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Lamenting the whittling away of our heritage – Part 1 of 7

Posted by ken On February - 24 - 2014

Lamenting the whittling away of our heritage – Part 1 of 7

Our indigenous brethren relied an oral history, for they had no written language. Yet stories from the Dreamtime can still be recalled today, at least 40 to 60 thousand years after the first native inhabitants populated the land.

One wonders how much the average person living here today of Caucasian origin can recall of their history without reference to a text book?

In Europe, the monuments and buildings chart the happenings of that continent, even though they have been ravaged by wars, the great fire of London and modern day progress.

They have great palaces, cathedrals, bridges, monuments and museums that remain and predate the settlement of our Swan River Colony.

In contrast, much of Perth has changed since the 1960s, with many of the grand buildings and theatres lost to the wreckers ball.

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Perth Streets of Yesteryear

Almost entire streets in Perth have been demolished, with only historic photos left to bear witness.


A small sample of Perth’s demolished buildings

Nothing was sacred, including the grand buildings built during the gold rush period. Only a handful of St. Georges Terrace buildings have survived, as most of the central business district was decimated. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 could not have done better. Matters of colonial consequence, such as the Pensioner Barracks built in 1863, to our most splendid theatres were lost. Fortunately the Edwardian period His Majesty’s Theatre and the convict built Perth Town Hall escaped, though they were earmarked at one point. The state government saved the theatre in 1977 and public protest saved the Town Hall in 1924. Both decisions were tempered by the mood of the public at the time. Protests are often essential to make things happen, as relying on elected representatives carries no certainty.

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Some of the lost Theatres of Perth

Even the historic significance of the Esplanade is lost on the youth, who seem happy for heritage listed sites to be pulled down and ripped up, with ownership of public land vested in perpetuity for the people… then transferred to private hands in the name of progress. The government of the day can in effect undo anything they wish. Heritage listing is irrelevant when using the Esplanade as an example.

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Its interesting to dwell on the factors that cause this to be….

    The world is forever in a state of transition, not only with evolving technology but also fashions and the attitudes of people.


    Language, customs and behaviour are continually changing with each generation. From simple things like music as popular tastes moved from Bing Crosby to Johnny Ray to Elvis Presley to the Beatles and so forth.

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    School children are now taking ‘Selfies’ of their private parts with their ‘Smartphones’, which then inadvertently become public courtesy of the ‘Internet’.


    Things that were impossible yesteryear are now becoming common. The values of society also change, some for the better and others for the worst. Political correctness often annoys old-times who think society is going soft, particularly when leniency is demanded for serious crimes whilst the victim seems to be overlooked in favour of the perpetrator. Hanging and the birch are long gone in our society, for under an old law a rapist was hung. No doubt this would have saved other victims from repeat offenders. It would have prevented the rape and murder of ABC Radio producer Jill Meagher in 2012, a much loved and wonderful young woman. A crime committed by a perpetrator with a known history of rape and violence. Then the Australian human headline, Derryn Hinch, served a fifty-day prison sentence for breaching a court order for attempting to reveal the extensive record of prior rapes and other violent offences of the accused.

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    Though all that is old is not always good, old timers often have warm feelings for nostalgic elements of their past. Mementoes of an earlier era that triggers fond memories of a time when things were simpler, or of moments that were comforting. But as they say, “A person does not really die until the last person who remembers them is gone”. Though books, photographs, sound recordings and moving pictures can convey a glimpse of previous lives. In the same way an era can be conveyed by the artefacts that belonged to that time. The everyday items that were part of that life, items which otherwise change in design or totally disappear with time. That is unless someone has the presence of mind to keep them as a souvenir, as a reminder of a person, place or event.

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Valued mementos of documentary making kept by Bill Meacham

    Sadly, such souvenirs are not always valued by younger generations and are often discarded for no longer being useful or desired.

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Lamenting the whittling away of our heritage

Related topics…

Factors that moulded entertainment in Perth

Wireless Hill Future – in six parts

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