Since 1954-13 April 2000 the old Queen of Poland Convent stood providing shelter to seventy-one Sisters of Nazareth and the Children's Home to scores of Polish orphans, and later, in the 1970's and 1980's to children of different nationalities who called it "home".
In 1988, the Children's Home building became a Renewal Centre for spiritual development and Before and After School Care Centre for Children. The top floor of the building became known in 1988 as Holy Family Convent. Seventeen sisters lived in Holy Family Convent until 4th May, 2012 when the last two sisters moved to Castle Hill and the convent was officially closed. The Before and After School Care on the bottom floor of the building, moved out in December 2011. Both buildings were uninhabitable because of safety reasons. It was decided that they needed to be levelled to use the spots on which they stood possibly for a different purpose.
These old buildings have a great significance for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth because they are so interconnected with the life of the sisters since their arrival from America and Poland to begin the Australian mission. Furthermore, they were bases of ministry of the sisters in Marayong to the Polish and Australian communities. In writing this diary, I wished to pay tribute to God and the sisters who served and still serve Him on this site. It is also my desire to preserve in word and photos the memory of these buildings; to evoke reminescence of the past; as well as, portay for those who may be reading this for the first time, an insight into our past and hope for the future. . "For everything there is a season, a time to build, and a time to tear down".
This is a diary in pictures and in word of the process.
4 June, 2012
A huge truck drove up to the old buildings. It was loaded with fencing and latches. The crew took the fencing off the truck and surrounded the old buildings. By the end of the day a fence was erected around both buildings declaring the enclosed area "worksite".
6 June, 2012
Early this morning the electricians came to shut off the electricity. They also pulled out the metres. Another group of workmen came to erect the scaffolding. They are not finished with that job yet. The workmen have taken off the fencing between the old convent and the Children’s Centre.
23 June, 2012
Nothing much has happened to the old buildings until today. Workmen came to remove things inside the old convent and the children’s home. They threw pieces of timber, mattresses, old beds and carpets on the grassed spaces around the front and between the houses. Donned in their special suits and safety apparatus, they dampened with a hose the asbestos so that the fibres would not scatter in the air. As pieces of asbestos were torn up, they were placed in heavy black plastic, wrapped up into taped packages. Workers moved the packages outside and stacked them in piles as well.The glass panes from the windows have also been removed. This took a few days to accomplish. The Sisters were told to avoid going too close to the buildings for health and safety reasons.
29 June, 2012
Workmen in green flack jackets and orange harnesses began working on dismantling the roof.Pieces of timber toppled from the roof as they tore them down. The foreman said that they hoped to finish taking the convent roof apart today and they would start on the other building when they finished it.
The bricks and the Oregon wooden beams, and other pieces of timber will be recycled. The bricks and concrete will be crushed to make aggregate which can be used for roads. The timber will be tuned into woodchips or possibly furniture. When the excavator comes, with its huge claw, it will tear down the walls between the concrete beams. The “junk” around the building will be hoisted up by the claw and dumped into trucks to be carried away. The men began tearing up the roof of the Children’s Centre this morning.
3 July, 2012
More of the roof beams are on the ground. The pile is getting to be as tall as the building itself. The men are also hollowing out the rooms. It was decided that the demolition of the inside needs to be done by hand in order to avoid big plumes of asbestos dust contaminating the air.
5 July, 2012
The roof is totally gone. Around their lunch time, about 1:00 pm, a pickup truck parked within the fencing of the worksite by the old convent. One worker began loading the back of the truck with the shorter pieces of wood that was piled up in front of the convent. Later this afternoon, another truck was parked between the two buildings. Men were loading the planks of wood from the roof onto that truck. It was amazing how neatly they stacked the wood on the truck so as to get as much wood as possible loaded onto the vehicle. They are truly going to recycle as much as possible from the old buildings. It was too cloudy to take good pictures of this.
9 July, 2012
The huge yellow Clariton Excavator came today. It is a gigantic machine with a single claw that grabs the debris and can knock down parts of the building. The Excavator knocked down the Children’s Centre first. The process began at daybreak despite a foggy midst that covered the property. Standing on the side of for the worksite was a long blue truck that the excavator filled with debris: wooden planks, glass frames beams that were thrown down from lifting off the roof. Then the excavator started demolishing the walls. By 11:00 am, three fourths of the old building had been bulldozed. Only the far right quarter on which the sign “Children’s Centre and its telephone number” still stands.
It is mezmerizing to watch the crane lift a three ton beam as though it were a matchstick! There is a pile for everything: Concrete, aluminium, asbestos, although wiring, wood and glass are on one pile. The claw just scoops the debris up from the pile and dumps it into a waiting dump truck that is as long as two houses standing together.
10 July, 2012
This morning men cut branches of the tree that sheltered the covering of the front steps. Their purpose was to make a clearing so that the workman could saw through the concrete and separate the stone wall that contains the historic cornerstone of the two buildings. It took several hours to do because the saw was going through solid concrete. Only the shell of two floors behind the front steps of the convent still stand. The rest of the building is torn town. The demolishment of the Children’s Centre is completed too. The section of that house: the outside steps and its roofing, and the two floors attached to this section that stood this morning, is now totally demolished. In its place are piles of bricks, concrete slabs and other debris. All day long, from early morning the excavator piled trucks high with bricks, concrete, wires, pipes, wood, and glass to be taken for recycling. At 4:30 all of the workmen packed up and went home. The worksite is quiet. No doubt they were pleased with their accomplishment today.
11 July, 2012
The last section of the old convent was knocked down by the excavator. The claw picked up the rubble and dumped it into trucks. The site has piles of bricks, concrete beams, splintered shafts of wood, wiring and glass chards.
12 July, 2012
The excavator has been replaced by a huge yellow machine that sounds a gigantic jack-hammer. Its operator guides it to drill through a break up concrete and bricks into manageable chunks to throw into the block long dump trucks that come periodically to collect the remains of the demolished buildings. The worksite echoes periodically with the "rat-ta-tat-tat" of the huge drill boring through a slab or beam. It makes quick work of whatever it is in its path. It is currently trying to break up the foundations of the two buildings. This is difficult because the foundations were dug fairly deep into the ground. By nightfall, huge slabs of the foundation joined the piles that are in the site.
14 July, 2012
Throughout the day two cranes have been on the worksite moving the rubble into neat piles and filling trucks to take loads to recycling. The men start working very early in the morning and we can already see activity on the way to Church to Mass. While in church, rumbles, sliding rocks, banging and swishing can be heard as the rubble is dumped into the back of the waiting truck. Usually a worker stands in the truck directing where the crane’s load should be placed. One interesting sight was when both cranes worked in tandem to dump a load into the truck. After releasing the load, both claws hung down on the sides of the truck. They reminded me of a lonesome puppy sitting at an open window looking out for his master to come home. It was amazing that by the end of the day, neat piles of concrete and bits of bricks dotted the worksite for the weekend. oday the worksite activity is pretty much the same.
16-18 July, 2012
Today the worksite activity is pretty much the same. There are more trucks lined up and ready to be filled before they drive off. Each day the site is cleared of more rubble. The ground looks like a plowed field ready to be planted-with what?
26 July, 2012
Another truck and machine came today. Workers straightened out the concrete boarder and to remove the broken chunks of concrete. After they left, the site stands quiet and open. People, like myself, who have been watching this process stare in amazement as to how fast the men accomplished their tasks. We wonder, “What will the new chapter of history build?"