The story behind History

Author: Meenakshi Sunu

Brunswick Community History Group Commmittee

The Brunswick Community History Group (BCHG) has been a part of Brunswick for nearly 40 years. Formed in 1983, the BCHG was founded to explore and preserve the history of Brunswick. From hosting talks on the history of trams and railway lines to walking tours and sharing local stories through their publications and so much more, the BCHG has come a long way. It is truly a Brunswick hidden gem.

The current President of the Group, Elisabeth Jackson has lived and worked in Brunswick for over 40 years. With a career spanning in Public service for over 30 years as a Mayor, Councillor and Librarian, I sit down with Elisabeth to talk about the history of the Group and what they hope to achieve.

Brunswick Daily (BD): Let’s start with a fun one. What do you love about Brunswick?

Elisabeth Jackson (EJ): It’s such an interesting place to live so varied with the different nationalities and age groups. And the way it changes constantly, and the environment is good. There’s a lot of parks. There’re interesting old buildings. Its multifaceted and just an interesting place to be involved with.

BD: Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Group?

EJ: There was a community member called Christine Johnston who was a very well-known heritage consultant. She lived in Brunswick and had a business here at the time. She and other residents who were relatively young started it and they didn’t want an additional historical society. They wanted a lot of community involvement. Didn’t want it to be stuffy as a lot of historical societies were. That’s why they called it the Community History Group.

BD: Does your passion for serving the Brunswick community translate well into being the President of the BCHG?

EJ: Well that’s what really drives me, I suppose. Interest in the history, desire to celebrate it, preserve things that might otherwise be lost. If people are interested in the history, they’re less likely to advocate for old buildings being pulled down.

BD: How did you become President of the BCHG?

EJ: Well, no one else wanted to. The previous President was a guy called Paul Konstantinidis. He did a good job but then he moved to rural Victoria. A year ago, it looked as though the whole Group may collapse so some of the committee and community members with an interest in history decided to save this Group. Brunswick should support its Community History Group because it’s got so much connection to many people in Melbourne. There must be lots of scope to develop this Group, so we got on the committee and here we are.

BCHG volunteers - Brunswick Daily

Volunteers doing research on old newspapers

BD: What’s one of the most memorable events that the BCHG has hosted?

EJ: A real highlight this year was our annual general meeting, where we had a Historian Archaeologist called Gary Presland. Just a fantastic talk. It was about the original landscape before white settlement and about the Indigenous people who lived here. He had such a wealth of knowledge and talked about things we’d not known before. We’ve had two talks this year on the Indigenous community and before that I don’t think the Group in its 40 years had ever had anything about them. So, it was good to be able to sort of breakthrough in that way and learn a lot.

Gary Presland - Brunswick Daily

Gary Presland during his presentation on September 2022

BD: What are some of the challenges the BCHG is facing?

EJ: We’ve got a lot of ambitions over things we’d like to do but we don’t have the people to do them. What I would like is a few more people to be actively involved on the committee so we could have more people working on reviving publications, doing research, planning talks-all these things. We’ve upped our membership over the last year. We’ve got a big following now on socials. The walking tours have been very successful. Its going really well. The challenge is to keep it going well. And to expand what we do.

BD: What do you hope to achieve moving forward with the BCHG?

EJ: We hope to produce more publications. We hope to collect more stories about Brunswick and have them in a form where they are accessible. We got a grant from the Commonwealth Government for digitising equipment so we’re hoping to have more information be made available online. People all over Melbourne have got connections to Brunswick. Everyone’s Grandmother lived here, or they lived here when they were a student or they live here now. There’s all sorts of connections and collecting their stories is what we really want to do.

Have a look at the Brunswick Community History Group website or their Facebook Page for future events and other resources.

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Ed L
Ed L
12/12/2022 1:49 pm

Easy to join up this group.
Old or young.
We enjoy the history journey.