Page 2276 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 4 August 2015

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Greenhills Centre

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (5.41): This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Greenhills Centre at Stromlo. It is towards the Cotter and is next door to the Scouts ACT Camp Cottermouth. On 28 March I attended their 50th anniversary celebrations along with federal member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann MP. Greenhills Centre was started by a group of volunteers of the Presbyterian Fellowship Association in 1960. It was the humble beginnings of what became the Greenhills Centre. It started with the grant of 13 acres by the government and the purchase of surplus weatherboard and fibro dormitories, kitchen, bathrooms and laundry for up to 80 people, for which they paid £350. It cost another £1,500 to transport and rebuild these at Greenhills. Members of the community volunteered to connect water and sewerage to the site and grade the ovals. It was then devastating when vandals smashed 120 window panes and poked holes through the fibro ceilings.

At the official opening on 27 March 1965 there were male and female dormitories for 80, a new bathroom block, dining room for 100 people and a new kitchen. This had all cost less than £10,000, or £100 per bed when comparable centres had cost £250 to £400 per bed. It was a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers.

These buildings, with gradual improvements, served the centre until the devastating bush fires of 2003. Later a two-bedroom cottage was built for a manager/cook at a cost of $7,000 borrowed on a 25-year loan from the government. Sir Richard Kingsland, secretary of the department of the interior, formally opened the cottage and was one of a number of senior officers of all departments who took an interest in the centre over the years.

The name “Greenhills” was taken from that of an 1874 homestead, the ruins of which lie on the grounds. The owner of this homestead, Richard Moore, farmed much of the Cotter and Queanbeyan areas, and the original Greenhills had been the centre of district social life, hosting dances, afternoon teas, hare drives and farming meetings. During the construction of the original Cotter Dam, the Moores also ran a post office and store for the workers.

The facility became so popular with camping groups, mostly younger people, that a public appeal for funds was launched and enough money raised to build another two blocks with beds for another 40 people and ensuites for each dorm. Sadly, this was all wiped out by the 2003 fires. The centre was rebuilt in 2006 with 66 beds and a hall with a capacity for 120 people. The Greenhills Centre now offers accommodation, meals and conference facilities for large and small groups. My understanding is that it provides around 20,000 nights of accommodation per year, largely to school groups visiting from interstate.

Greenhills is on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River with beautiful views up the Cotter valley to the Brindabellas. It is situated close to Casuarina Sands, the Cotter Dam, Mount Stromlo Observatory and Stromlo Forest Park and has been used by many young people to explore Canberra from that base.

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