In 1783, an orphan girl in Norfolk, England, was sentenced to death for stealing food and cloth. Initially sentenced ‘to be hanged by the neck until she be dead’, she then received a reprieve – she was sent to the penal colony of NSW. After months at sea in appalling conditions (including 72 days in irons and many floggings), Elizabeth Pulley arrived in Botany Bay in January 1788 on board the Prince of Wales. On 19 May, Elizabeth married another First Fleet convict, Anthony Rope, and their first child was born nine months later (said to be the first European male child conceived and born in Australia). They eventually secured a land grant and left such a legacy that the western Sydney suburb of Ropes Crossing is named after them.
Fast forward to 2021, and Elizabeth and Anthony’s great-great-great-granddaughter Meagan Evans is a vital member of Sydney Living Museums’ Development & Fundraising Team, helping to shine a light on the significance of our 12 properties and their diverse collections and stories.
Meagan says: ‘I’m proud to be a direct descendant of convicts who made the treacherous journey in 1788 to Sydney Cove. My ancestors faced numerous challenges, including droughts and devastating floods, and created a dynasty through sheer grit and determination. I like to think that perhaps I’ve inherited some of that “can-do” attitude. My role at SLM allows me to combine my passion for colonial history with my love of fundraising, as part of a proactive team who are ensuring that SLM sites, collections and stories will live on for future generations to study and enjoy’.
Meagan grew up in Orange in the Central West region of NSW as one of three sisters: ‘My dad was ahead of his time when it came to empowering women. He believed that anything was possible as long as you were prepared to “have a go”. My family would describe me as meticulous, slightly bossy (I love to organise) and determined. It was natural for me to gravitate towards event management, where attention to detail and teamwork are essential. I worked in several large hotels in Sydney and Canberra, and seeing the successful outcomes of hard work when different teams pulled together was rewarding. But it was when I transferred my skill set to the secondary education sector that I discovered a passion for fundraising. Over 17 years I worked on many events and campaigns to raise money for bursaries and scholarships. I’ve been fortunate to work with inspiring people, including the Sisters of Mercy North Sydney, who are formidable leaders in human rights and environmental advocacy. They showed me how powerful and effective people can be when they share a passion’.
Meagan says: ‘Fundraising in 2021 has entered an era that no-one could have foreseen; now more than ever we’re being exposed to so much need in our community. Telling your story and finding a connection is crucial. Fundraising for me is all about building relationships and connecting people with the same values and beliefs to your stories’.
SLM values our donors and the difference they make. Our Annual Appeal, held in May and June, is vital to the ongoing conservation of SLM sites. Meagan says: ‘Our donors have enabled some wonderful projects to come to life, most recently the Hyde Park Barracks learning precinct. These accessible, versatile spaces will provide engaging and meaningful educational experiences for more than 30,000 students each year’. The importance of giving can never be underestimated, especially when that gift has such a culturally beneficial purpose.
Meagan says: ‘I strongly believe that the future of SLM properties can be ensured by the generosity of those who see their value now. Just like the staff who work in these amazing places, our donors are driven by passion, and with passion anything is possible. My personal Australian story began more than two centuries ago when two young people were sentenced to exile on these shores and did the best they could to survive and succeed, but I’m part of just one story. Thanks to SLM and our wonderful donors, there are many stories to share’.