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Media Release

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02 November 2020

Legends of Australia’s second oldest city revealed in documentary series

The legendary people and events that have shaped Parramatta’s unique – and sometimes surprising – history take centre stage in a quirky new documentary series to mark Foundation Day.

From pioneers buried in Australia’s oldest marked graves to the legacy of the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic, City of Parramatta Council’s Parramatta Foundations short videos uncover gritty local stories.

“As Australia’s second oldest city, Parramatta is an incredible melting pot of stories, cultures and personalities,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer said.

“Our Parramatta Foundations documentaries take viewers on a journey of discovery through the Indigenous and colonial history of Parramatta – the centre of global Sydney.”

Launching at 7pm tonight with a Facebook Premiere, the fascinating five-part series features local Darug people, historians, health experts and ecologists in locations across Sydney’s Central River City.

Popular filmmaker and comedian Dan Ilic, who grew up in Parramatta, presents four of the videos. His mother, Gwen Ilic, received Parramatta’s 2020 Australia Day Local Award for Senior Citizen of the Year.

“Parramatta not only is pivotal in the story of the country's foundation but it is part of my foundation, too,” Mr Ilic said.

“I grew up doing 11 years of the ‘Gang Show’ at the Riverside Theatres. My uncle was a tow truck driver at the Speedway and he'd sneak us into the pit. My father was a solicitor and as a kid I'd escort him to Parramatta District Court and he'd call me his 'clerk'. It's what made me the performer I am today.

“Making these videos made me realise the incredible stories, people and place that Parramatta has in Australian history. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I did making them.”

Historian Judith Dunn and Dan Ilic in St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

Parramatta Pandemics unmasks the impacts of the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic – and its timely lessons – with Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre archivist Michelle Goodman.

In Dead Set Legends, local historian Judith Dunn reveals the eye-opening stories of Parramatta icons buried at Australia’s oldest cemetery.

Uncle Chris Tobin shows how his Darug ancestors caught eels in the Parramatta River and we find out about the colonists’ crops at Experiment Farm in Parramatta’s Pantry.

We dig into the geology and palaeontology of Parramatta going back 300 million years to when Australia was still attached to Antarctica in Deep Foundations in Deep Time.  

And in a special documentary by ABC Radio Sydney’s Parramatta-based producer Dayvis Heyne, the Female Orphan School’s impact on Australia’s social history is explored.

Government House Parramatta, 1805. Painting by George William Evans. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

Foundation Day marks the settlement of the Parramatta area by British colonists led by Governor Arthur Phillip on 2 November 1788.

Council commemorates the day annually with events throughout Parramatta, including at the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct. This year, Council is taking its celebrations online due to COVID-19. 

Join the Facebook Premiere.

The documentaries will be available from 7pm tonight on Discover Parramatta.

Upcoming events