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PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS: Battle of Vinegar Hill: 200th Anniversary

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.16 p.m.) —The Hills district is known for its battles. I have recently just come through one—it was nothing like the Battle of Vinegar Hill, though.

The wild Irish scheme to capture the barracks at Windsor, break open the armoury, go to Parramatta, capture the barracks, break open that armoury, then march to Sydney and take a boat off to Ireland again was full of bravado, full of excitement, full of dreams and visions. It is typical of the attitude that started the early colony that, as I understand it, when they stood on Constitution Hill down near Wentworthville—the member for Reid would know it—and looked west to the Blue Mountains they would have thought China lay beyond the Blue Mountains, and if not China then a population of Europeans that they needed only to visit and they would be free. So it was cross the Blue Mountains or go to Ireland, and they chose to go to Ireland.

The Castle Hill convict uprising, according to Robert Murray, was the biggest civil disturbance ever on Australian soil and the only major convict rebellion in 80 years of felon transportation. It took place before the divisions of the states were in place, and so it was a truly national event. The local people and five councils involved in the celebration of this battle have really set out to make this a very special occasion in our district. There has been much dispute among historians about where the battle actually took place. My colleague from Greenway will assert that it was in his electorate and I, as a strong supporter of the historical societies in the Mitchell electorate, claim that it took place within the Mitchell electorate. This has been a matter that has been debated for many years by historians either side of Windsor Road.

The celebrations are going to take place in such a way that the whole area will benefit. If there are listeners interested in this event, I would like to encourage them to visit the Hills district as well as the Windsor and Greenway districts. There will even be a bicentennial event related to the rebellion held in Wentworthville over the next week. On Thursday, 4 March there will be an official opening of the Heritage Park at Castle Hill, which is a historical landmark and where it began. Many of the settlers there were involved in this, and some of the settlers' names are still in the district: we have Thomas Bradley, James Bean and George Sutter, a well-known name, and the Joyce family still live in the district. From that period 200 years ago there are people with those names still living in the Hills district. That event begins at 9.30 a.m. down at Heritage Park, Castle Hill and runs through the rest of the day. There is a rebellion discovery walk and school tours, with the final celebration taking place at 7.45 p.m. with the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir.

The outline of that period is captured in part by the writings of Elizabeth Macarthur when she speaks of William Joyce, who arrived at her Seven Hills farm, Bella Vista. He was `pale and in violent agitation', Mrs Macarthur recalled. Mr Marsden had been visiting Mrs Macarthur:

“`Sir,' says he, looking wildly at Mr Marsden, `Come with me. And you, too, madam.' Then, half shutting the door, he told us the Croppies [as the convicts were called] had risen, that they were at my Seven Hills farm, and that numbers were approaching Parramatta.”

The local newspapers have celebrated this occasion and they have tried on their front page to depict the occasion. I think the involvement of the whole community, including the re-enactments, is something that the whole district is proud of. I am disappointed with the attitude of Australia Post also, who tend to want to just show frogs and crickets on their stamps rather than things that are really important.

Honourable members—Ha, ha!

Mr CADMAN —Well, the current issue is frogs and crickets, for goodness sake. They could have been showing something of significance to Australians and something that young Australians should remember. It was not one of the most inspiring occasions but it was an important part of our history and it ought to be noted. (Time expired)

Author: Hon Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 1st March 2004
Release Date: 7 Mar 2004


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