ParraGirl lights up dark heritage at former Catholic orphanage

A children's day and memorial garden planting was held on Sunday — 170 years since the first detainees were held at the site of the former Roman Catholic orphanage at Fleet Street.

About 160 people attended including NSW Governor Marie Bashir who planted a bottlebrush to symbolise the "Forgotten Australians" interned at the orphan school from 1844 to 1886.

Organiser Bonney Djuric, a former detainee of the Parramatta Girls Home which occupied the site after the orphanage closed, said the day's theme was "connecting past to present" and its aim was to fill a site with a "dark heritage" with laughter from happy kids.

"It was really about giving children something they never had when they lived here. They never had a symbol of beauty, like a flower," Ms Djuric said.

Inside the orphanage, a quilt sewn with the names of 129 children who died at the facility over a 44-year period was hung from a wall.

"Those children were buried in paupers' graves in pauper shrouds, which the children would have had to sew themselves. Those children have never had a flower on their graves."

Marist Brother Tony Butler, the great-great-nephew of one such child, Eliza Day, spoke about his family tree and assisted Governor Bashir plant the sapling.

Ms Djuric, 59, said although there has been a lot of focus on the Parramatta Girls Home recently due to the Royal Commission, several institutions stood on the site over 170 years beginning with the Female Factory which housed female convicts sent to the colony of NSW.

"The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct memory project is a member of a global movement called the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, for places where human struggle has taken place," she said.

"Ultimately we hope this precinct will attain accreditation as a member site."

Parramatta MP Geoff Lee said the children's day was a fantastic event held against the horrors and atrocities that occurred within the 146-hectare heritage precinct.

"Yesterday wasn't about the Parramatta Girls Home, yesterday was about going right back into the depths of the history here... In actual fact we've got over 170 years of institutional confinement here." Photo: Michael K. Chin.

"Yesterday wasn't about the Parramatta Girls Home, yesterday was about going right back into the depths of the history here... In actual fact we've got over 170 years of institutional confinement here." Photo: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir at a children's day and memorial garden planting ceremony at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage at Fleet Street on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir at a children's day and memorial garden planting ceremony at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage at Fleet Street on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir planted a bottlebrush at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday to commemorate 'Forgotten Australians' including children who died at the site. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir planted a bottlebrush at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday to commemorate 'Forgotten Australians' including children who died at the site. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Flowers created by children on the grounds of the former Roman Catholic Orphanage at Fleet Street. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Flowers created by children on the grounds of the former Roman Catholic Orphanage at Fleet Street. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Children played games, made flowers from plastic bottles, painted ochre eels on bark with a Darug elder and listened to stories about the environment at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Children played games, made flowers from plastic bottles, painted ochre eels on bark with a Darug elder and listened to stories about the environment at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Happy kids helped counter a dark past at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Happy kids helped counter a dark past at the former Roman Catholic Orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Former Parramatta Girl and children's day organiser Bonney Djuric shows NSW governor Marie Bashir artifacts at the orphanage. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Former Parramatta Girl and children's day organiser Bonney Djuric shows NSW governor Marie Bashir artifacts at the orphanage. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Children enjoying the festivities at the children's day held at the former orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

Children enjoying the festivities at the children's day held at the former orphanage on Sunday. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir gave a speech at the children's day at the former orphanage. Organiser Bonney Djuric said it was fitting to it was Bashir’s “legacy as a governor” to speak at the site, as it was governor William Bligh’s land in 1806 before the government reclaimed it for the common purse and established the orphanage. Picture: Michael K. Chin.

NSW governor Marie Bashir gave a speech at the children's day at the former orphanage. Organiser Bonney Djuric said it was fitting to it was Bashir’s “legacy as a governor” to speak at the site, as it was governor William Bligh’s land in 1806 before the government reclaimed it for the common purse and established the orphanage. Picture: Michael K. Chin.