Celebrating Erskineville’s eminent local heroine

Research for a community heritage day at Erskineville Public School has rediscovered a past teacher whose tireless campaigning for Australian human’s rights helped create positive changes, including equal pay for women.

Thanks to a City of Sydney matching grant, the actions of local heroine Lucy Woodcock will be celebrated by the school with a free, community heritage event on 3 September from 10am to 3pm.

Central to the event will be the dedication of the new school hall in Lucy’s name and a plaque in her honour.

Other family-friendly festivities will include a history walking tour and exhibitions, film screening, heritage crafts for kids and storytelling by prominent locals.

Ms Woodcock (1880-1968) was an Erskineville teacher, trade union leader and pioneering activist for Australian children’s and women’s rights, whose work helped achieve salary restoration, a teacher’s certificate, equal pay and opportunities for female teachers.

The City-sponsored event at the school will be part of History Week celebrations across NSW.

“This year’s History Week is all about our neighbours and how crucial they are to understanding the past’s impact on the present,” City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone said.

“The commemoration of Lucy Woodcock through place naming and a memorial plaque is a fitting way to celebrate the actions of one of Erskineville’s most important people.

“She was way ahead of her time, and the important work she did helped establish many of the current rights and freedoms enjoyed by all of us today.

“The City’s matching grant program allows community groups to partner with the City to deliver community-based projects and events that engage their local neighbourhood.

“We’re delighted to be collaborating with the Erskineville Public School to share their fascinating stories – from local heroes and Indigenous origins, to how the great depression and the natural landscape has shaped the area today.”

 

Lucy Woodcock, shown here with the Executive of the NSW Teachers Federation, c. 19340s, on which she was long serving Senior Vice President. Front from left: Harry Norington, Lucy Woodcock, Sam Lewis and Don Taylor. Back from left: Reg Tilley and Malcolm McKinnon.

Activities on the day of the Erskineville heritage event include:

  • Public lectures starting at 11am by Matt Murphy, Norma Ingram, Dr Paul Munro, Dr Sandie Wong and Dr Frances Press on different aspects of Erskineville’s history;
  • A history walking tour of the school grounds at 12.30pm, repeated at 2pm;
  • A Bush Tucker native foods walking tour at 1pm, repeated at 2.30pm;
  • A public showing of short films from 1pm, including ‘Saving of Erskineville School’, ‘SBS documentary on Binning Street’ and ‘Erskineville Stories’ (produced with a 2008 City grant);
  • Blacksmithing demonstrations at 11.30am, repeated at 1.30pm.
  • A public display of the school history timeline and newly found photo archives;
  • Permanent sign with an interpretive panel about Lucy Woodcock; and
  • Portable sign about the history of the area and school that can be shared with local shops for display.

A public lecture on Lucy Woodcock will be given by her biographer, UTS Emeritus Professor Heather Goodall, focusing on her role as a teacher, neighbour and people’s champion at local and international levels.

“Lucy Woodcock was arguably the most important person to be associated with Erskineville,” said Angel Nunley, from Erskineville Public School P&C Association.

“A community dedication and history celebration event will help honour her in our local history, while permanent signage will ensure her story is not forgotten.”

The local community is invited to bring photos, ephemera and other memorabilia to be added to the Erskineville Public School history archive.