The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS [10.11 p.m.]: I mention tonight a function that I recently attended at the University of Western Sydney to mark the beginning of the restoration of the very precious building of which the university is now custodian, the Female Orphans School, in Rydalmere on the Parramatta River and, therefore, in the heart of the Parramatta campus of the University of Western Sydney. The Female Orphans School is a very important building not only for the university but for the city of Sydney.
Depending on how one measures the age of a building—from completion, or foundation stone or whatever—the Female Orphan's School at Rydalmere is older than the Hyde Park Barracks, a building which in some ways the school is quite similar to. It is unusual in that it is a brick, three-storey building erected prior to 1820. It has a range of significant structural features. For instance, it has a magnificent double-curved sweeping staircase—perhaps not the kind of feature that might have been thought of later, in allegedly more enlightened times, as relevant for the female orphans of New South Wales. The building was used until 1880 as the Female Orphans School, then had a period of use as the Protestant orphans school for both boys and girls. It later became part of an institution for the mentally ill, and still later accommodated those with developmental disability. It was handed over to the University of Western Sydney when the university took over occupation of that campus some time ago.
Obviously, the Female Orphans School building will take a great deal of resources to restore. The university is grateful to the Heritage Council in particular for a grant of money and for the assistance being provided, particularly on a voluntary basis, by a whole range of experts in the field. When restored, the building will be a magnificent addition to the university campus and the other historic buildings around. It will be a magnificent feature, standing so prominently as it does on the Parramatta River, as well as being a link with the very earliest times of New South Wales. The starting of the building probably predates even the starting of what is now part of Parliament House but was originally the Rum Hospital.
I mention also that recently the University of Western Sydney has held a large number of graduation ceremonies. I was privileged to attend one such ceremony, at which once again I was struck by the mix of people who study at the university, and particularly by the fact that so many of them are the first in their families to acquire a tertiary education. The graduation ceremony that I attended recently predominantly dealt with the education faculties, and therefore those present had the opportunity to congratulate a number of intending new teachers as well as a number of older teachers updating their qualifications. It was pleasing to see such a large number of people undertaking tertiary studies and to appreciate the mix of subjects they were studying, all the way up to PhD level.
The final matter I would mention is the ongoing work of the Whitlam Institute, established by the University of Western Sydney. I express my pleasure that a function is to be held on 30 November to raise funds for the Whitlam Institute and to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the election of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister of Australia in 1972.
The Hon. Richard Jones: It does not seem that long ago.
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: As the Hon. Richard Jones observes, it does not seem that that was 30 years ago. Perhaps some of us need to forget the passing years and join in celebrating the political activity of which we have been part. The University of Western Sydney is a young university, but it is very vibrant and has a firm mission to serve the scattered but huge communities of Western Sydney, and also to ensure that it continues—as far as it is able given the very unfortunate Federal Government cuts to higher education—to make tertiary education available to those who in the past usually found it hardest to get. [Time expired.]