Walking through the history of Newcastle's Women

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


University of Newcastle researchers have uncovered fascinating historical stories highlighting how key female personalities have shaped Newcastle’s history and have shared those stories in an informative and entertaining walk through Newcastle East.

Local historian and University of Newcastle PhD candidate, Jude Conway, led the curated walking tour around Newcastle’s historical East to uncover the rich heritage of women activists, artists and workers.

The walk was organised by local Newcastle Women’s Group, AWE in conjunction with the University of Newcastle’s Centre for 21st Century Humanities’ new Gender Generation and Culture research network.

The walk highlighted Indigenous women's history through World War II and the political struggles of the 70s.

“Walkers discovered what Newcastle women did and where. From the favourite fishing spots of the Awabakal women, to the first Women’s Surf Club at Newcastle Beach, we retraced the steps of women through history in our local area,” Jude said.

The walking tour also featured the histories of a female writer Dymphna Cusack who wrote a novel set in Newcastle, and powerful women who helped shape Newcastle into what it is today such as Jean Perrett, the Secretary of Newcastle East Resident Action Group and Joy Cummings, a staunch conservationist and the first Novocastrian and Australian female Lord Mayor.

“We chose to do the walk close to International Women’s Day to highlight the significant impact women have had on our City through the years,” Jude said.

Leader of the Gender, Generation and Culture Network, Dr Trisha Pender participated in the walk and enjoyed seeing her local area in a whole new light.

“The material that Jude has uncovered is fascinating. I lived in the East End until recently, but I can safely say I will never see it the same way again.  There is such a rich history there that I knew nothing about.  And the exciting thing is, I know we’re only scratching the surface of what we can uncover.  There’s so much still to learn.”

“Hearing about the women who wrote about Newcastle, led Newcastle, and defended Newcastle, especially the Foreshore Park, was humbling and also really inspiring.  I can’t wait to help make the next walk happen!” Trisha said.

“Feedback from those on the walking tour was overwhelmingly positive with many commenting that the information presented was interesting, inspiring and new, showing that although we might live here, there is still a long way to go in understanding the local history that has shaped our lives today,” Trisha said.

Director of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Professor Hugh Craig, said the tour was a great way of bringing Jude’s research to life.

“History provides a window to the world, helping us understand and interpret the societies and cultures, the people, and events of the past. By examining our own local history we can appreciate and better understand how our modern day society has been shaped by personalities and events through time,” Professor Craig said.

More tours like this are planned for later in the year.