Arts & Culture

Blue plaques add lustre to the heritage of NSW

Edwina Mason22 October 2021
May Gibbs' Nutcote Cottage

May Gibbs’ Nutcote Cottage in Sydney is one of four buildings to have commemorative blue plaques installed, highlighting its significance to Australia’s history. Southern NSW residents wishing to nominate significant buildings or locations in their neck of the woods have just a week to contact their local MP. Photo: Supplied.

UPDATED 2 November: Due to the strong interest in the NSW Blue Plaques Program, communities across the state will have an additional two weeks to nominate heritage places linked to notable personalities and events for recognition.

The deadline for Blue Plaque nominations from MPs and MLCs has been extended to 14 November, giving communities additional time to make suggestions to their local member.

22 October: Southern NSW regional communities with inspiring and important stories have the opportunity to highlight their heritage with the universally-known heritage symbol – the Blue Plaque.

But if you want one, you need to be quick.

Communities across the state have until October 31 to nominate heritage places linked to notable personalities and events for recognition as part of the NSW Blue Plaques program.

Blue Plaque

The Blue Plaque installed at the former residence of Australian author May Gibbs. Photo: Supplied.

Some international travellers will be familiar with the permanent decorative signs installed in public places to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person, event, or former building on the site, serving as a historical marker to increase interest in local heritage and culture.

The “official” scheme traces its origins back to 1866 in London on the initiative of the politician William Ewart, to mark the homes and workplaces of famous people.

Here in NSW, the essence of the program is telling the stories that matter most to communities recognising the colourful, creative, innovative individuals who shaped those communities, the local stories and places that the people of NSW should know about and important historical events that happened in the area.

The Blue Plaques will recognise key sites and encourage people to explore their neighbourhood and other parts of NSW, connecting with the amazing people and stories that have shaped our state with a digital story linked to each plaque.

The first four plaques in NSW – announced in June 2021, included children’s author and illustrator May Gibbs (Nutcote Cottage); government architect Walter Liberty Vernon (Registrar General’s Building Sydney); Caroline Chisholm Cottage (East Maitland) and Sir Edward Hallstrom (Taronga Zoo).

But the NSW Government is seeking nominations from across the state to ensure stories of all regions are considered.

Residents from Southern NSW are being asked to send ideas for nominations to their local MP or an MLC by the end of October so their important local sites can be considered for a plaque.

Caroline Chisholm's cottage

Philanthropist Caroline Chisholm’s cottage in East Maitland was also selected for the first of four Blue Plaques in NSW. Photo: Supplied.

They are looking for stories that are interesting, fun and quirky, along with more sombre stories that should be not be forgotten as part of our history.

This could relate to, for example:

  • Aboriginal people, heritage, culture
  • early European settlement
  • migrant heritage
  • social movements and change
  • wartime history
  • industrial advancements
  • arts and culture
  • sport
  • historic events that have shaped the story of your area and NSW
  • and stories of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things (your local heroes)

The MPs and MLCs will then nominate these sites to Heritage NSW for a Blue Plaque.

NSW Heritage Minister Don Harwin said whether it is buildings or people that have had an important impact across NSW, there are hidden gems with stories that deserve to be told.

“Behind every plaque is a story. We want everyone to be involved in making suggestions to their local MP or MLC so we can recognise the people and places in history that matter most to local communities,” Mr Harwin said.

MPs and MLCs will have until October 31 2021 to submit their nominations to Heritage NSW for consideration.

For more information on the program, click here.

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