Otford's historical stories to be told at Govinda Valley's ‘Having a Voice' exhibition

The event will take place as part of the national Australian Heritage Festival. 

More than 1000 events will be 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, located at 51 Lady Carrington Road, will be hosting the free exhibition from Tuesday, April 18 to Thursday, April 20 from 11am to 3pm each day.

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 will include a timeline of the 20-acre property, starting with the Dharawal and Wadi Wadi people.

It will showcase how 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.

The timeline of the property will include archival materials from the Uniting Church such as the book, A Quiet Place, which celebrated 67 years of Christian service.

Two documentaries, Croker Island Exodus and Someone Cares, will be available to view, 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.