General Meetings

Our General Meetings are held on the 3rd Saturday of the month (January – November) commencing at 2 pm.

After each meeting we present our Speakers Program, with an informative guest speaker each month. Non-members are most welcome to join us for our short meeting – or if preferred, just for the speaker’s presentation, which normally starts around 2.20 pm, followed by afternoon tea.

Please see our Speakers Program below for more information on upcoming talks.

Family History Meetings

Our Family History Group Meetings are held on the 1st Saturday of the month (February – December) commencing at 2 pm, and also featuring a guest speaker after each meeting. Non-members are most welcome to join us for our short meeting – or if preferred, just for the speaker’s presentation, which normally starts around 2.20 pm, followed by afternoon tea.

See our Speakers Program below for more information on upcoming talks.

Monochrome photo of timber getters, courtesy New South Wales Forestry Commission
Timber Getters, courtesy NSW Forestry Commission

For the latest information about upcoming meetings and guest speakers, stay tuned to this page and our monthly newsletters!

Our meeting venue is Gordon Library Meeting Room No. 1, in the Old Gordon Public School, which adjoins the Gordon Library, 799 Pacific Highway, Gordon (corner Pacific Highway and Park Avenue). It’s just a 5-minute walk from Gordon Station. For a map and parking information, see our Contact page.

Upcoming Meetings & Speakers Program

General Meetings are held on the third Saturday of the month (Jan. – Nov.)

Family History Group Meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month (Feb. – Dec.)

Kindly note that in accordance with NSW Health and Ku-ring-gai Council regulations, QR-code sign-in, face masks and proof of vaccination are required at this time when attending our rooms, including meetings.

Saturday 15th January 2022 General Meeting
Laila Ellmoos: Out of the Dark, Into the Light – Curating the ‘Developing Sydney’ Exhibition

Join City of Sydney historian and curator Laila Ellmoos to explore how a lost Sydney emerged from the City archives during research for the current photographic exhibition, Developing Sydney: Capturing Change 1900-1920.

Drawing on thousands of photos and glass negatives for the exhibition, Laila will show how digital technology revealed a “lost city” of buildings and streetscapes, replete with rich details of Sydney life a century ago.

The day-to-day lives of previous Sydneysiders are often ignored when researching the history of the city’s built heritage. In this fascinating talk, we’ll hear about the making of the exhibition and Laila’s unexpected finds – from barefooted urchins and backyard marsupials, to billy carts and missing shoes!

Before you come along to Laila’s presentation, it would be a great idea to take a look at this wonderful exhibition, either online here or by visiting Customs House in Circular Quay – see opening hours and more details here. Whether online or on-site, the exhibition is FREE.

Saturday 5th February 2022 Family History Group Meeting

Meeting at 2 pm, preceded by our usual Workshop from 11 am to 1 pm.

More information to follow.

Saturday 19th February 2022 General Meeting
Greg de Moore: Finding Sanity – An Australian Story

Australia’s greatest mental health achievement – the discovery of lithium for the treatment of bi-polar disorder – is the subject of this talk by psychiatrist and historian Greg de Moore.

Associate Professor Greg de Moore is an author, historian and consultant psychiatrist at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital. Born in Melbourne of parents who migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka, Greg has lived in Sydney for over twenty years.

He was nominated for the national biography award for his 2008 book Tom Wills — First Wild Man of Australian Sport.

Greg’s latest book is Finding Sanity. From the jungles of a Second World War prison camp to modern medicine, Finding Sanity is the story of Australia’s greatest mental health achievement.

Saturday 19th March 2022 General Meeting
David Wilkins, OAM: The Three Vietnam Wars from 1946 to 1975

Military historian and Ku-ring-gai Historical Society member David Wilkins will discuss the causes and impact – and the controversies – of the “American War”, the colonial war that preceded it, and the one that followed.

Covering the causes of the 2nd Vietnam War, David will discuss whether the US strategy was misguided; and whether or not it should be regarded as an American defeat.

David graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1963 and his career in the Australian Regular Army spanned 26 years.

In 1969-70, as a Captain, he saw active service for 14 months with the 5th Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War.

Upon his return from active service, David embarked upon a new career direction in law.

He is now fully retired with interests in history and writing and was involved in the coordination, writing and editing of the four volumes of the Society’s Rallying The Troops series.

It was for his involvement in that publication that David was awarded in 2019, the Order of Australia Medal “for service to community history”.

Saturday 16th April 2022 – there will be no General Meeting this month, due to Easter

Saturday 21st May 2022 General Meeting
Margaret Cameron-Ash: Lying for the Admiralty

Through meticulous research, lawyer and academic Margaret Cameron-Ash sets out to explain in her latest book how James Cook could have overlooked such obvious features as Bass Strait and the entrance to Port Jackson. Her conclusion: he didn’t miss them – he hid them!

Never have Cook’s journals and charts been subjected to such unbiased, forensic examination. Cook’s discoveries had to remain secret until Britain could afford to send an occupation force to fortify the place and keep out the French – hence the publication of Cook’s censored journal and charts.

From the Foreword by John Howard: “The author mounts a strong circumstantial case that Cook both discovered Bass Strait and actually gazed upon Sydney Harbour. Her proposition is that Cook and some of his party walked overland from Botany Bay to the Harbour… She argues that deliberate obfuscation and distortion were tools of trade for the British Admiralty… Such was the colonial rivalry of the time that paranoia about Admiralty leaks were an incentive for deliberate inaccuracies to be included in formal reports of voyages and exploration.”

Saturday 18th June 2022 General Meeting
Dr Reinhard Ronnebeck: Grace Cossington Smith – A Ku-ring-gai Local

Reinhard’s talk explores the life and work of Grace Cossington Smith, a quiet pioneer of modernism who practised her art in Turramurra. Reinhard’s many presentations to U3A and the SMSA draw on his life-long interest in art history.

Reinhard was born, grew up and went to school in Berlin. His tertiary education took place in the USA and he holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Before his retirement he was head of the Department of Psychology at Royal North Shore Hospital, and Principal Clinical Psychologist with the NSW Department of Health. His book on child psychology, 7000 Days, was published by the ABC.

As part of his tertiary education, Reinhard completed several courses in art history and this has remained a life-long interest. He has made numerous presentations on a variety of artists with the University of the Third Age (U3A) and at the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts (SMSA).

Saturday 16th July 2022 General Meeting
Ian Thompson: More Australian Inventions

Industrial chemist Ian Thompson takes a look at the people and science behind some more iconic inventions and innovations, from colonial to contemporary times.

If you missed Ian’s first talk, catch up with this one – there’s so much more than the Hills Hoist and the Victa lawnmower!

Saturday 20th August 2022 General Meeting
David Rosenberg: Pine Gap – the Inside Story of the NSA in Australia

In 1966, Australia and the US signed a treaty that allowed the establishment of a jointly-run satellite tracking station, just south of Alice Springs. For more than fifty years it has operated in a shroud of secrecy, and been the target of much public and political controversy.

David Rosenberg – a US high-tech spy who worked at Pine Gap for 18 years – was the first to speak out to give an insider’s account of what happens behind those locked gates in the middle of the Australian desert. When he left in 2008, he was the United States government’s longest serving technical liaison officer in Australia.

In his book, and in his presentation, David details his career with an American intelligence agency during a tumultuous period in history that covered the terms of three American Presidents, four Australian Prime Ministers, the end of the Cold War, a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, two wars in Iraq and genocide in Rwanda, as well as the ‘War Against Terror’ and the emergence of North Korea as a nuclear-armed nation.

The intelligence collection mission at Pine Gap, and the partnership between Australia and the United States, has made Pine Gap the most important satellite ground site in the Intelligence Community.

Saturday 17th September 2022 General Meeting
Ian Burnet: The Tasman Map – the Dutch East India Company and the first Dutch discoveries of Australia

Every visitor who passes through the vestibule of the Mitchell Library stops to admire the magnificent marble mosaic of the Tasman Map, which fills the entire vestibule floor.

This story of the first Dutch voyages to discover Australia is set against the background of the struggle of the newly formed Dutch Republic to gain its independence from the Kingdom of Spain, and the struggle of the Dutch East India Company for trade supremacy in the East Indies, against its Portuguese, Spanish and English rivals.

Over a period of only forty years from 1606 to 1644, and based on sixteen separate discoveries, the first map of Australia took shape. The Tasman Map shows a recognizable outline of the north, west and south coasts of Australia, that was not to change for another 125 years until British explorer James Cook charted the east coast in 1770.

It was in 1925 and 1933 that the Mitchell Library acquired both the Tasman Huydecoper Journal and the Tasman Bonaparte Map. The story of how the library managed to acquire these treasures of Dutch exploration and cartography will bring new recognition to these icons of both Dutch and Australian history!

Saturday 15th October 2022 General Meeting
Patrick Dodd: The Holtermann Collection

Recovered from a garden shed in Chatswood in 1951, the 3500 glass plates that constitute the Holtermann Collection are the world’s most complete record of the gold rush era, and a treasure of the State Library. A very informed talk from State Library volunteer and Ku-ring-gai Historical Society member, Patrick Dodd.

Saturday 19th November 2022 General Meeting
David Hunt: Girt Nation – the Unauthorised History of Australia, Volume 3

Another rollicking ride with author David Hunt, as he speaks about the latest book in his series of prize-winning “unauthorized histories”.

David tramples the tall poppies of the past in charting Australia’s transformation from aspiration to nation – an epic tale of charlatans and costermongers, of bush bards and bushier beards, of workers, and women who weren’t going to take it anymore!

Girt Nation introduces Alfred Deakin – the Liberal necromancer whose dead advisors made Australia a better place to live; and Banjo Paterson – the jihadist who called on God and the Prophet to drive the Australian infidels from the Sudan. And meet Catherine Helen Spence – the feminist polymath who envisaged a utopian future of free contraceptives and easy divorce! 

Thrill as Jandamarra leads the Bunuba against Western Australia, and Valentine Keating leads the Crutchy Push, an all-amputee street gang, against the conventionally limbed. Weep as Scott Morrison’s communist great-great-aunt Mary Gilmore holds a hose in New Australia. And marvel at how Labor, a political party that spent a quarter of a century infighting over how to spell its own name, ever rose to power.

Yes, you’ll meet a colourful cast of characters from the formative period of Australia’s nationhood, and guess what – books will be available to purchase!

Find out more, if you dare, at David Hunt’s website

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