'Having a voice' exhibition

This year Govinda Valley Retreat took part in the national Australian Heritage Festival. More than 1000 events are being presented from April 18 to May 21 throughout the country for the annual festival, which celebrates Australia’s historic, natural, indigenous and multicultural heritage.

Govinda Valley Retreat Centre, was hosting the free exhibition from Tuesday, April 18 to Thursday, April 20 from 11am to 3pm each day.

Just before the exhibition Andre Melis, director of Govinda Valley said the property’s “long and interesting history” would be of historical and cultural interest for Illawarra residents. 

“It has a very strong association with religious and spiritual activity, and from the Aboriginal Elders we’ve been talking to, this particular area, the Otford Valley, has a strong connection with women and children and especially with healing and nurturing,” he said. 

“It seems to have a strong tradition, a spiritual tradition for the Aboriginal people and it seems that characteristic has worked its way right through the various generations of ownership.”

The exhibition had timeline of the 20-acre property, starting with the Dharawal and Wadi Wadi people. Otford Village was formed from a railway construction, before the 20-acre dairy farm was sold to the Methodist Church ‘Crusaders’, who used the property as a camp site for 50 years. The first camp was held over Easter in 1939.

Two documentaries, Croker Island Exodus and Someone Cares, were presented, chronicling the journey and lives of 95 Aboriginal children from the Stolen Generation, and their carers, from Croker Island in the Arafura Sea to the Methodist camp in Otford.

Missionary Margaret Somerville led the 1942 exodus of children from Croker Island, evacuating them from an orphanage to avoid Japanese bombing. 

“They were located here for a couple of years… There was quite a bit of national publicity about it at the time,” Mr Melis said. 

The Otford Conference Centre was built in 1962, and the property sold in 2004.

If you would still be interested to read or see more please contact Wendy on 0412 614 684 or by email.

Written by: Brendan Crabb