The Tulgeen Story – the first 40 years

Tulgeen in 2015

Our Core Purpose is to:  Create opportunity and choice for people with disability to participate in communities, realise their potential and lead full abundant lives.

Our Vision is to have: Inclusive Communities

Our Core Values are:

  • Excellence
  • Inclusion
  • Innovation
  • Pride
  • Respect

Our Behavioural Values are:

  • Stewardship
  • Understanding
  • Empathy
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Celebration
  • Dedication
  • Collaboration

Dedication and acknowledgement

Without the community members who were passionate about meeting the needs of people with disability, Tulgeen would not have become a reality. The selflessness and willingness to make a difference ensured those who needed support had a band of advocates who raised money, did the work, lobbied those in power and persevered when lesser mortals would have faded. Volunteering to achieve this result takes special people and we gratefully acknowledge their dedication and commitment. This is their story – The History of Tulgeen.

The early years 1975 – 1984

1974 Handicapped Persons Assistance Act (HPAA)

Grosvenor Hospital in Sydney responsible for care of handicapped children; liaised through Mr David Diprose, Inspector for the Department of Education regarding services “when they needed to deal with any problems of the handicapped children in this area. Although the hospital offered assessment and diagnostic services, plus temporary are for handicapped children, it fell short of the district?s handicapped requirements. There was virtually no help for handicapped adults”.

1975:  (August) After “Bob Westmacott wrote to the Grosvenor Hospital asking for names, so that invitations could be sent out” he “called a meeting of people in developing facilities for the handicapped persons in the Bega area. The result was a steering committee to see what could be done in this area. The 14 people present voted Bernie Umback as President and Bob Westmacott as Secretary”.

Bob Westmacott Recollections:

Bob came to Bega in 1975 to establish Community Health and one of the first tasks was to survey the needs of the community; he soon identified the needs of children and adults with disability in the valley and was advised that the Department of Education had no plans at that time to meet the needs of developmentally disabled children.Consequently, Bob called the first public meeting to address that need. Following this meeting, Bob approached David Diprose as the Inspector of Schools to discuss meeting the needs of children as well as adults; Bob was advised not to think about including children and / or young people in his planning.

Community Health Services was first set up in the “Mary Elizabeth” on the corner of Carp and Canning Streets with the first meeting was held there in May 1975. The public meeting held in the Town hall in September established the Handicapped Citizens Association and Bernie Umback was elected as chair and Bob Westmacott secretary.

YIN YANGThe Yin Yang symbol that was used as the Tulgeen symbol in the early years was adapted from Bob’s Marsden Hospital Badge Graduating Class of 1971.

When the group first moved into the Scout Hall a number of repairs were needed before any activities could be conducted e.g. the outlet from the sink was onto the ground under the building and the spare room was full of old junk that need to be removed.

Bob could not recall the names of the first clients of the Sheltered Workshop; some early information was kept in “An Exercise Book” including cuttings from Bega newspapers and were stored in the Community Health Centre. Bob recalled one of the first clients as being Bernie Umback’s daughter, Joy.

Bob recalled that some of the presentation boxes for the medals used at the Russian Olympics in 1980 were not used and were donated to Tulgeen; the boxes were used for lots of activities and items.

In 1980 there was a presentation made to Bob from the clients, staff and board of Tulgeen as “The Father of Tulgeen”; Bob is very proud of that presentation gift.


Bega District News (BDN) Friday 12 September 1975


BDN Tuesday 9 December 1975












1976 Committee adopted the name “Far South Coast Handicapped Children?s Association to encompass aims which now included those of sheltered workshop”.

1977 (23 May) First formal services began in old Scout Hall 26 Eden Street; one day per week as voluntary hours: ironing, car washing and rag-salvage

1978 (August) First paid staff member (Mrs Carole Wangemann) employed – six clients attending two days per week; some funding being received from DCS&H

bill and carole Bill and Carol Broadhead

Name change 28 November to Tulgeen Industries, Bega Sheltered Workshop; “due to Government pressure the name was again changed from Bega Sheltered Workshop to Activity and Therapy Centre (still retaining Tulgeen Industries)”.

Some recollections from Lesley Wood

1976 I have fond memories ;of being in Sydney with Mr Westmacott and Mrs Wangmann seeing government officials re funding for our venture.  Committee adopted the name “Far South Coast Handicapped Children?s Association to encompass aims which now included those of sheltered workshop”.

1977 (23 May) First formal services began in old Scout Hall 26 Eden Street; one day per week as voluntary hours: ironing, car washing and rag-salvage.? The Hall was very neglected and we needed to pull the vine out of the toilet before it was usable.? Organised a plumber before it was operational.

1978 Name change 28 November to Tulgeen Industries, Bega Sheltered Workshop; “due to Government pressure the name was again changed from Bega Sheltered Workshop to Activity and Therapy Centre (still retaining Tulgeen Industries)”. The name Tulgeen is aboriginal for meeting place.

1980 12 Clients supported

1982 Public Dinner held to raise funds for fencing around new site – 45 Eden Street

Letter to council re drainage work

Change of name to Tulgeen Activity and Therapy Centre

Volunteers Day (workshop) to assist in their duties at the Activity Centre

Building Fund commenced; volunteer fund-raising committee – lamington drive; catering business activities

(June) Building commenced and completed April 1983

From A History of Tulgeen compiled by Robyn Hallows, Robert Wood was guarantor for the first loan taken out by Tulgeen

The name Tulgeen was chosen because it’s aboriginal meaning is “Self help ln putting things together”

August 1975: Bob Westmacott wrote letters to the Grosvenor Hosoital and held the first steering committee meeting.

1976 Saw the steering committee adopt the name of “Far South Coast Handicapped Persons Association” to encompass aims that included those of a sheltered workshop.

1976 Tulgeen Group originally started out as “Bega Handicapped Workshop” after a public meeting.

1976 A disused Scout Hall at 26 Eden St Bega was found as a suitable premise, and negotiations with the Scout Commissioner Dr. G Long, a form of agreement was settled. However, it was a further two years before a formal lease was signed; Local Council approved the hall could be used as a sheltered workshop.

23rd May 1977: Workshop opened with volunteer supervision one day per week (9am to 4pm). Jobs included ironing and rag salvage and community contract work, domestic skills were taught during the morning tea and lunch periods

August 1978: Workdays increased to two days a week

1978 September 1978: First paid staff were appointed

28th November 1978: Name change to “Tulgeen Industries, Activity and Therapy Centre

Some further reflections from Lesley Wood

1982 Public Dinner held to raise funds for fencing around new site – 45 Eden Street

Many fundraising functions were held at and for Tulgeen. The members all had a great time as the Tulgeen Group strived to include and integrate members into the local infrastructure.

I acted in many different roles during my involvement with Tulgeen both paid and volunteer.

Whenever I return to Bega I am known, to my friends, as “Lelly”. Trevor Mitchel gave me that name and it has stuck.

The work crew needed a tip truck for collecting and selling firewood so I obtain my truck licence and spent lots of time driving the work crew to and from the bust and farm. Lots of fun for me as my male side came shinning through.

Trainee activities included: Drama classes Wednesday afternoons at Guide Hall; Mask-making; reading and writing training through Community Health Centre.

Fund raising included catering business activities

Bega Special Needs Group (BSNG) equipment now stored at Tulgeen with the group having use of the building from 3.30pm 2 – 3 nights per week. BSNG equipment for use by Tulgeen staff and trainees.

Activities in conjunction with Bega High School

Special Aquatic Olympics team

Work Crew taking on outside lawn mowing and gardening jobs; car washing prices increased to: $4.00 for a wash and $8.00 for wash and polish

Quotes for new building: $125,229.00 to $167,000.00; Koellner’s quote for the $125,229.00 accepted. Opening planned for February 1983

$100,000.00 funding from the Commonwealth Government

Policy developed for Guidelines for discipline for trainees; supervisors given discretion for discipline

Youth and Community Housing subsidies become available so trainees can be housed in own district; Housing Commission assistance also available

1983 From the Manager’s Report on 1982 activities:

Forestry signage

County Council posts painted

Bega Library books stamped, pocketed and covered

Folding accounts for Doherty’s Pharmacy

Printing T-shirts; Christmas Cards

Woodwork activities


TAFE living skills and cookery classes

Volunteers skills surveyed: musicians, teachers, craft workers including sewing and knitting as well as a Pastry Cook

Camping trips organised with trainees

Activities organised in conjunction with new centre: visit to snow, farm, circus animals; swimming lessons and Special Olympics; Bega Show craft entries; drama; Christmas party as well as catering

Social Security $10,000.00 grant for equipment

9th April moved to new premises; Activity Therapy Centre at current S&P; 45 Eden Street;

Daily Activity Program for Tulgeen Activity Centre

Establishment of Women?s Auxiliary

Activity Centre included in Police rounds after neighbour reported trespassers trying to gain access to building late at night.

John Akister (State Member) addressed meeting on Richmond Report

Imlay Toy Library as well as their Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist attend Tulgeen for half a day every second week

Need identified for Tulgeen to provide accommodation as well as the current support services

Adult Literacy Program with TAFE volunteers

Support worker appointed for 25 hours per week

Opening of the new building November 1983 by Don Grimes (details)

don grimes

1983 opening. This building now houses Stitches and Prints.

Some more reflections from Lesley Wood

1983 Need identified for Tulgeen to provide accommodation as well as the current support services. Once we started to organise accommodation in the area we had a lot of parents, guardians willing to move to the district because of the excellent facilities we provided.

Thursday: Visiting Bega with Minister for Social Security; 12.30pm, official opening by Senator Grimes of Tulgeen Activity and Therapy Centre. Eden Street. Bega: 4.30pm. Canberra Times

Monday 21 November 1983.

1984 Enrolment Form developed outlining fees, conditions, “hospital treatment” in emergency to take responsibility off Tulgeen

Gardening program with male trainees increased to include gym program with male supervisor

Following complaints at March AGM by parents about not being kept informed a Newsletter was established to be sent home after each meeting

Suggestion of meeting with parents to be held 3 times per year to discuss changes

Dr Simon Haselton allocated funding to establish a group home with a supervisor in Ravenswood Street

In July the Bega Special Needs Group closed; all equipment donated to Tulgeen for their use as well as other groups with similar objectives

Grooming and personal care program developed with the “girls”

TAFE Outreach for trainees included sewing; Home Economics teacher as well as Literacy Volunteers

“Travel Fund” commenced

Alex Langworthy and Lions Club 1980 to 1991

Mal Gibbons Manager of Bega Times and he provided a lot of publicity

Deb Ball – Celine borrowed Fiona’s deb dress for the ball as well as her wedding. Alex and Ros drove Celine to her wedding and attended as guests. They both recalled this as being the happiest wedding they ever attended.

Lions members became involved in many aspects of Tulgeen; Mal Gibbons and Alex Langworthy both joined as members and were appointed to the board. The Lions members assisted with lobbying, building, project support, fundraising

Ken Miners owned the land where S&P now sits; he reduced the price of the land dramatically so Tulgeen could purchase for the Activity Centre. Ken assisted with earth work; Wal Glass made approaches to Council to assist with planning; Ken Gordon drew up all plans and assisted with gaining DA approval from Council to proceed with the building

Bernie Miller assisted at working bees; Alex worked as works supervisor during construction of the Activity Centre.

Alex recalls Carole and Bill as being entrepreneurial; always looks for new ways to raise funds, give employment to the clients.

Local parents were very pleased to now have options for their children.

Discussion introduced re Saltwater Creek Camp west of Bemboka at foot of Brown Mt

BVSC agreed on 5 year 58 Ravenswood St

Work Gang supervisor hours increased to full time; activities included lawns, concreting and corn picking; bus purchased.

work gang

Clients in the early days


BEGA Apex Club ?contributed a substantial sum toward a 23-seat bus for Tulgeen Industries, a sheltered workshop. This was in addition to other contributions from Peter Dawson Toyota, Northside Machinery Canberra Times Sunday 7 October 1984

Name changed from Bega Sheltered Workshop to Tulgeen Ltd

16 clients attending; five days per week





Tulgeen industriesTipper truck