Al fresco heritage

The opening of the Parramatta Heritage Centre in November 1998 has provided a focal point for local residents and visitors to experience Parramatta's rich history.

As the second settlement to be established after Sydney, Parramatta's early history carries a national significance. The City retains many of its period buildings, some dating from earliest colonial times. There are also strong links to the area's original inhabitants &endash; the Burramattagal clan.

As such, Council views the City as an open air museum for which the Heritage Centre provides the linchpin. The Centre combines tourist information, education, research and collection management facilities under the one roof. It contains all the material necessary for local and family history studies, as well as facilities to house artefacts and conduct teaching sessions along with exhibition space.

A dozen walking tracks radiate from the centre, leading visitors along themed trails which meander through the City, Parramatta Park, old cemeteries, along Parramatta River, and past historic homes. Exhibitions held at the Centre are wide ranging, covering diverse aspects of Australian history.

Recent exhibitions include 'Between Two Worlds', which examined the experiences of children from the Northern Territory's 'Half Caste' institutions; 'Midnight Grocer', a history of family owned businesses in Australia; and 'Kolour Skeme Team', featuring aerosol art created as part of Council's Graffiti Solutions Project.

As Parramatta's Visitor Information Centre, the Heritage Centre is a popular first port of call for the estimated one million visitors who catch the RiverCat from Sydney's Circular Quay and travel up the Parramatta River each year.

This is the same route our early settlers took as they sought and found in Parramatta more fertile areas to grow their crops. For the first 50 or 60 years of European settlement, Parramatta was in fact larger than Sydney.

Our oldest surviving pioneer building, Elizabeth Farm house, is located here, as is Old Government House &endash;Australia's first seat of government.

The Heritage Centre is located at 346 Church Street, telephone (02) 9683 6922.