'We're not doing justice to our history': Call to increase knowledge of Bega Valley's heritage

Tathra Wharf, pictured in 1968.
Tathra Wharf, pictured in 1968.

The Bega Valley is filled with historical sites of major, perhaps national significance, but many of the stories behind them are, reportedly, not widely known.

"We're really not doing justice to our history and heritage down here," South Coast History Society president Peter Lacey said.

"It is so widespread, so diverse and so interesting."

Mr Lacey said there is no historic place anywhere in the Bega Valley, or even the entire NSW South Coast, included on the National Heritage List.

This is the list of natural, historic and Indigenous Australian places of outstanding significance to the nation and includes the likes of the Brewarrina Fish Traps, Bondi Beach and the Australian War Memorial.

Milking the herd on the Kameruka Estate, circa 1908.

Milking the herd on the Kameruka Estate, circa 1908.

Mr Lacey said some of the local sites that should be added include Tathra Wharf, because as the last remaining open-sea timber wharf on the east coast "it deserves as much recognition as the Sydney Harbour Bridge".

Baronda house in Mimosa Rocks National Park should be included as well, he said, because "in the history of architecture in Australia it has a very important place".

He said other sites that quickly came to mind also included Mumbulla Mountain, the Bundian Way, Boyd Town, Boyd's Tower and Kameruka Estate.

Mr Lacey said if the Bega Valley had sites included on the National Heritage List it would show the community acknowledged the importance of its heritage and he believed tourist packages could be developed focusing on local history to attract more visitors to the region.

But there was also action that could be taken on a more local level, as Mr Lacey said in the Bega township there was "not a single sign that explains what any of the interesting buildings are".

Mr Lacey said Bega Valley Shire Council could task its heritage advisor to list places within the shire that should be considered for addition to the National Heritage List as well as compile submissions to support their addition to the list.

"South Coast History Society and, I am sure, other local history societies would be only too happy to provide him with necessary information and support," he said.

"Many of our outstanding local heritage sites deserve to be on this list and then be eligible for the substantial funding that is available to help preserve them."

Boyd's Tower. Credit: Brian Gunter

Boyd's Tower. Credit: Brian Gunter

Bega's little-known labor settlement 

One of the little-known stories from the Bega Valley is documented in the South Coast History Society's latest edition of its history magazine Recollections, and was the Bega Labour Settlement .

Mr Lacey said the settlement was set up in the 1890s at Springvale and was a "socialist experiment" to address unemployment.

Peter Lacey

Peter Lacey

The state government transported families mainly from Newtown, Sydney to the region and gave them about 25acres of land each, then the families were supposed to work most of the week for their community and also have their own plot to grow vegetables for their households in their own time.

But Mr Lacey said it was a "total disaster", as the people from the city were not generally suited to becoming farmers, the farms were too small and they were not particularly welcomed by the local community.

He said this settlement was followed by a similar idea after World War 1 called the Soldier Settlement Scheme, but this more recent scheme did not learn from the mistakes of the Bega one as after returned soldiers were given farms in poor locations most of these farms also failed.

This story 'We're not doing justice to our history': Call to increase knowledge of Bega Valley's heritage first appeared on Bega District News.

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