Female Factory heritage push

History matters:  Heritage campaigners Noela Vranich, Beth Mathews, Gay Hendriksen, Kerima-Gai Topp and Judith Dunn at the Parramatta Female Factory. Picture: Geoff Jones
History matters: Heritage campaigners Noela Vranich, Beth Mathews, Gay Hendriksen, Kerima-Gai Topp and Judith Dunn at the Parramatta Female Factory. Picture: Geoff Jones

A national heritage listing for Parramatta Female Factory is closer to reality with support from both sides of federal parliament. 

At a community rally on Sunday, federal Parramatta MP Julie Owens announced a prioritised commitment to getting the building and surrounding heritage buildings on the 32 hectare site onto the National Heritage Register if Labor wins the election on July 2. 

“This precinct contains Australia’s oldest and most intact Female Factory and must be protected in its entirety to be preserved, conserved, interpreted historically and made accessible to all Australians now and in the future,” Ms Owens said.

“The Fleet Street precinct is of state and national significance and there is substantial local ownership of and pride in the site. This is a place with a rich history that extends from its ancient Indigenous custodians to the present day. The whole site enjoys an outstanding parkland setting beside the Parramatta River and provides historical insights into early colonial life.”

Parramatta Female Factory Friends president Gay Hendriksen welcomed the news.

“We think just as important is the heritage connection and affordable housing which should be a part of any residential plan the State Government has, including North Parramatta,” she said.

“The "Friends" are the only ones with a unified use of the precinct that is heritage and community centred - The Museum of Australian Identity.”

 North Parramatta Residents Action Group vice president Jon Hillman added:

“It would be a heritage and cultural tourism goldmine for Parramatta. It would create thousands of jobs.  It was particularly good to hear Ms Owens tell about 200 people that Labor believes the preservation and adaptive reuse as a heritage tourism development should be above party politics and to hear her call on the Turnbull Government to support Labor’s position in a bipartisan approach.

“Thousands of Parramatta electors now await the Liberals making the same 'set in cement' promise. In the meantime all work on the  government plan to put apartment towers up to 24 stories high in the Heritage Precinct must surely stop.”

The Labor pledge comes almost a year after the Liberal government announced Australian Heritage Council’s priority assessment list for the Parramatta Female Factory’s inclusion on the national register.

Environment minister Greg Hunt described Labor as “slow on the uptake and alarmingly ignorant of the most basic of details.”

He described Labor’s interest as belated and that their “bizarre” call for bipartisan support on heritage listing displayed an astonishing lack of awareness.

“It has been almost 11 months since I publicly announced the Parramatta Female Factory had been added to the Australian Heritage Council’s priority assessment list for inclusion on the National Heritage List,” Mr Hunt said.

“The site is already being assessed and the process for adding it to the National Heritage List is well underway. This is one of the most humiliatingly silly announcements I have seen from Labor – calling for bipartisan support 11 months after we announced the very thing Julie Owens now pretends to call for.”