As 2023 draws to a close, National Trust (NSW) CEO Debbie Mills looks back on a big year for heritage.
After the challenges of the previous few years, it was with a real sense of enthusiasm and relief that in the last financial year the National Trust (NSW) was able to reopen and welcome members and visitors back to our much-loved gardens, galleries and house museums.
With this return to normality, we were able to renew our focus on our core purposes of conservation and advocacy, and it certainly has been a productive year on both fronts, due largely to the generosity of like-minded members, donors, trusts, foundations and bequestors.
In 2023 we received over 3,000 donations and support from our Patron Program increased significantly. This generous support allowed us to fund both operational expenses and important projects at many of our special places.
Giving highlights included:
Diving in deep at Norman Lindsay Gallery: Thanks to an $80,000 gift, work was completed on the 1916 swimming pool while the building of pathways has made the pool more accessible.
Old Government House Appeal: More than $273,000 was raised for Old Government House, and work has already commenced to breathe new life into this important World Heritage listed building.
Everglades House Appeal: More than $215,000 in donations has reawakened the Art Deco icon that is Everglades House. This important project is now complete.
Gifts in Wills: Generous bequests have helped ensure the future of our conservation and advocacy work. Gifts in Wills contributed over $670,000 in the 2023 financial year.
Every dollar contributed towards the above projects has made an enormous difference. Thank you.
Protecting our heritage
Protecting our heritage is core to the National Trust’s work. This past year we managed over 30 heritage and advocacy enquiries and requests for assistance per week, more than 270 searches of our Register, as well as 60 heritage restoration appeals.
Our advocacy efforts have delivered real outcomes. Highlights this year included:
Central Barangaroo: The Central Barangaroo Modification 9 was rejected by the NSW Premier following the alarm raised by National Trust and others over excessive building heights in the precinct.
Historic Pitt Street: We successfully argued to retain a row of historic Edwardian terrace shopfronts from demolition in Pitt Street, opposite the former Anthony Hordern’s site. This follows our advocacy efforts after a heritage consultant had argued for their removal as part of a new tower development.
NSW State Election campaign: In the lead up to the 2023 NSW State election, our focus was on:
- the proper following of heritage legislation
- commitment to an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill
- appropriate funding for future and ongoing heritage conservation and maintenance.
Extensive lobbying saw commitments by all major political parties and 15 individual candidates to heritage. With the new Government in place we are continuing to follow up these commitments.
Protecting our natural heritage has continued through our Bushland Management Service business. One of our projects was working on Planet Ark National Tree Day at Sydney Park in Alexandria. Volunteers responded with great enthusiasm, with over 500 people attending to plant 2,000 trees.
The eight-month Orchard Hills Cumberland Plain Restoration Project has also targeted invasive species and helped restore the area’s critically endangered vegetation communities.
National Trust archives
Being able to share our knowledge is critical, and our archives have been incredibly busy sharing oral histories and scanning more items to make them accessible.
A generous donation from The David Sheedy Foundation funded an Archives Scholarship providing a part-time role at the National Trust Centre for an emerging archivist.
Caring for properties
Through the generosity of our members, donors and bequestors, we have delivered more than 40 projects this year to fulfill our objective of caring for our properties. Just a few highlights included:
Painting and repair works undertaken at Grossmann and Brough Houses.
Repairs at Miss Porter’s House, with new awning, guttering and timber on the balcony, as well as the iron work reinstated.
Work at Norman Lindsay Gallery continued with new plantings and repaired fountains. It was a great year to do this as we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of Norman Lindsay Gallery with our Patron, her Excellency, the Honourable Margaret Beazley AZ KC, Governor of NSW.
Thanks to a generous donor, works to the garden at Experiment Farm Cottage were also undertaken to return this landscape to its historic documented form, through heavy pruning, new plantings and gravel pathway repairs.
Conserving our collections
Our collection continues to be cared for lovingly by our Collection Manager, Rebecca Pinchin and many volunteers. The challenge continues as we fight against mould, pests and ensuring general cleaning and presentation. Our conservation efforts have included wonderful results, such as:
The Yellow Dress Project: Thanks to a grant from the Copland Foundation, some mysterious remnants of yellow silk damask found at Old Government House were pieced back together to reveal a significant 18th century dress. The National Trust worked with NIDA to restore the dress and create a replica to illustrate its past.
Documenting our textiles: A major research project funded by J. Permsew Foundation documented our large textile collection found at Old Government House, Grossman House, Riversdale and Saumarez.
Celebrating heritage: events and exhibitions
An important role of the National Trust is to share and celebrate heritage. Headed by our Conservation Department, we led our Forum in Parramatta to discuss and seek solutions to the challenges to Parramatta’s heritage.
We had events all over the state, from a Dogs Day Out at Norman Lindsay Gallery and Retford Park, to a Steampunk Promenade at Woodford Academy, Christmas Fair at Lindesay, engaging exhibitions, and the list continues.
There was another successful heritage festival with close to 200 events, over 60,000 attendees across NSW and a showcase of heritage successes was seen at our Heritage Awards in May. Of the many deserving winners across multiple categories, it was the stunning renovation of Bondi Pavilion by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects that took out the coveted Judge’s Choice Award.
Achieving our Vision, accomplishments and successes over the year is not possible without our members, volunteers and donors.
In the last year our wonderful 800 volunteers gave an enormous 42,000 hours of their time this year. A reflection of the spirit and commitment from a very important group of people.
Our 18,000 members provided their unwavering loyalty, with a record 80+% retention this year.
The year ahead
As 2023 draws to a close, we are now preparing for 2024 and beyond. Just some of the highlights for the coming year are:
Board leadership: The year ahead will see our Board leading our thinking for the future to meet our charitable purposes whilst also being sustainable and growing our relevance. Making heritage relevant is critical to safeguard its future.
Cooma Cottage appeal: We will utilise generous donations of $159,000 raised through the Cooma Cottage Appeal to enable important conservation work to get underway and a generous gift will see a new roof installed on the Coachman’s Cottage.
Norman Lindsay Gallery painting studio: With what I’m sure will be the successful outcome of our Norman Lindsay Gallery Painting Studio appeal, works will also commence to restore this important place where Norman painted and wrote, late into the night, including writing tales of puddings! We thank everyone who has already donated to this important project.
The philanthropic support of members, donors, trusts, foundations and bequests has enabled the delivery of many of 2023’s important projects and initiatives.
We’ll continue to play our part in supporting conservation and to help everyone enjoy the special places in our care for the long term.
Thank you for helping us make the future possible. We look forward to you joining us in 2024 for an exciting year ahead.
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