AUSTRALIA Day honoree Fiona Bush recalls the moment a school trip sparked an interest in archaeology and led to a lifetime of community service in heritage preservation.
“I was standing at a historical site in Khartoum and like a typical kid was getting bored listening, when I kicked the sand and came across a bullet,” she said.
“I reached down to pick it up and from then on, history became a favourite subject and I became an archaeologist.”
Awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, Dr Bush was among the 727 recipients recognised today in this year’s Australia Day Honours List for contributions to fellow citizens in Australia and internationally.
Her roll of service extends beyond 30 years of volunteering at national, state and local level, close to home as treasurer of the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society, of which she was president for 10 years, and curator of the Pension Guard Museum in nearby Bassendean.
She moved from Sydney to Perth with her husband in 1984 and set up home in Parkerville soon after discovering the beauty of the Hills.
Having studied building conservation at Sydney University, her interest in heritage flourished in WA and she joined the National Trust of Australia (WA) and became chair of the archaeological committee.
She studied for a doctorate at Curtin University and joined the Royal Western Australian Historical Society.
Other service highlights include membership of the Heritage Council of WA, the Australasian Society of Historical Archaeology, Museums Australia and as a guest lecturer at Curtin University.
“The National Trust pre-dated the start of the heritage office and I joined because I was looking to learn more about the old buildings of WA,” she said.
Dr Bush is keen to see a new generation of younger people interested in history help bring heritage societies into the digital world and she is keen to work with schools.
“I think people have a perception that historical societies are about old people fiddling with documents, but that’s not the case today,” she said.
Mundaring and Hills Historical Society volunteers revamped the display space they share inside Mundaring Visitor Centre in July to present an historical collection of sewing machines for the Machines and Makers exhibition, talks and workshops at Mundaring Arts Centre.
“We had no way of anticipating the level of interest in the history of sewing machines and the event attracted record crowds,” she said.
The current display A Place to Stay reveals a history of the Hills as an early holiday destination and comes with a new accommodation guide for the region.
To learn more about the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society, visit the group’s Facebook page.