If you are interested in hearing more about Callan Park or the NSS Vernon and Sobraon, please get in contact to book a presentation for your local historical society or club.


History Now: Creative Non-fiction for Children

State Library NSW

5-6 pm Wednesday 1 November, 2023

Join historians Sarah Luke and Professor Paul Ashton in conversation with TBA.

More information, including how to book, coming soon.



Archive of Past Events

Sarah Luke in conversation with Roslyn Burge

Berkelouw’s Leichhardt

6pm, Friday 5 October 2018

Please RSVP by 1 October 2018 by emailing Australian Scholarly Publishing:

Join Roslyn Burge (Friends of Callan Park) as she chats with Sarah Luke about her newly-published book, Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane at Berkelouw’s at Leichhardt.

Friends of Callan Park meeting: presentation by Sarah Luke

Writing NSW (Garryowen House, Callan Park)

6.30pm, Monday 8 October 2018

No RSVP necessary

Sarah Luke’s Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane has been published to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the official opening of Garryowen House as the Callan Park Lunatic Asylum. On the evening of Monday 8th October at the Friends of Callan Park meeting at Writing NSW, she will be speaking about the early patients and staff of the Callan Park Hospital. Come along to hear about the history of the early madhouse, and the process of piecing its unique story together using the patients’ original medical files.

History Talk: Sarah Luke

Leichhardt Library

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Book via Eventbrite

To celebrate the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Callan Park Lunatic Asylum, Sarah Luke has published Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane (Australian Scholarly Publishing).

Sarah’s book explores the early history of the old Callan Park Lunatic Asylum, using Victorian-era medical files to explore the lives of its patients and staff. Discover the workings of the madhouse ­– from the tiny mansion originally used to house Sydney’s insane – to the magnum opus asylum that was the Kirkbride Complex.

Sarah will present a lecture at Leichhardt Library exploring the lives of the first patients of Callan Park.

Blue Mountains Historical Society Presentation

Hobby’s Reach Research Centre, Wentworth Falls

Saturday 6 July 2019

For bookings, see the BMHS website

Come along to hear about the daily life of staff and patients at Callan Park Hospital for the Insane in the 1870s and 1880s.

HSC Extension History Workshop

Roseville College

September 2019

Private event. If you are interested in booking a similar presentation at your school please get in touch.

Society of Women Writers

State Library of New South Wales

Wednesday 13 November 2019

For bookings see the SWW website

“Noticing the tiny birdcage in the far corner of the photograph: the joy of integrating archival sources into fiction and non-fiction”

In this workshop Sarah will take participants through her process of piecing together the daily routine and lives of the mentally-ill patients of Callan Park and the staff who cared for them. Some archival sources from the 1800s will be provided for a writing workshop focusing on developing observational skills.

2020 NSW History Week – Seminar: Callan Park’s History – What is it Good for? (Friends of Callan Park)

Date and Time: Sunday 13 September, 2:30pm to 4:40pm

Presenters: Dr Stephen Gapps and Sarah Luke

Online: see access information here

Remembering those who dwell in the margins: Callan Park and the ‘Vernon Boys’

Sarah will explore the relationship between Callan Park and the Nautical School Ships, Vernon and Sobraon, moored permanently at Cockatoo Island between 1867 and 1911 for the reception of homeless and often criminal boys. Both institutions were home to marginalised groups in society. Today they are generally regarded as ‘awkward’ moments in the history of NSW; they are misunderstood and, in some cases, have been deliberately forgotten or distorted. Sarah will trace the stories of a patient at Callan Park and his son, one of the Vernon boys, both members of a colourful Colonial family – and consider the benefits of knowing the past at these two significant sites.

Online Book Launch for Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark with Gleebooks 

Date and time: Friday 4 December 2020, 6.30 pm

Cost: Free! Book here

TEDxYouth Presentation

Date and time: Friday 26 March, 2021

Location: Abbotsleigh School (private event)

Website: click here

Harbour Trust ‘Trust Talks’

Date and time: Wednesday 14 April 2021, 1 pm until 2 pm

Location: ‘Success Room’, Cockatoo Island and streamed live online (see details here)

Cost: free but registration is required

Description: Sarah Luke will discuss her research into the Nautical School Ships Vernon and Sobraon which were moored at Cockatoo Island for several decades from the 1870s onwards. Fitted up for the reception of neglected and delinquent boys, these ships were New South Wales’ first Public Industrial Schools. With a wholesome curriculum of academic work, trade-training and sport, they sought to rescue the rising criminal generations from further degradation. Sarah will explore the daily workings of the ships, along with some of their most interesting alumni.

Writing Discussion Group of the Society of Australian Genealogists

Date and time: Thursday 8 July 2021, 10.30 am

Details here

Sarah Luke’s first non-fiction book Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane was shortlisted for the 2019 Premier’s History Award and her second book, Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark, was published in October 2020. During this workshop Sarah will explain her writing method and the publishing process, shedding light on her archival research for both the lunatic asylum at Callan Park and the Nautical School Ships Vernon and Sobraon.

History Now: State Institutions

State Library NSW

5-6pm Wednesday 5 October, 2022

Free but bookings essential here.

Join historians Sarah Luke (Macquarie University) and Professor Paul Ashton (University of Technology Sydney) in conversation with Dr Jacqueline Wilson (Australian Catholic University).

Sarah Luke (Macquarie University): What happens when memories fade and urban myths flood the halls of old sandstone institutions? Sarah Luke will consider how historical context can help us navigate the original intentions of institutional welfare sites, like Callan Park in Rozelle, even when misunderstandings and assumptions speak the loudest. Sarah Luke is a teacher and author. Her first book, Callan Park, Hospital for the Insane (2018), was shortlisted for the 2019 NSW Premier’s History Awards. Her second book, Like a Wicked Noah’s Ark: The Nautical School Ships Vernon & Sobraon was published in 2020. She is currently a PhD student researching the life of Dr Frederic Norton Manning, NSW’s first Inspector General of the Insane.

Professor Paul Ashton (University of Technology Sydney): The Parramatta Female Factory Precinct is one of the most powerful places in Australia. It can tell us much about Australian history and society and transnational connections to other parts of the world. It can tell us about the development of many things including the welfare state, the evolution of silent systems of institutionalisation, medical history, the heritage industry and urban politics. But who has the authority to interpret and present it? Paul Ashton is adjunct at and co-founder of the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. His publications include What is Public History Globally? (Bloomsbury) and Once Upon a Time: Australian Writers on Using the Past. He is a Board member of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct Association.