FOR some, it’s been a campaign stretching almost five decades, but a new push to have Newcastle’s history recognised on the national heritage register is gathering steam.
A major chapter of the nation’s history was recorded in Newcastle, but it’s rarely told on a national stage and too few Novocastrians celebrate it.
“Unless we start celebrating our history, the importance of our past and what was achieved here will never be recognised properly,” Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.
Newcastle council showed a rare united voice this week when it backed plans to have the city’s Coal River Precinct added to the national heritage register.
The precinct includes the likes of Fort Scratchley, the convict-built Macquarie Pier which now forms part of the Nobbys breakwall, and sites scattered throughout the city’s east end which were the birthplace of coal mining and of the city itself.
Despite its rich history, it rarely rates on the national radar, according to prominent historian and Coal River Working Party member Gionni Di Gravio.
“It’s not right that a place so critical to the history of Australia isn’t recognised nationally,” he said. “When people think of convict history they think of Tasmania, yet we have more convict history right here in Newcastle.
“It’s wonderful to see the council and groups like the property council recognising the importance of these heritage areas, but it’s going to take more. We’re far too humble. We need to celebrate our history and get 250,000 signatures on a petition because at the moment, our city’s true character just isn’t on the national stage.”
The Coal River Precinct is currently listed on the state heritage register but two previous attempts to give it national status have failed to bear fruit. The group hopes that with support from the council and other major groups, a new application might bring success.