Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Historical Society

Open book viewed from the book's spine

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Skills and Training, and Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology) (18:11): In the historic old Gordon Public School building adjoining the Gordon Library resides the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society. The society has justifiably drawn praise for its research and publications since its creation and inception in 1963. Made up of volunteers, the society's publications delve into local history, built heritage and family history in Ku-ring-gai. Notable works include Women of Ku‑ring‑gai and Rallying the Troops, which are several volumes about the veterans and the response to the First World War from the Ku-ring-gai area.

Recently I learned of another interesting piece of local history: the foundations of Killara. Had it not been for the hard work of the society, we may never have known the true depth of that suburb's history. I therefore inform the House of the following. Like many parts of the Ku-ring-gai electorate, Killara is a leafy, historic suburb with an abundance of heritage homes from the Federation to modernist eras. The heritage comprises a unique blend of fine architecture encircled by a picturesque natural environment and is home to many notable residents, past and present. One such resident was James George Edwards, also known as the "Father of Killara". While Mr Edwards was born in Tasmania, his mother returned to her home in Sydney in 1849 when James was only six years old.

Early on James had an eye for the development and wellbeing of Ku-ring-gai. He was instrumental in the construction of many local facilities—from a post office in the grounds of the now Ravenswood School for Girls to the old Gordon Public School. That school operated from 1876 to 1989—with distinguished former students including the member for Pittwater, Rob Stokes—and is now the location of the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society. Notably, James Edwards played an important role in having the Government build the North Shore line, which opened in 1890 and continues to be used this day—a great example of the longevity of visionary infrastructure like the infrastructure that this Government is building. He conceived of the notion of acquiring much of the largely vacant land between Lindfield and Gordon, then subdivided and sold it. Creating Killara was a big task that involved finding the current landowners and conducting negotiations to formalise ownership transfers.

James Edwards negotiated with the railways to have a new station built at Killara, which opened in 1899, and thus began the early foundations of what we know as modern Killara. But his contribution to Killara went much further. James Edwards spearheaded a move to have the land that is now known as Killara Park reserved for public recreation. James was also deeply involved in having land obtained for the building of the absolutely excellent Killara Golf Club and eventually became its second president. The Killara Golf Club and Killara Lawn Tennis Club would not exist today were it not for his efforts. If that was not enough, James Edwards played a major role in the establishment of the Killara Hall, which eventually became the Soldier's Memorial Hall and is now known to the community as the Marian Street Theatre.

James George Edwards' legacy continues to the present day in the organisations and community facilities that adorn the historic suburb of Killara. Importantly, this story is remembered through the efforts of the Ku‑ring‑gai Historical Society. The 400 members and volunteers that make up that organisation do an incredible job of archiving and maintaining the history of our community. I hope this private member's statement illustrates the importance of the society not just in remembering the past but in the stories that it is able to continue to tell in the present, whether it be about the Marian Street Theatre, the Killara Golf Club or other parts of our local community.

In past years I have joined members of the historical society to mark the anniversary of events like the first ever wireless message in Australia, during World War I, and I have frequently attended its meetings in the old Gordon Public School and participated in the magical mystery tour run by previous Ku-ring-gai Woman of the Year Mrs Jo Harris, OAM. I am pleased that the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society has received many prestigious awards over the years, including the Mander Jones Award. Such praise is a fitting recognition of the hard work of its many members. I thank the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society for supporting our local community.