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History Now: landscapes and history

History Now: landscapes and history

History Now

Denis Bryrne and Stuart Read reflect on the material heritage of Chinese migration in Australia.

black and white photograph of a couple standing holding hands in a garden
2 / 8 events in this History Now series
3 May 2023 5pm to 6pm


General Admission: Free


Maps Room, First Floor
Mitchell Building
Sydney NSW 2000


Denis Byrne will reflect on the transnational dimension of the material heritage of Chinese migration in the period from the 1840s to the 1940s, looking particularly at the houses built in the home villages of China with money remitted from Australia and arguing that although these houses had their foundations sunk in the soil of China they were present in Australia in the dreams of those who laboured to pay for them and who imaginatively inhabited them.

Stuart Read will survey the ways in which Chinese-Australian traders, migrants and citizens have modified landscapes and made ‘gardens’ here – especially in New South Wales. Be that through plant introduction, market gardens, temple grounds, domestic ornament and symbolism. This will be a brief introduction attempting suggesting the range of types and scales of modifications, including Chinese-Australian '‘friendship'’ and sister city gardens in more recent decades.

Denis Byrne is a professor at the Institute for culture and Society at Western Sydney University. He specialises in critical heritage studies and the archaeology of the recent past. Previously he had led the cultural heritage research program at the Office of Environment and Heritage NSW. His numerous publications include The Heritage Corridor: A Transnational Approach to the Heritage of Chinese Migration (Routledge 2022).

Stuart Read has over 30 years’ experience in private sector and government (federal to local) work in planning, policy and programs on landscape, parks, horticulture, planning, urban design, conserving, educating, assessing and managing natural and cultural heritage. He prepares nominations for State Heritage and Aboriginal Place listings, advice on management, grants, education and training for UNESCO and Australian advisers, planners, developers and the community through lectures, talks, seminars, assisting governments, managers, owners and others. Stuart has contributed to the Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (2002), the National Trust of Australia (NSW) book Interwar Gardens (2003), his own Spanish lessons for Australian Gardens (2005) and Sydney University Press's Gardens of History & Imagination: Growing NSW (2016). He contributes to Garden Drum and Australian Garden History.

Grace Karskens (Chair) is Emeritus Professor of History in the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales. Her research areas include Australian colonial and cross-cultural history, Aboriginal history and environmental history. Grace is interested in promoting historical understandings and awareness to wide audiences. She began her career as a public historian, served as a Trustee of the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and is a founding member of the online Dictionary of Sydney. Grace's latest book People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia was published by Allen & Unwin in 2020.