perceptions. The combination of these factors has meant the arrival of Sydney’s urban sprawl has seen some in the community retreat to an idealized version of these country towns, a form of ‘country town idyll’ that is based on the use of local history and heritage. Wollondilly Shire promotes its rurality through its policy ‘Living Together in Rural Wollondilly’ which states that the council provides ‘an opportunity for residents to live amidst a rural setting of productive farming enterprises’.
With the failure of the Macarthur growth centre another official attempt at developing Macarthur regionalism occurred in 1986. The Hawke Federal Government played a role in development of Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCs) through the Federal Government’s Office of Local Government and its Local Government Development Program. It came out of the Hawke government’s conviction that local authorities could make a positive contribution to the Commonwealth’s national economic reform strategy. The Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly LGAs came together in 1986 as MACROC, the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils with its headquarters in Campbelltown. MACROC’s charter states that its aim is to ‘promote a regional approach to issues’ and to develop ‘regional facilitation, planning and coordination’, to promote ‘a regional economic growth strategy’ and ‘provide a voice for regional issues’. MACROC has had mixed success, and while some accuse it of being a talkfest, its presence has supported Macarthur regionalism. MACROC spokesperson Christine Winning defends its role as in regional advocacy and states that has a achieved a number of outcomes of regional importance in the areas of job creation, economic growth, education, small business, local government, environment and tourism since its foundation.
Macarthur Country Tourist Association
The voluntary sector has had a role to play in promoting Macarthur regionalism through the establishment of the Macarthur Country Tourist Association in 1978. The association had the supported of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Liverpool councils, although it collapsed in 1994 after Wollondilly Shire withdrew support. In 1996 after the collapse of the association, Camden Council set up the Camden Interim Tourist Committee and continued to operate independently from Oxley Cottage in Narellan. In 2008 Camden and Campbelltown LGAs started a joint tourism project as part of the Macarthur Tourism Action Plan which was marketed as Destination Macarthur, and was influenced by Tourism New South Wales’s Destination Development Program and the 2007 Griffith Local Government and Shires Association Tourism Conference which used the theme Tourism – An Investment. Wollondilly General Manager Les McMahon has stated that the council was not involved in the 2008 venture because of cost considerations and not any lack of support for local regionalism. In recent months, according to McMahon, the council has re-examined the potential benefits of being involved with a regional approach to tourism. The Wollondilly region conducts an independent tourism strategy through the Wollondilly Tourism Association Inc which is supported by Destination Macarthur, MACROC and Wollondilly Shire. While the website promotes shire attractions, it omits Camden Park, which is located in Wollondilly Shire. McMahon agrees that Macarthur regionalism needs a clear identity based on the place-name of Macarthur, which has been partially accomplished in Destination Macarthur’s Official Visitors Guide 2013/2014. The Guide gives an account of the Macarthur legacy around Camden Park, although not recognizing its unique national status, while attempting to build a Macarthur tourism brand based on ‘adventure, dining, outdoors, golf, farm visiting and accommodation’. Within the Guide the Macarthur legacy is relegated to a short section on ‘living history’ and states ‘the region of Macarthur is named after renowned pioneers, John and Elizabeth Macarthur’. It does add that ‘Macathur’s heritage is evident at every turn and adds to the region’s charm’ and ‘a simple walk down the towns’ main streets will reveal a rich array of colonial architecture’.
Macarthur regionalism and local business
Over the years Macarthur regionalism has had mixed support by the local business and community voluntary organizations. A survey of telephone listings of local businesses in 2011 indicated that only 156 business listings used the term Macarthur in their business name, for example, Macarthur Tavern, Macarthur Camera House and of these 61 businesses were located in Campbelltown, while the remainder were located in other local suburbs. On the other hand the traditional names of the country towns of Camden, Campbelltown and Picton were the preferred option for business names with 134 had Camden in their business name, while 140 used Campbelltown in their business name, for example, Camden Towing Services and Campbelltown Car Detailing. A search of the 2014 Wollondilly Business Directory reveals that 24 businesses have used the Picton place-name, while at a district level even the Telstra telephone listings were located in the 2013 Campbelltown Telephone Directory which included Camden and Picton.
In Macarthur lifestyle magazine
Amongst local businesses there are some prominent and enthusiastic supporters of Macarthur regionalism as a coherent market place and branding that has a distinctive identity. Most notably In Macarthur lifestyle magazine publisher David Everett who has stated that his support for Macarthur regionalism for his business ‘seemed obvious and wasn’t really a decision’. Everett’s quarterly magazine started in 1999, has a print run of 20,000, is published in Campbelltown and is distributed throughout the three LGAs at points in Macarthur Square, Campbelltown, Camden, Narellan, Mt Annan, and Picton. Everett feels that Macarthur is a different geographic region to Sydney’s south west, ‘is culturally quite different’ and has ‘a sense of community’, which he maintains is ‘quite rare in the rest of Sydney’. He states that there is ‘a distinct region [which] feels like a region’ and the ‘name describes quite an organic community’ across all three LGAs. Amongst other local businesses that use the regional branding is the Macarthur Credit Union, which adopted the Macarthur name in 1978. The credit union wanted to extend its brand and grow its customer base and changed it name in 1978 from the Clutha Employees Credit Union, which was established in 1971, to the Macarthur Mutual Credit Union and extended membership to the local community. It then progressively established branches across the region starting with Picton in 1979, Camden 1979, Narellan 1990, Tahmoor 1994. It changed its name in 1994 to Macarthur Credit Union and started a mobile service at Oran Park.
Community radio station 2MCR,
Local media outlets are prominent supporters of Macarthur regionalism including Community radio station 2MCR, which started operations on the 1989 and promotes itself as “Heart of Macarthur”. It was the first radio station aimed at broadcasting to the Macarthur region, are staffed and operated entirely by volunteers and broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The local commercial radio state C91.3, which has been on air since 2001, uses a call sign 2MAC and the slogan ‘Macarthur First’. It has a limited broadcast area of the major centres of Campbelltown and Camden under Federal Government broadcast regulations and is owned by WIN Corporation. The local print media have been supporters of Macarthur regionalism for decades, although in recent years have responded to the resurgence of localism under the influence of globalization by re-establishing local editions of Macarthur regional newspaper titles (mentioned earlier).
Camden Community Directory
Similarly the community voluntary sector has a mixed response for its support of Macarthur regionalism. An examination of the 2005 Camden Community Directory only has 53 voluntary organizations that used Macarthur in their title, out a total listing of 380 entries. One current regional organization is the Macarthur Community Forum, which is an inter-agency organization which was incorporated in 2000 and changed its name to Sector Connect in 2008. It covers the four local government areas of Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Wingecarribee and acts a peak organization for the not-for-profit sector across the LGAs. The organization operates Volunteering Macarthur and acts as an agency for other government related services including Macarthur Youth Services Network and MacUnity. Other regional voluntary organizations range from the Macarthur Rural Fire Service to regional sporting organizations including Macarthur District Soccer Football Association and Macarthur Basketball Association, while 2013 saw the birth of Quota International of Macarthur after the demise of the Camden Quota Club.
Conclusions for Macarthur Regionalism
In conclusion, a name does matter and Macarthur regionalism is a touchy issue in the communities of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton where identity, place, stereotypes and perceptions are realities for some but not for all. The authentic use of the regional term Macarthur has been contested from its origins and still generates more heat than light. While acknowledging that the Macarthur story and Macarthur legacy does have links to all these communities they all developed identities as small closed rural communities. Government, business and the voluntary sector have a mixed response to Macarthur regionalism. Government has a mixed history on the issue while some local businesses see an identifiable separate market place.
Macarthur regionalism has been caught up in the broader issues of regional stereotypes applied to Sydney’s west and south west. McGill and others are seeking to re-take ownership of their identity using the Macarthur place name. It is a hot-button issue given people’s emotional investment in the characteristics that make up the identity of local residents. While Macarthur regionalism has some traction there is still parochial loyalty to the place-name of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. This creates layers of meaning and memory for many based on hope and loss and a host of other elements that are all part people’s daily lives and their identity.
For Macarthur regionalism to gain wider community acceptance its supporters need to develop a much clearer identity and branding. While it has the support of government, business and voluntary organizations there needs to be a stronger narrative around a common message. The cultural landscape of Macarthur regionalism has three common elements that need to be part of the message: the colonial narrative of the Macarthur legacy at Camden Park; the regions rurality; and other aspects of the region’s cultural heritage. A reasonable start would be to develop a coherent story based on the heritage of the Macarthur family and the national status of Camden Park homestead precinct, followed by support for the region’s rurality that is used by local government, land developers, newcomers, politicians and a host of others. A strong narrative around these themes will have the additional benefit of strengthening community connections and social cohesion, which will in turn increase the meaning, purpose and satisfaction in people’s lives. Regionalism will build community resilience and break down social exclusion particularly in the newly emerging communities where Sydney’s ex-urbanites are seeking a new beginning in a new community. Hope and loss are constant themes that emerge for newcomers as they attempt to build their new identity and sense of place.
 BM Taylor, ‘Regionalism as resistance: Governance and identity in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt’, Geoforum, 43 (2012), 507-517.
 Bernard Salt, ‘City of hills and tribes flying into urban chaos’, The Australian, 31 March 2012. Kirsten Craze, ‘The seven tribes of Sydney’, The Daily Telegraph, 11 July 2012. Sacha Militorisz, ‘Tribes of Sydney’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 2010. James Robertson, ‘Defining western Sydney’, The Sydney Morning Herald Online, 5 April 2014. Online @ http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/defining-western-sydney-20140404-3646u.html accessed 5 April 2014.
 Camden Interim Tourist Committee, Minutes, 26 June 1996.
 Lesley Johnson, Julie Langsworth and Michael Symonds, ‘Introduction’, in Home/World, Space, Community and Marginality in Sydney’s West, (eds) Helen Grace, Ghassan Hage, Lesley Johnson, Julie Langsworth and Michael Symonds, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1997, p2.
 Diane Powell, Out West, Perceptions of Sydney’s Western Suburbs, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993, p.xvi
 Rachel Olding, ‘McGuire-he lied with a falafel in his hand’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12-13 February 2013, p.3.
 Michael Symonds, ‘Outside the Spaces of Modernity: Western Sydney and the Logic of the European City’, in in Home/World, Space, Community and Marginality in Sydney’s West, (eds) Helen Grace, Ghassan Hage, Lesley Johnson, Julie Langsworth and Michael Symonds, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1997, pp. 85, 88-89.
 Megan Gorrey, ‘Why we call ourselves Macarthur?’, Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser, 22 May 2013
 TKD Architects, Managing the Future of Camden Park, Menangle, New South Wales, Camden Park Preservation Committee, Camden, 2014.
 ‘Mr Syd Richardson board chairman’, Camden News, 26, 27 & 28 August 1969. Jeff McGill, ‘Local history caught by newspaper Webb’, Camden Advertiser 2 March 2005. ‘From Camden Advertiser to Macarthur Advertiser’, Wollondilly Advertiser 10 February 2010.
 James Deane, ‘Roles in Response to Change’, Royal Australian Planning Institute Journal, January 1974, vol 12 no 1, p.35.
 Macarthur Development Board, New Cities With History, Promotional brochure, Campbelltown, 1976.
 Ian Willis, ‘Townies, ex-urbanites and aesthetics: issues of identity on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe’, AQ – Australian Quarterly, Vol 83, Issue 2, (Apr/June 2012).
 Bob Meyer, ‘Peter Kacirek, Obiturary’, Australian Planner, December 1993, p.62.
 Jeff McGill, Campbelltown, A Modern History, 1960-1999, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown, 1999, p. 29.
 McGill, Campbelltown, A Modern History, 1960-1999, pp. 29, 49.
 McGill, Campbelltown, A Modern History, 1960-1999, pp. 29-70.
 Ian Willis, ‘Townies, Ex-urbanites and aesthetics, issues of identity on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe’, AQ- Australian Quarterly, April-June 2012, pp.20-25. Ian Willis, ‘The member for Camden, Dr Elizabeth Kernohan’, AQ – Australian Quarterly, January-February 2005, pp.21-25.
 Jeff McGill, Campbelltown, A Modern History, 1960-1999, Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society, Campbelltown, 1999, p38.
 Neil Marshall, Brian Dollery, & Angus Witherby, ‘Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCS): The Emergence of Network Governance in Metropolitan and Rural Australia?’, Australasian Journal of Regional Studies, Vol 9, No. 2, 2003, pp. 169-188.
 Christine Winning, Executive Officer, MACROC, email, 4 April 2014.
Camden News 16 August 1978. Betty Yewen, Interview, Camden, 9 April 2014. Betty was the former secretary of the association for a number of years. Pam Down, Macarthur Country Tourist Association, Correspondence, 26 November 1994.
 Camden Interim Tourist Committee, Minutes, 26 June 1996.
The story of the construction of the history of the Camden area.
There are many versions and they are all correct. They all put their own spin on the way they want to tell the Camden story. Some good, some indifferent, some just plain awful
The official story of the township as told to tourists is shared in the brochure for an historic walk around the Camden town centre published by Camden Council. It is reflective of the pioneer legend that has pervaded the Camden story and the legitimising narrative that is part of the nation building story of a settler society. In many ways it hides as much as it reveals. It states:
The historic town of Camden, less than an hours drive south-west of Sydney, is the cultural heart of a region that enjoys a unique place in our nation’s history.
The earliest developments of the Australian wool, wheat and wine industries are associated with the town following the original land grant from Lord Camden to John Macarthur in 1805.
The town is home to a large number of heritage listed attractions that reflect its strong links with the history of colonial settlement in Australia. Camden is rich in rural heritage with live stock sale yards, vineyards, Equestrian Park and dairy facilities.
The township reveals in its built heritage an interesting and varied range of architectural styles that reflect the town’s evolution from the earliest days of European settlement through to the modern era.
The walking tour brochure portrays Camden’s rich historical and cultural legacy and affords a valuable opportunity to both visitors and the local community to experience the town’s unique character and charm and appreciate some of its history first hand.
A similar heritage walking brochure exists for Narellan area, which tells the story of European settlement of a planned government village that pre-dates Camden. Here there is also a silence on many aspects of the past that are yet to be revealed to readers.
This short historiography is one of the few that has been attempted to illustrate the construction of the history of a rural community. One that has been recently published is included in the history of the gold-mining community of Linton in Victoria (2015). The author, Jill Wheeler, examines the broad range of influences that shaped the writing of that community’s history.
This paper should be read in conjunction with the Camden Bibliography, which is list of published and other sources on the Camden District. It was my first attempt at compiling an authoritative list of sources on the local area and it has been pleasing to note that a host of researchers have found it to be a useful start.
This construction of the story of Camden history can be divided into a number of identifiable stages. Each stage reflects the values and attitudes of those who created the writing of the period, and the social and cultural filters that shaped their version of the story.
The Cowpastures frontier
From the beginning of European settlement in Australia curiosity drew those with an interest in wider issues to the local area. The first expeditionaries were naval and military officers who were trained to observe the landform and surroundings and record the detail in their logs and diaries. While providing a detailed account of their journeys they also recorded their observations and contact with Indigenous people. They recorded their observations of a managed landscape that was regularly burnt by the local Indigenous people. Prominent amongst these were Englishmen Watkin Tench (1790), Governor John Hunter (1795), David Collins (1795), George Bass (1796) and Lachlan Macquarie (1810, 1815, 1820), and Frenchmen Francis Louis Barrallier (1802) and Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1826).
Then there are the letters of settlers like John Hawdon of Elderslie in the 1820s who wrote back to England of his experiences in the Cowpastures and dealing with ‘the government men’. [convicts]
Amongst other writings of there are the reminiscences of Barron Field (1825), Thomas Mitchell (1836) and William Pridden (1843), while there are the journals of colonial women such as those of Annabella Boswell (1848).
Naming landform features gave the new arrivals a legitimacy of possession. For example on Governor King’s excursion to the area he named the locality the Cowpastures because of the escaped cattle.
Villages and beyond
The earliest records of settlement in the Cowpastures describe the conditions in the villages that were scattered across the area – Cawdor, Cobbitty, Elderslie, Narellan and then later Camden (1840)
The earliest accounts of Camden village its planning, its establishment and development are carried in the Sydney newspapers – particularly The Sydney Morning Herald. During the 1840s the Camden Clerk of Petty Sessions Charles Tompson was a regular correspondent to the newspaper.
Even by the 1880s the changing nature of the Camden village and the district prompted a nostalgia for the pioneering days of the early colonial period. The Camden Times and Camden News printed reminiscences of the town and district of JB Martin in the early 1880s and 1890s and RH Antill in the late 1890s, Richard Todd (1895 and 1896) as well as the stories from Obed West in the 1884 and 1885 in The Sydney Morning Herald. These stressed the progress and development of the town. Martin, the Camden Clerk of Petty Sessions for a period, made the point in his 1883 (Camden Times) reminiscences that the history of several English counties had been written by local history associations and he felt that a similar venture was worthwhile in the Camden district.
Further reminiscences were Thomas Herbert (1909) in the Town and Country Journal and Samuel Hassall’s (1902) In Old Australia and there are the unpublished reminiscences of Camden businessman Samuel Thompson (1905).
The Boer War, then the First and later the Second World Wars provide a period of reflection for local folk who are away soldiering in foreign lands. They are amongst the first to write about the Camden District as home in nostalgic terms from far away places where they are under traumatic conditions.
These letters were published in the Camden News and during the Second World War the Camden Advertiser. Some have found their way into recent publications particularly on the centenary of the First World War.
An important theme in the Camden story is the development of a Camden aesthetic based on romantic notions surrounding the colonial properties of the landed gentry and the landscapes that were created by the Cowpasture patriarchs.
This first appeared in Andrew Garran’s highly successful Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (1886) and portrayed an idyllic English village at Camden surrounded by an ordered farming landscape. The engraving was accompanied by GB Barton’s account of the exploits of John Macarthur and the foundation of the colonial wool industry. This was a narrative that evolved into a local and national mythology and was further advanced by Sibella Macarthur Onslow’s Some Early Records of The Macarthurs of Camden (1914), a collection of family papers.
The legend of John Macarthur gained further momentum in the 1930s on the centenary of John Macarthur’s death in 1934 when Australia was in search of national heroes. He was the subject of stories in Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (1929) and biographies. His image appeared on a series of postage stamps and later on the new decimal currency in the 1960s. His character was the subject of a novel (1941) and a new Federal electorate of Macarthur (1949) was named after him. In 1960 the Camden community held a four-day celebration of the legend of the John Macarthur and 150th anniversary of wool production in Australia called the Festival of the Golden Fleece (22-30 October).
The early 20th century also witnessed a shift in history writing identified by Graeme Davison from ‘pioneer’ to ‘patriarchal’ history writing and the development of the Camden aesthetic was part of that agenda.
There was William Hardy Wilson’s The Cow Pasture Road (1920) and Ure Smith’s water colours and etchings in his Old Colonial By Ways (1928). Whimsical descriptions of Camden’s Englishness were published in Eldrid Dyer’s ‘Camden, The Charm of an Old Town’ (1926) and articles in The Sydney Morning Herald like ‘The Beauty of Age’ (1934).
The journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society published articles on the Camden District. The first appeared and in 1928 on the Cowpastures, Cawdor and Cobbitty, which were followed by the Burragorang Valley (1934), Camden (1935), Narellan (1936), and the Cowpastures again in 1939.
Newcastle based journalist JJ Moloney, a former Menangle resident, published his reminiscences of Early Menangle in 1929. In Camden two local journalists, George Sidman and Arthur Gibson, each separately marked the golden jubilee of the foundation of the Municipality of Camden (1889). Sidman, owner of the Camden News, published the memoirs of J. B. Martin in a series of newspaper columns. While Gibson, owner of the Camden Advertiser, commissioned James Jervis from the RAHS to write The Story of Camden.
The end of the Second World War created an air of confidence in the Camden District, which by this stage was prospering from the wealth created by the Burragorang Valley coalfields. In 1948 the newly formed Rotary Club and Camden Community Centre commissioned the University of Sydney to conduct a sociological survey of the town to provide a foundation for ‘future development’. This was followed up in 1952 by an American sociologist from the University of Kansas City, ML ‘Jack’ Mason and his wife Elizabeth ‘Beth’. They surveyed the town and established that there was a five-tier social structure, which had its origins in the colonial period and the Cowpasture patriarchs. Both studies were suppressed from public gaze by vested interests until recent times.
Memorials of loss
As historians Graeme Davison and Gail Griffiths have noted loss of local icons and ‘loved places’ creates a deep sense of insecurity and a desire by some for the ‘good old days’. The grieving process was triggered in the Camden District community from the loss of Burragorang Valley, after the state government decided to build a dam in the 1930s. In the early 1960s the New South Wales Government closed the Campbelltown to Camden rail link as part of a state-wide rationalisation process.
There were five seminal events during this period, firstly, in 1957 the number of teachers from the newly established Camden High School formed the Camden Historical Society and held lectures, conducted field trips and outings.
Secondly there was the erection of civic monuments celebrating the Burragorang Valley. The first monument, erected in 1962, was the Camden Rotary mural at the southern entrance to the town. The mural has designs celebrating Indigenous culture as well as the area’s farming and mining heritage. The stone for the wall came from the St Paulinos Catholic Church in ‘the Valley’.
Thirdly, a wagon wheel was erected by the Camden Historical Society outside the council chambers in 1977 to celebrate the teamsters who brought silver ore from Yerranderie through ‘the Valley’ to the Camden railhead. A heavy horse-drawn farm wagon was located outside the council chambers in 1978 to memorialise farmer workers and the horse. Each of these monuments recalled the values of the frontier; tenacity, stoicism, ruggedness, individualism, adaptability and Britishness. An 1899 water trough was added to these civic monuments in 1979 celebrating the town’s modernity when the town was connected to reticulated water; a sign of progress and development.
In 1970 the Camden Historical Society opened a folk museum in a room in the old council chambers encouraged by the RAHS. The museum used simple displays of local ephemera, artefacts and other collectables supplemented with rudimentary signage to tell the Camden story.
The memorials of loss across the district extended to the numerous war memorials scattered throughout the Camden District that mourned the loss of men who never came home after the Great War. These monuments were added to after the Second World War and in recent times with the centenary of the First World War, and have shaped and re-shaped the Camden story in ways that are still hard to identify. Their meaning is a statement of collective memory that is expressed in April and November every year by local communities.
Elsewhere in the district The Oaks Historical Society was formed up in 1979. It has contributed much material to the story telling of the western part of the Camden District, particularly the Burragorang Valley and the silver mining fields of Yerranderie.
The rural-urban fringe and other threats
The role of loss in the Camden story acquired new meaning after 1973 when there was an identifiable shift in the interpretation and representation of ruralness in Camden. The release in 1973 of the ‘Three Cities Plan’ as part of the 1968 Sydney Regional Outline Plan triggered a wave of invaders from the city. Urban planners envisaged three regional centres on Sydney’s outskirts at Camden, Campbelltown and Appin with the ambitious idea of stopping the city’s urban sprawl.
These events strengthened the role of the Camden aesthetic. There was the re-making of place centred on the decline of the country town of Camden as the hub of a thriving rural economy to an idealised country town, a country town of the imagination.
Romantic representations of Camden’s rurality, especially St John’s church, became an important part of the contemporary consciousness. They found their way into official council policy, and been used in literature, publications, tourist and business promotions, websites, artwork, music, museum displays and a host of other places. In 1999 Camden Council’s strategic plan Camden 2025 adopted the language and imagery of Camden’s rurality when it outlined ‘the traditional qualities of a rural lifestyle’, ‘the historic nature’ of the area and the ‘unique rural landscapes and vistas’ in a country town atmosphere.
There was also the influence of the national bicentennial celebrations in 1988 and the publication in the same year of Alan Atkinson’s Camden, Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales (1988) which examined the early decades of the township. The dust jacket used a romantic watercolour (1850s) attributed to Emily Macarthur which looks ‘across Camden Park to the north-west, with St John’s Church and the distant Blue Mountains closing the view’, with the Nepean River flowing across the vista, similar to the 1886 Garran engraving.
This period also the emergence of the local histories of the area written by keen amateurs with the most notable example being John Wrigley, who has put together several publications the first published in 1980 called A History of Camden. The Camden Historical Society started a small journal in 2001 called Camden History, which the society continues to successfully published specialist local histories for a local audience.
The 21st century saw the evolution in the Camden story to a new generation of writers, most notable amongst them was this author. My work started with a local wartime study of a women’s voluntary organisation and has extended across a range of local themes including the rural-urban fringe, urban history, place, identity, philanthropy, the wartime homefront and local government. Most recently I have told the Camden story in a publication of a pictorial history of the district.