Tulgeen Disability Services is celebrating its 40th birthday in August 2015, that’s forty years as a community service in the Bega Valley. Tulgeen is a prime example of how a few people with a commitment to human rights and equity can make a big difference to many individual’s lives.
Back in 1975, Bob Westmacott had a vision which resulted in 14 people voting Bernie Umback as President and Bob as Secretary of what was initially called the ‘Far South Coast Handicapped Children’s Association. This name changed in November 1978 to Tulgeen Industries.
In 1985-86, with the release of the Richmond Report, and support from many like-minded individuals, Bob’s vision broadened and resulted in resident’s moving from a large Institution in Goulburn NSW to live in the Bega Valley.
Hazelton House on Riverside Farm just outside Candelo was the initial home for unique characters like Hugh Lidden, Bertie Nelson, Charlie Roach, Pauline Pendergast, and Charlie Fisk to mention just a few. Bill and Carole Broadhead played a major role in facilitating their move from the confines of institutional life to living in the community.
In 1989, Riverside Farm was sold and the two business’ a Nursery and Workcrew re-located to Riverside Nursery in Taronga Crescent on the southern edge of Bega. At the same time the residents of the farm also moved to live in Bega.
Tulgeen’s past Chair of the Board of Directors, Gae Rheinberger is passionate about capturing and recording Tulgeen’s journey. From its earliest beginnings in 1977, as a day service for locals in the Scout Hall in Bega run by one paid staff member and volunteers, Tulgeen has grown into an organisation providing services to many clients within the Valley and employing 83 staff, and 31 supported employees.
To ensure Tulgeen’s history is not lost, Gae has initiated the “Tulgeen History Project’ and Gae would like to invite anyone who has a story to tell to contact her at gae.rheinberger(at)tulgeen.com.au
Who better to give a snapshot of the early days of Tulgeen than Hugh Lidden who continues to live in Bega and work at Riverside Nursery.
In 1984, Hugh Lidden left Kenmore in Goulburn, where he had been for about 10 years, to move to the Bega Valley. Bill and Carole Broadhead had been talking with the bosses at Kenmore about Hugh moving to live at a farm in the Candelo area later named Riverside Farm. The parcel of land making up the farm had been donated by Peter Collins, Hugh’s cousin, who farmed acreage in the area.
When Hugh first moved from Goulbourn he spent some time staying with Bill and Carol while the farm was being set up. Bill and Carol were successful in gaining Government funding and a group of people with disabilities moved onto the farm. Some of the people were from the local area, some were from Kenmore. There was Charlie Roach, Charlie Fisk and Pauline from Kenmore and Lizzy from Young, and Susan, Michelle and Jim from the local area. Jim, Michelle and Susan would spend their day at Riverside and return home at night. Hugh and the others lived at Riverside Farm. Some of the staff that worked at Riverside Farm in those early days were Donna and Shane Cummings, Merv and Jan, Big John, Robyn, Francine, John Simpson and Max Williams. As well as helping to run the farm, the staff supported Hugh and his housemates with going to Bega to do grocery and personal shopping
On the farm they raised poddy cows, milking cows and goats, and grew a huge array of vegetables like onions, watermelons, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuces and cauliflowers. Merv was a butcher and he used to prepare meat for Hugh and his housemates to eat, and excess vegetables were sold at the Candelo Markets. The farm had two paddocks growing vegetables year round. Hugh and Big John used to drive the tractor. It was a pretty ‘crappy’ tractor and everyone was very pleased when the Government gave the farm a loan to buy a new tractor. Hugh liked the new tractor. He really liked Big John and working with him. Big John used to sleep in a caravan at the farm. He died from cancer.
The goats didn’t stay very long they were ‘running amuck’, and Merv didn’t like them because they were a nuisance. Merv wanted to get more cows. The milking cows were good and Hugh liked drinking the fresh milk.
Hugh also worked for the Bega Valley Workcrew which also used Riverside Farm as their base. The work they did was slashing grasslands, rotary-hoeing paddocks, pulling down and putting up fences, and taking the old fences to the tip.
Later when Riverside Farm was sold and everyone moved into Bega, Hugh lived in Ravenswood Street. The Workcrew was located on the site of Hayes Haulage, until Riverside Nursery off the Tathra Road at Taronga Crescent was established. The Council gave Tulgeen the land for the Nursery and when it opened the Workcrew was relocated to work from the Riverside Nursery.
One of the highlights Hugh talked about was going for holidays to Young, to dances and sports carnivals. Hugh won a medal which he is very proud of and still has today. One time on the way back from Young the ‘bus blew up’ at Canberra and they had to leave the bus in Canberra. It was very funny but it cost a ‘bloody fortune’ to fix the bus. The staff forgot to put oil in it.
Another highlight was the Deb Ball, Hugh’s partner was Susan and it was held at the RSL Club. Everyone got dressed-up. Carrie Ann ‘did it’ and Carol Broadhead still has a video of the Ball.
At the end of the interview Hugh said “I like Tulgeen it’s a nice place, I don’t mind it, all the staff treat me good. Julie takes me to the places I want to go.”
Hugh is now living on his own in a Housing NSW Unit in Bega and continues to be supported by Tulgeen with ‘drop-in’ support.
From and interview with Hugh Lidden on Thursday, 12 March 2015
Mitch van Reesch, Individual Support Coordinator – Tulgeen Disability Services