History teaches Westmead student a valuable lesson

Who owns the past? That was the question central to Hermina Liscevic’s research for one of her favourite subjects in year 12.

The Catherine McAuley Westmead graduate has received the John McClymont History Award, given each year to the student who achieves the best results in HSC history in the Parramatta district.

In extension history she took the Elgin Marbles as a case study to examine ownership of the past.

The classical Greek sculptures were collected by British ambassador to Istanbul, Lord Elgin, and purchased by the British Museum in 1812.

‘‘We need to develop a universal concept for the ownership of the past and once that’s done we can apply it to situations like the Elgin Marbles,’’ Hermina said.

‘‘During research  a lot of the arguments that came up were that it would set a precedent for the return of other artefacts, so the British Museum would be emptied of a lot of its exhibits, I guess.

‘‘Then again if they returned it to Greece that suggests the Greeks are the true owners of the past, which is fair enough, but the universal museum concept means that we’re all custodians of the past.’’

Hermina studied five units of history — ancient, modern and extension 1 — and was absorbed in topics including Pompeii, the Augustan Age, Agrippina, Egypt, and conflict in Europe during the Second World War.

She was inspired to travel next year to ancient historical sites in Italy and Croatia, where her family originated.

Hermina is modest about her award win.

‘‘I didn’t expect anything but it felt really good to get the recognition that you’ve put in all the hard work and it paid off,’’ she said.

‘‘I studied a lot.

‘‘It helped that my friends did ancient, so before exams we used to study together and talk over what we didn’t really know or understand together.’’

Hermina said history had taught her to question the world.

‘‘You learn to question your sources, so in everyday life things come up and you don’t just take them at face value,’’ she said.

‘‘You learn to formulate your own opinions and do further research.

‘‘I liked ancient because you learned about the civilisations and the culture.

‘‘Modern was good as well because you get a taste of politics.

‘‘I wouldn’t have been able to choose just one.’’

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