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Wollongong City Council

Recognising the importance of documenting local history

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Image: Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM with winner Michael Samaras

A research paper detailing how local man Michael Samaras uncovered previously unknown information about the past of Bob Sredersas has won the Friends of Wollongong City Libraries’ Local History Prize for 2022.

Mr Samaras was presented with his certificate and $5,000 in prize money at a special ceremony held at Wollongong City Library this evening.

In presenting the award, Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM acknowledged the significant amount of work that had gone into the 39-page report, which along with all 13 entries to the 2022 Local History Prize, will be added to the Library’s local studies collection.

“In reading this report, it is clear the lengths that Mr Samaras has gone to in preparing this detailed account of his research into Mr Sredersas’ life. I applaud him for documenting the work that he had done which has challenged us all to reconsider what we knew about the man who donated many works to the people of Wollongong that went on to support the opening of our city gallery,’’ Cr Bradbery said.

Earlier this year, Wollongong City Council removed a name plaque from Wollongong Art Gallery following confirmation that Bob Sredersas was a Nazi Collaborator. Sredersas had donated more than 100 pieces of art to the city in the late 1970s, and this step supported the establishment of the Wollongong Art Gallery.

See media release: Wollongong Art Gallery removes Sredersas plaque

At Council’s request an independent investigation was undertaken by Sydney Jewish Museum’s Resident Historian Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet. This investigation by Prof Kwiet was prompted by initial research and questions from Mr Samaras.

“Reflecting on history can sometimes ask us to reassess our understanding of an individual, a set of circumstances and how we view the past. As a community we’ve had to explore some challenging ideas this year and I feel that we’ve a deeper understanding of how the past can impact the present as a result of this process,’’ Cr Bradbery said.

“This year’s prize has been awarded to an individual who felt there was an important story to explore about an individual whose past was largely unknown until earlier this year.

“Mr Samaras’ research paper will sit alongside Professor Kwiet’s comprehensive report in our local studies collection and our community’s knowledge will be richer for being able to assess both documents.’’

The papers are available for community members to read, and Council continues to work with the Jewish Museum in Sydney on community-focussed talks as part of our commitment to support ongoing conversations about the Jewish experience.

The free talks will be held at Wollongong Art Gallery in the new year and, as the details are finalised, we’ll keep our community informed about details of how to reserve your spot.

All up, there were 13 entrants into this year’s Local History Prize. The competition has been held annually since 2016, and past winners’ have presented papers on Wollongong Goal 1859-1915, Railways and the environment in Illawarra, 1870s-1915, and a profile of George Ricket: of Helensburgh, master builder.