Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

History Repeats Itself and We Must Learn

History Repeats Itself and We Must Learn

Jack Pappas

Year 6, Malvern Primary School

In mid-April 2019 the Notre Dame Cathedral, the medieval church that has been standing in

the heart of Paris for more than 850 years, was partially destroyed by fire. It's hard to believe

that this ancient structure survived the French Revolution and two major world conflicts only

to fall prey to something as banal and primitive as an easily avoidable fire.

My Dad, brother, and I were fortunate enough to visit Notre Dame before the fire, and I was

really impressed with the intricate carvings and beautiful artwork. It's sad to see such a

crucial monument get severely damaged. What's also sad is the fact that The French State

didn't take enough precautions to prevent a disaster like that from happening. For example,

media outlets around the world reported cigarette butts were found on site, despite the

evident smoking ban.

It's a timely reminder of how vulnerable precious historical monuments and works of art are.

We must not become complacent about their safety and protection for we will forever lose

the ability to experience history first hand. We must learn and grow from the experience of

Notre Dame and ensure an incident like this does not happen again. As is often said, if we

don't learn from history we will be doomed to repeat it.

Why is it so important to preserve history? It is important because historical structures offer

the world an invaluable education.

For example, preservation and restoration of historical entities plays a key role in creating

world culture. Long-lasting structures teach us about experiences and events that that

happened before we were born, and encourages the admiration for those who lived in

different eras and societies. Cultural and historical sites encourage pride in our past

heritage, making us unique in the world. Old buildings bring personality and a certain charm

to the neighbourhood that people live in.

The Anne Frank House, also known as the Secret Annex, is located in Amsterdam and is

one of the most famous historical preservations in the world. From the outside, it is much like

any ordinary inner-city Dutch dwelling. What sets it apart from the rest is its unique history.

For two years during the Second World War, eight Jewish people, The Frank family, The

Van Pels Family, and Fritz Pfeffer lived in its secret annex. They lived there in secret until

the police found them and took them to various German prison camps. The Secret Annex

represents a dark period of history, and the reason it's so well preserved is to make sure we

learn from the mistakes we've made.

One of the biggest threats to historical preservation is crime. For example, the unlawful

demolition of Melbourne's Corkman Irish Pub in 2016. Built in 1856 during the gold rush era

it was one of the oldest buildings in Carlton. It's almost impossible to believe that someone

would even consider destroying something as historically significant as that. However

someone did. A development company in search of profiting from prime real estate illegally

knocked this heritage listed site down. Even though the company was prosecuted with hefty

fines in 2019 nothing can be done to restore the building. It is gone forever.

Whilst we can look at photos or perhaps read about the history it, but we will never know

what it feels like to sit within its walls or admire its streetscape.

What matters is the statement history repeats itself, and how true it is. We need to preserve

historical sites as a reminder about what has happened in our past so we can learn from

these experiences and do better.


1) According to the Sydney Morning Herald writer Angela Charlton, “Investigators

suspect an electrical short-circuit was the most likely cause of the Notre-

Dame Cathedral fire, according to a French judicial police official”

2) According to Metro.co.uk writer Daniel Mackrell, “The cathedral is currently owned by

the French state, but a 1905 law helped establish that the state would be neutral

when it comes to religion and the public would have freedom to carry out their beliefs.

This meant that the Catholic Church became the designated beneficiary and were

able to use the cathedral exclusively to practise the religion”

3) According to the telegraph writer Henry Samuel, “After picking up seven

cigarette butts at the fire scene, detectives quizzed roof workers for the

construction company whose workers admitted to having violated strict no-

smoking rules”

4) According to balance architecture (Name of writer not included), “The

Corkman Irish Pub was demolished illegally without planning or heritage

approval on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of October, 2016”