Rich history of showcase high rise school site

29 May 2017

Valuable archaeological finds are being recorded and preserved as site work preparation continues for the new high rise Arthur Phillip High School and Parramatta Public Schools.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said a team of archaeologists now at the location are uncovering insights into the rich history of the Parramatta construction site.

It was once the location of the convict barracks, built between 1819 and 1820 - a building later converted into a military hospital in the 1840s, then a medical facility before becoming a school in the 1930s.

Before the convict barracks the Burramattugal clan of the Darug people originally inhabited the sloping site, which overlooks the Parramatta River.

"Varied and plentiful evidence of Aboriginal inhabitation and the site's 19th and 20th century history has already been found, and it is imperative that these and future finds inform the development process," Mr Stokes said.

Member for Parramatta Geoff Lee said the new high school and public school would be valuable assets for the local community but respectful handling of Parramatta's past was also essential.

"The history being uncovered and recorded will ensure a continuing link to the site's history, which is such an important part of Parramatta's heritage," Mr Lee said.

Significant finds to date include extensive remains of the convict barracks in sandstone and brick, Aboriginal stone artefacts, and colonial military, medical, trade and personal artefacts

Mr Stokes said the involvement of archaeologists on site – carefully uncovering and cataloguing finds -- underlines the complexity of the project underway. 

"A wet summer and early autumn and modifications to improve the initial project brief have added extra challenges for the project team working on what will be a benchmark for modern school design," he said.

An archaeological assessment for the Parrramatta schools project site prepared on behalf of the Department of Education makes detailed recommendations about how the heritage of the site should be respected.

The high school will cater for up to 2,000 students, and the primary school for up to 1,000 students. Total estimated investment in the showpiece schools will be more than $200 million.

The schools have been designed for the teaching and learning styles of the future, with flexible teaching spaces and adaptable furniture and room configurations able to maximise the benefit of technology-rich teaching resources.


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