Vale George Davison

George Davison

George Davison ( early 1960’s). Photograph courtesy of Barry Howard.

Vale George Arthur Davison


The UON Library’s Cultural Collections team is saddened to report the passing of Mr George Davison, who kindly made his collection of photographs from his time in the mining industry available to us and permitted us to publish them.

Mr Davison was a mine worker in Myuna and Newvale No. 2 Collieries.  After his retirement, he was for some time the Curator of Richmond Vale Mining Museum on the site of the former Richmond Main Colliery.

We extend our sincere sympathy to his family and friends.

George Davison

George Davison as Curator of Richmond Vale Mining Museum. Photograph courtesy of Barry Howard.

Shade: Artists of the desert


Shade Artists of the desert

Artists of the desert

EXHIBITION: 6 July – 6 August 2016

The University Gallery

Remote desert communities in the heart of Australia are home to some of our country’s most successful artists. Beginning in Papunya in the early 1970s with the exploratory transfer of ceremonial mark making onto board and canvas, there emerged an explosion of works made using vibrant acrylic paints, potent symbology and diversity of line and form. This unique contemporary art movement has now been active for over 40 years.

Contemporary art from these regions illuminate the unique experience of the desert: its light and shade, its contours, its gifts and adversities, its deep running songlines and sacred beauty. Artists render themes connected to place and belonging in ways that bring Country, Tjukurpa (Law), creation stories and the landscape, to life. Places of both sacred and everyday meaning are embodied in vibrant articulations that shimmer with colour and power.

Drawing on works from the University Art Collection, Shade celebrates this richness through paintings that range from across the Central and Western Deserts, to Kintore, Yuendumu and the Kimberley region. The University Gallery will, in conjunction with the artists of Warlukurlangu, have paintings for sale during the exhibition.

Please join us for the exhibition opening at the University Gallery to be launched by Una Rey:

Wednesday 6 July from 5.30pm

Voices of the Hunter Launch


About the Project

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Jack Delaney interviewed a large number of people in the Hunter Valley in his quest to record local history. These folk were from many different backgrounds and occupations and their stories provide a vivid social history of the 20th century in our part of the world.

A team from Cultural Collections in the University of Newcastle Library has been working closely with the Coalfields Heritage Group at Kurri Kurri with funding from the Coal & Allied Community Development Fund to digitise Jack’s cassette tapes and make them available to the world. Click here to find out more.

About the Launch

We are seeking out families and descendants of the interviewees (click here for a list) to be recognised at the event.

Date & time: Thursday 21 July 2016, 12 noon-2pm.

Brian J. Andrews, OAM will be giving a short talk on Jack Delaney.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by 14 July to, ph: 4921 5354

Location: Cultural Collections Reading Room, Auchmuty Library at the University of Newcastle. This is during the mid-year break so parking isn’t as difficult.



Below is an excerpt from one of the Voices of the Hunter interviews.

Launch of Birdwood Flag Restoration Project


Very Reverend Stephen Williams, Dean of Newcastle giving speech at the launch ceremony

On a Friday morning, 22 April 2016, a nationally significant cultural initiative, The Birdwood Flag Restoration Project, was launched at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle.

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle's Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle’s Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

Named in honour of General William Riddell Birdwood, the commander of the Australian forces on the western front, the Birdwood Flag Restoration Project aims to piece back together, and restore this highly significant Australian flag that served as the Australian ensign in World War 1. The Birdwood flag is of high national historic significance as it was the first recorded, and officially sanctioned presentation of an Australian flag in the field of war, created by a local community. Moreover, the Birdwood Flag is of outstanding social and historical significance for people of Newcastle since the funds raised for the flag’s creation and manufacture came from a public appeal organised by Miss Dora Sparke and the Newcastle Field Force Fund.

 Planning War Work

The story of the Birdwood Flag dates back a century ago, when a group of women in the Hunter, led by Dora Sparke, gathered the resources to send an Australian flag to fly over the ANZAC troops in Europe. These women took it upon themselves to make the lives of Australian troops a little better. For instance, they didn’t believe the standard issue socks that were provided to troops were of sufficient quality, so they set about knitting their own, that would be of superior quality and comfort. They also decided that it wasn’t good enough that our troops didn’t have a real Australian Flag to fight under, and so they set about manufacturing one, that ensured it was officially sanctioned. The work of the Newcastle community was presented at the General’s headquarters on a battlefield in Belgium, in September 1917, and served as the emblem of Australian soldiers during the war. It was to be passionately guarded until the time of victory.

General Birdwood (Image Courtesy of Australian War Memorial )

It was during his national tour of Australia in 1920, that General Birdwood took the opportunity to offically hand back the Flag to Miss Dora Sparke, at a civic reception held on the 28 April 1920, and with it The Birdwood Flag returned to its cultural home, the city of Newcastle. It was perceived as a “memento of a glorious cause, and we would do all in our power to see that it was placed where no other enemy but Time could destroy it”. Beyond the intentions in its production, the flag is also an interesting symbol of the formation of Australian nationhood. Its use signifies the distinct identity of the Australian soldiers as a significant collective. What makes the flag even more significant is that such a declaration of national identity occurs about a decade after the Federation in 1901 and many years before recognition of the Australian national flag in 1954 under the “Flags Act 1953“.


Fragment from the Birdwood flag, Image Courtesy ABC Newcastle

Following the Birdwood Flag’s rediscovery in 2013 lying in pieces within a shoebox inside a safe in the Cathedral, a meeting was held between the University of Newcastle’s Vice Chancellor, Caroline McMillen  and the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, The Very Reverend Stephen Williams, to see what could be done to restore what was probably the most important cultural relic of the Great War in Australia, in anticipation of the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations. Inspired by the local community’s spirit, an action plan was formulated for the restoration of the rediscovered fragments of the Birdwood flag.

The Birdwood Heritage Committee (Birdwood Flag Committee) was formed under the leadership of Dr Patricia Gillard, and initial funding secured through the National Library’s Community Heritage Grants to complete the significance assessment phase.  In 2015, a funding application to the Copland Foundation was also successful. As a result of the committee’s efforts the restoration phase of the Birdwood Flag has offically begun since April 22, 2016.

Birdwood Group

From left: Major Roland Millbank, Birdwood Committee; Dr.Rosemary Barnard, Birdwood Comittee; Dr. Amir Mogadam, Conservator, UON; Mr. Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, UON; Dr. Patricia Gillard, Birdwood Committee; Mr.Julian Bickersteth, Managing Director, ICS.

In this project, the Copland Foundation, Melbourne, International Conservation Services, Sydney, University of Newcastle (Australia) and Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral, are collaborating to put the pieces of the flag back together again and tell the story of the community who enabled an official Red Australian Ensign to represent their troops during World War 1. As part of the ceremony a time lapse movie was screened showing the beginnings of conservation work being carried out by International Conservation Services in Sydney. It was quite an emotional moment to see the original stars of the Southern Cross begin to re-emerge within the fragments of the original flag.

Over many years our communities have become fraught with divisions and fragmentation, with people generally striving to seek their points of difference, rather than what they hold in common. It is hoped that this project is a small step towards bringing Australian communities closer together, as, in reconstructing this fragmented symbol of a local community’s care for its troops, so too it is hoped that the nation will rediscover its fragmented heart, and understand the forces that have shaped Australian national identity and the makeup of its culture and character.

Dr Amir Mogadam, Conservator and Mr Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist.

(in)visible art

(in)visible art exhibition

(in)visible art: conspicuous making in an age of nano textiles





Please join the artist for the opening


Memorials, icons and signs


Chris Capper A3 Poster
memorials, icons and signs

Chris Capper


15 June – 2 July 2016

The University Gallery

Chris Capper’s meditative paintings offer a space for contemplation and reflection. His evocative compositions are careful considerations of form and space, yet are not committed to precise definition. Vibrant orbs imply flowers, while interiors are mapped in abstracted geometry, both recurring motifs throughout his works.

memorials, icons and signs presents a survey of practice. The paintings selected for this exhibition touch on themes of loss, memory and hope. Like diary entries, they follow a painter’s intimate journey through the highs and lows – from the everyday to the profound.

Colour is harnessed as an emotional trigger; works bloom with a vibrant contrasting palette or are muted to convey a sense of sorrow about time passing, but with recognition for beauty and completeness. His paintings made in memorium are poignant with meaning through his deft touch.

Inhabiting a space between representation and formalist abstraction, Capper has a rare facility for the human condition that becomes poetic when he tells a story on canvas.

Please join the artist for the opening