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This publication draws from content developed for an event presented by Parramatta Heritage Centre in partnership with Westmead Hospital in August 2019, as part of the Sydney Science Festival for National Science Week.
The event, a talk titled Pandemic in Parramatta, marked the 100th anniversary of the devastating 1919 pneumonic influenza pandemic, which swept the world at end of the First World War. The guest speaker at Pandemic in Parramatta, medical virologist Professor Dominic Dwyer, shared fascinating information relating to the medical aspects of viral pandemics.
The Council Archivist from the City of Parramatta then explored the Civic responses to the 1919 pandemic by Municipal Councils in the Parramatta area, drawing from the historic collections held by the City of Parramatta Council Archives.
Who could have imagined that within six months of the Pandemic in Parramatta event held in 2019 the health professionals, Civic leaders, workers and communities in the Parramatta area would again face the significant challenges of a world-wide viral pandemic.
The second part of this publication draws from an online exhibition, Pandemic in Parramatta: Historical reflections, prepared in August 2020 for National Science Week.
The exhibition, drawn from the historic collections of the City of Parramatta Council, reflected on the eerily similar Civic responses in Parramatta to the two pandemics, one hundred years apart. In 1919, the elected representatives and employees of the Municipal Councils in the Parramatta area worked ceaselessly, often at great personal risk, to deliver a coordinated and compassionate response to the challenges of the pneumonic influenza pandemic.
Local health professionals and the people of Parramatta’s communities responded with extraordinary courage and forbearance. As we find ourselves again rising to the demands of a worldwide viral pandemic, the people of the Parramatta area can draw knowledge, strength and inspiration from the documented local experiences of the 1919 pandemic, and derive from them invaluable insights into how to navigate our challenging present.
Michelle Goodman, Council Archivist, Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre, 2020