The objects in the Ben Chifley Collection refer to the lives of Ben and Elizabeth Chifley, primarily from the Chifleys' days as Prime Minister and Prime Minister's wife, but stretching beyond Ben's death in 1951 until Elizabeth's death in 1962. Significant objects include a letter of condolence to Elizabeth Chifley from Elsie Curtin (former PM John Curtin's wife) on the death of Ben Chifley (above), photos of Chifley as a young boy and a bible on which Chifley was sworn in as minister in the short-lived Scullin government of 1931.
Joseph Benedict Chifley was Australia's sixteenth Prime Minister, leading the Australian government between 1945 and 1949. This period was one of particular importance in Australian history, being the time during which many of the contours of post-War Australian social and economic development were established. Chifley also articulated the values of the reforming Labor Party in his "Light on the Hill" speech of 1949. However, the election of December that year saw the beginning of a drastic re-alignment of political allegiances in voting behaviour, leading to over twenty years of conservative dominance in Australian politics. An understanding of Ben Chifley, in both his private and public guises, illustrates much about this crucial era in post-War Australian history.
The Malvern Star collection consists of an original promotional poster for Malvern Star celebrating Australian cyclist Hubert Opperman's ride from Land's End to John O'Groats (U.K) in 1934, during which he broke four cycling world records.
Sir Hubert Opperman was one of Australia's, and the world's, greatest cyclists of the 1920s and 1930s. He set many paced and unpaced world records, holding at least 100 distance cycling records and four Australian Road Championships. He maintained a close personal and professional business relationship with Bruce Small and the Australian bicycle company Malvern Star which had a significant impact on both his career and the success of the company. Bruce Small's support, advice and management helped propel Opperman's career, and it was the linkage with Opperman that helped Malvern Star grow from a small suburban bicycle shop into one of Australia's largest manufacturing and retailing enterprises. In service to the nation, Opperman, like Phar Lap and Sir Donald Bradman, gave hope to a nation crippled by the Depression, and Malvern Star supported people through surviving the economic downturn, providing a means of low-cost transport and also jobs for its employees. This collection illustrates the link between Opperman and Malvern Star, prompting discussion of the ways in which the man and the company contributed to Australian culture.
This collection consists of a crescentric brass breastplate with the inscription 'WIDGEE / KING NOBBY / WIDGEE' and a regardant kangaroo and emu. The breastplate was preserved by James John Goode Caulfield, who was the head stockman on Widgee Widgee Station, west of Gympie.
Widgee Widgee was one of the first and largest pastoral properties to be established along the Mary River. Settled in 1849 the station was a site of conflict between settlers and the Gubbi Gubbi people throughout the 1850s and into the 1860s. It is unknown who 'Nobby' was, but it is likely that he was a Gubbi Gubbi man employed on the station as a stockman. Breastplates are a tangible record of relationships between individual settlers and Aboriginal people around mainland Australia. They were frequently presented to recognise the 'Chief' or 'King' of a 'tribe', which was often an attempt to aid peaceable settlement. They also often recognise service, such as on a pastoral property. The National Museum holds the largest collection of breastplates in the world, most of which are the only known record of the life of the recipient.
The Timothy Millett collection comprises 307 convict love tokens dating from 1762 to 1856, and seven contemporary documents relating to the criminal justice system including: recommendations to commute the death sentences of Hester Sampson and Thomas Hayes to life transportation; a calendar of prisoners awaiting trial in the goals of Durham, Newcastle and Northumberland; a request to the Middlesex assizes for rewards to be paid; a printed copy of George Skene's last speech prior to execution; a printed broadside listing prisoners in Dorchester jail awaiting transportation; and a 60 page handwritten account of the life of Thomas Jones, who was transported twice and finally hanged at Winchester Prison in 1856.
Convict love tokens, typically made from smoothed-down coins and engraved or stippled with a message, derive from traditional sailors' farewells. The production of these 'leaden hearts' rose as criminal indictments increased in Britain, with the majority produced during the 1820s and 1830s. As mementos made by or for convicts facing transportation (or death) to leave behind for their loved ones, the tokens provide a poignant, personal insight into the transportation system.
The Springfield Collection comprises about 1550 artefacts from Springfield station, south of Goulburn. It includes colonial era costume, a bushranger medal, surveying instruments, a late-19th century landau, firearms and edged weapons, wool samples and Joseph Foveaux's pocket watch and bible. The objects are complemented by over 400 photographs. This diverse collection reflects the growth and economic success of the property, responses to changes in the wool market and the daily lives of the people who have lived on Springfield.
Springfield has grown from a 518-hectare land grant given to William Pitt Faithfull in 1828 to the current 3183 hectares with ownership remaining in the one family. William Pitt Faithfull established the Springfield Merino Stud in 1838 with ten rams selected from the Macarthur Camden Park stud. The stud evolved slowly over the years until the early 1950s when, under the management of Jim Maple-Brown, a scientific approach to wool-growing was adopted and the stud's name was changed to Fonthill to reflect this.
The Sir Ninian Stephen collection comprises a framed print commemorating the
handover/leaseback of Uluru to traditional land owners. On 26 October 1985, Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen handed the title deeds of Uluru to the traditional owners, of Uluru - Kata Tjuta Land Trust. The owners presented the framed print to Sir Ninian on this historic occasion.
This framed print has highly significant cultural as well as historic value. For the Anangu people Uluru is their traditional homeland and the journeys of creator beings are recorded in the landscape of this region. The traditional owners won a land claim in 1979, but were not given inalienable freehold title to the park until amendments were made to both the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976 and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act in 1985. The print reflects a landmark event in the history of the struggle for Indigenous land rights and in Federal Government policy. Uluru, a national and international tourist destination since the 1940's is also significant for non-Indigenous Australians. Uluru has been jointly managed by the Uluru - Kata Tjuta Land Trust and Parks Australia since the handover in 1985.
1. The Anangu people's relationship to their land is described in the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park website http://www.deh.gov.au/parks/uluru/tjukurpa/index.html
2. The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia Volume 2 M-Z, Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994, p.1113.
3. ibid., p.1113.
The Convict Era Shirt collection comprises six convict era artefacts found at the Commandant's Cottage in Granton, Tasmania during renovations in the 1960s.The collection includes a convict era shirt c.1830, a convict punishment shoe, a Government-issue metal candle holder impressed with a broad arrow mark, a whale oil burning lamp with original convex magnifying lens, a waisted iron axe with an impressed crown over a broad arrow, and a pair of handcuffs marked 'Froggatt Warrented Wrought Iron'.
A secondary punishment station was established at Bridgewater in 1829 to build a causeway across the Derwent. Approximately 200 convicts were employed, in chains, to erect the Commandant's cottage, convict barracks, the Black Snake inn and to break stones to form the foundation of the causeway. This was a difficault and punishing task, and the project was abandoned seven years later uncompleted. The significance of the shirt, as one of only two surviving examples of such a ubiquitous article of clothing, is given added importance due to the circumstances that led to its and the shoe's preservation. The shirt had been placed into a wall cavity and the shoe was placed under the floor. Both items appear to have been deliberately concealed in the cottage by its convict builders as a 'house sacrifice', a folk practice common in England from the 1400s.