Oral history project is complete

October 23, 2021 BY

The club’s interviewers. Front: Margaret Campbell, Pearl Macmillan, Judy Greer and Coral Barker. Rear: Rod Greer, Heather Wilson, Noel Emselle and Rod Bush. Photo: SUPPLIED

THE Rotary Club of Ocean Grove has finished its oral history project to record the memories of long-term residents of the lower Bellarine Peninsula.

The project began during the COVID lockdown in 2020, and the club released the first seven interviews in January.

Club members have been continuing to interview people who lived or holidayed in the area between the 1940s and 1970s, and some memories are from even earlier times.

There are now 18 interviews, which can be viewed on the club’s website, and more will be added as they become available.

Video and audio versions of each interview are available, and there have been almost 500 views of these interviews so far.

“This project has made an important contribution to recording the history of the lower Bellarine area from the point of view of the local residents,” project leader Ann Hodgkinson said.

“I thank all the narrators and Rotarians who gave their time to make it happen.”

The project aims to bring the histories of the towns of the lower Bellarine alive for newer residents of the area to give them a greater understanding of their new home.

The narrators describe the physical environment, social life and facilities in these towns when the populations were much smaller than today. They describe the arrival of post-war immigrants, their school days, and the development of community infrastructure such as surf lifesaving, the fire brigades, and the maternal health centre.

They also discuss the social activities of the times, when the local cinemas, card playing, dancing, fishing and rabbit shooting were the main activities.

There are now five interviews describing early Queenscliff, covering different aspects of the development of the historic town.

Queenscliff had been a strategic location during World War II but had languished in the post-war period as a small fishing village, the grandeur of its 1880s heyday as a major tourist destination almost forgotten.

Narrators recount their memories of this period contrasting it with the present day, when tourism is again a major part of the local economy.

The new interviews include the first from Wallington, which discusses the area’s development as a farming area specialising in potatoes and fruit orchards.

There are several new interviews from Ocean Grove, one of which traces its development from the earliest European occupation in the 1860s by Tom Blackwell.

Descendants of this family have lived in the area ever since.

There are also two new interviews from Barwon Heads. One includes memories of its early fishing community.

To see and listen to the interviews, head to the Rotary Club of Ocean Grove’s website.

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