Surveying the Past, Mapping the Present

The Westport Club, Port Macquarie
20 – 21 October 2018

In 1818, Surveyor-General John Oxley led an expedition from Bathurst to explore the inland rivers of New South Wales. Travelling great distances, Oxley found the Hastings River and followed it to the coast, naming its entrance to the sea ‘Port Macquarie’ (after the Governor of NSW, Lachlan Macquarie). Two centuries later, our annual conference will be held at Port Macquarie, where we will explore how historians survey the past by searching through records as part of a continuous journey to map the context of events that have shaped our shared history.

The 2018 RAHS Conference is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Port Macquarie, with local historians speaking about the experiences of the Birpai, life on the early estates in the Hastings, and Port Macquarie’s last convicts. Our keynote speaker is Dr Mathew Trinca, Director of the National Museum of Australia, who will discuss the very pertinent theme of ‘History from the ground up.’

Attendees will discover new resources and techniques to help you survey the past of your own local community and be inspired by historians whose research interests span surveyors' field books and explorers' notes, historical market research, women in business, and understanding the social, medical and domestic legacies of World War I.

As always, there will be plenty of opportunities to network with RAHS members and friends, especially at the pre-conference event on Friday 19 October, which will be hosted by Port Macquarie Historical Society at its award-winning museum.

[Image: Visitors from Pioneer bus company’s first historical tour to Port Macquarie, 1967, courtesy of Port Macquarie Historical Society]


AmplifyPre-Conference Workshop – Friday 19 October, 2pm to 4pm at Port Macquarie Library ($20)

From Governors' Wives to Sydney Harbour Bridge Builders:  Amplifying the State Library of NSW sound archive via open-source and the machine. Jenna Bain, Digital Media Leader, State Library of NSW

In October 2016, the State Library of NSW launched Amplify – a platform for the delivery and transcription of its oral history collections. Amplify is the product of a highly collaborative project that utilised open-source software and machine-learning technology, and has transformed the way in which the Library can provide access to and tell stories using its audio materials. As Amplify's project leader, Jenna will discuss how you can get involved with this project – either as a local historical society which has oral histories (that may be currently on cassettes) to contribute or as a volunteer who can help with the transcription process. More details on the topics to be covered in the workshop will be available mid-August.

Welcome Reception – Friday 19 October, 5.30pm to 7.00pm 

Conference delegates can attend a pre-conference welcome reception at the Port Macquarie Museum (22 Clarence Street, Port Macquarie). The event will be hosted by the Port Macquarie Historical Society and provides an informal opportunity to view the award winning Museum’s significant collections and exhibitions, to learn about Port Macquarie’s unique history and to meet some of the locals.

[Image: Courtesy of Port Macquarie Historical Society]

Walking Tour: Stories Behind the Graves – Saturday 20 October, 3:15pm to 5:00pm ($15)

A guided walking tour of Port Macquarie’s Second Burying Ground led by Lyn Crosscombe. Hear the stories of Port Macquarie’s famous and infamous residents who are buried here including convicts, soldiers and free settlers such as Major Archibald Clunes Innes, colonial architect John Verge, Major James Henry Crummer and his daughter Augusta Louisa Du Faur, and medical practitioner Dr Jean Baptiste Fattorini. Please wear sturdy walking shoes, a sun hat and sunscreen.

(Bus pick-up-point at Westport Club)

[Image: Port Macquarie Second Burying Ground 1824-1886, courtesy of the Office of Environment and Heritage]

Bus Tour: Links, Chains and Milestones – Saturday 20 October, 3:30pm to 5:00pm ($25)

This guided bus tour led by Tony Dawson will provide delegates with an overview of Port Macquarie’s historic sites, maritime history and convict past. Learn about our British/Irish links, the chain of events that brought our first British settlers here and their miles travelled to banishment. For some it would eventually mean freedom but for others this was the end of the road. The tour includes stops at Port Macquarie’s first burying ground, Tacking Point Lighthouse and concludes with a guided visit to the convict built St Thomas’ Church where the Rev. John Cross conducted the first church service in 1828. 

(Bus pick-up-point at Westport Club)

[Image: Port Macquarie Touring Coach, ca. 1960, courtesy of Port Macquarie Historical Society]

Expressions of Interest: Innes Ruins Tour – Monday 22 October, 9.00am to 11.00am 

Step back in time on this guided tour of the extensive ruins of a grand country mansion built by convict labour in the 1830s. Gaze down over Lake Innes as you listen to the stories about life on a colonial estate. Major Archibald Clunes Innes and his wife Margaret Macleay created a vast pastoral empire. Major Innes was known for his extravagant lifestyle and lavish parties, but his good fortune was short lived. 

[Image: The Lake Innes Estate, courtesy of National Museum of Australia]

Post Conference WorkshopPost-Conference Workshop: Researching and Commemorating the Spanish Flu – Monday 22 October, 10am to 12:30pm at Port Macquarie Library ($20) Dr Peter Hobbins, RAHS Councillor 

The pneumonic influenza or 'Spanish flu' pandemic that circled the world in 1918–19 left few communities untouched. In this practical workshop, we review the bigger picture of the pandemic before considering how its impact might be commemorated locally. Participants will explore the value of local sites and collections in uncovering the flu's personal, social and enduring effects. We will then turn to practical outcomes: how might you transform your research into stories relevant to your community? From monuments and walking tours to websites and booklets, use this workshop to map out practical projects for the centenary year of 2019.

[Image: All three girls were typists. All wearing masks during influenza pandemic - Botanical Gardens, Sydney, NSW, courtesy of State Library of New South Wales]


For information related to transport and travel methods, please visit Port Macquarie Info.

Port Macquarie is positioned on the New South Wales Mid North Coast, just off the Pacific Highway. Recent upgrades  to the highway now make it an easy 4 hour drive from Sydney’s northern suburbs, and less than 3 hours from Newcastle. From western NSW, the Oxley Highway provides access from the New England Highway, Armidale and Tamworth in less than 4 hours.

For conference attendees travelling by car, the Westport Club has ample parking available on site.

NSW TrainLink service from Sydney to Wauchope, with a bus or coach (bookings required) travelling to Port Macquarie. For more information, visit TransportNSW or NSWTrainLink.

Port Macquarie is approximately one hour flying time from Sydney or Brisbane. QantasLink and Virgin Australia provide daily flights between Sydney and Port Macquarie.


The Waters Edge Port Macquarie are offering the following rates for delegates:

  • Bed and breakfast for Deluxe King Room – $145 single
  • Bed and breakfast for Deluxe Twin Room – $160 twin share

Please note: Delegates need to quote 'History House' to receive this rate. Both these options include a hot buffet breakfast in the Deluxe Room.

Port Macquarie Info provides a variety of accommodation options, as do websites such as:,, and

Please note: The RAHS makes no specific recommendations and conference attendees are responsible for making accommodation bookings to meet personal requirements.

In addition to the selection of sources listed below, other useful resources on Port Macquarie's history include:

[The citations for the sources featured above are available to view/download.]

Is there someone in your organisation who has made an invaluable contribution to your society and the history sector? Has one of your members made an outstanding contribution to your historical society over the last year? Consider nominating them for the RAHS Certificate of Achievement award. Certificates of Achievement are presented annually at the RAHS Conference and provide recognition to those members of societies whose contribution is significant and noteworthy.

Nominations must be in writing showing comprehensive evidence of achievement and/or the extent and quality of service and/or significant benefaction. Candidates for the award must be nominated at a general meeting of their society and signed by the presiding President and Secretary (or other appropriate person). Your nomination should comprise a letter and supporting information (there is no nomination form to be completed). For questions or to make a nomination, email

More Information
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