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A new prize has been added to the NSW Premier's History Awards to encourage the use of archives in the writing of history.

The inaugural winner of the State Records NSW John and Patricia Ward History Prize is Thom Blake for his work A Dumping Ground: A History of the Cherbourg Settlement University of Queensland Press, 2001.

A Dumping Ground: A History of the Cherbourg Settlement is a powerful and evocative account of the impact of Government policy on the lives of the Aboriginal people from this community. The work acknowledges the enduring power of Aboriginal testimony, juxtaposing the white official record with moving oral histories from those whose lives were affected by the alien structures of discipline imposed by successive Governments. The result is a confident and challenging narrative history that engages creatively and unpretentiously with theory. It is also a careful study of Government policy and practice: an instructive insight into the hearts and minds of those who saw themselves as protectors.

Thom Blake maintains an outstanding standard of scholarly and meticulous research using archival sources and oral history to tell this story of government attempts to extinguish the cultural life of an Aboriginal community. He captures the spirit and sense of place that endured and prospered, despite these efforts. A Dumping Ground: A History of the Cherbourg Settlement is a story that must not be forgotten.

Short-listed entries were:

The John and Patricia Ward History Prize has been established by State Records as a lasting memorial to John and Patricia Ward for their significant contribution to history and archives in NSW. It is intended to encourage the use of original materials, rather than relying on secondary sources, in the research and writing of history.

John Manning Ward, A.O., M.A., LL.B., F.A.H.A., F.A.S.S.A., F.R.A.H.S., former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney and Challis Professor of History, was associated with the development of the State's archival institutions from the early 1950s. He was a foundation member of the Archives Authority of New South Wales from 1961, and its Chairman from November 1979 to May 1983. This period saw the Archives move to its own accommodation in The Rocks, establish a major archives centre at Kingswood in Sydney's West and set up a Records Management Office to promote better records management practice in Government agencies. A teacher of Australian history who encouraged his students to use primary source documents, Professor Ward also worked to created a climate favourable for the development of archival management as a profession.

Patricia Bruce Ward, A.M., B.A., Dip.Ed., F.L.A.A., was a former teacher-librarian whose professional interests included education and training, local studies, archives, conservation, school and local libraries. From 1981 she was Secretary of the Action Committee on Local Government Records, formed to encourage local government authorities to establish proper facilities for the management, storage and use of local archives. Its work led to significant improvements in the preservation and use of local government archives in NSW.

John and Patricia Ward died together in the Brooklyn railway accident of May 1990. The manuscripts room in the Archives' Rocks building was named in their memory in 1991, but recent renovations mean that this room no longer exists. The new prize provides a great practical opportunity to celebrate their contribution to history and the use of archives in the writing of history.

It is fitting that the first award of this prize should have been at the same ceremony where acclaimed film maker Ken Burns presented the 2002 History Address.  Burns' work - including the historical documentary series The Civil War, The West, Baseball and Jazz - provides many wonderful examples of the compelling use of archival materials in all forms in accessible and imaginative interpretations of history.

Further information may be obtained by contacting the Manager, Public Access on (02) 8276 5617.

October 2002

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