If you’re in Sydney and a history buff, I suggest visiting the Hyde Park Barracks just in front of Hyde Park. Built by convicts in 1819, more than 50,000 convicts had left their traces in this historical landmark until 1848. For several years, it served as an immigrant hotel, asylum for destitute women, and government offices. It is now a museum for those who want to explore the interesting and mysterious stories beneath the barracks’ walls.
The Hyde Park Barracks is one of the 11 Australian convict sites collectively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are the best surviving examples of European imperialism when convicts were utilized for building structures throughout the empire and providing presence in the occupied lands. The convicts who arrived in Australia during the British colonial expansion thrived and formed a vibrant society in Sydney.
The museum has a well-organized and self-guided tour. We were each handed an audio guide so we can explore the building at our own phase. We saw the architectural transformation of the building throughout the years, the personal things left behind by those who lived and served at the barracks, the everyday life of the convicts and even how Australian aborigines comfortably interacted with them.
It is admirable how Australia preserved this part of their history even though it was a taboo before to talk about the fact that the modern Australian society was founded by a group of overseas convicts. The bleak past of this nation has been pardoned similar to how some convicts gained their freedom and started life anew.
Each country has a bitter history of colonization, slavery, racial discrimination and war. Domestic and international efforts to erase the consequences of this past and replace it with values of equality and freedom are worth commending. It is always acceptable to look back to the past but as we all know, let’s use it as lessons learned for a better future. It is not what happened that dictates what will happen after all. At present, we are the ones maneuvering our ways forward.
Hyde Park Barracks Museum opens daily from 10am-5pm except Good Friday and Christmas. Admission price is A$10 for adults and A$5 for children and those eligible for concession (e.g. full-time students and senior citizens). A family is A$20. Make sure you bring your necessary ID.