80th Anniversary of the Wheller Gardens Precinct
Chair and Board Members of Wesley Mission Queensland, Moderator the Reverend David Baker; other distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to have been able to accept the invitation to join you this morning for this very special celebration of eighty years of care, here at Wheller Gardens: eighty years of care, of compassion, of Christian “charity” in the best sense of the word.
It has been marvellous to see the re-enactment of the official opening ceremony and it is very special for me to step back into history, into the shoes of our 15th Governor Sir Lesley Orme Wilson, who performed the official opening of The Garden Settlement eighty years ago this very day.
We often think of history as the retelling of major events, both famous and infamous.
1936, for instance, was the year that Edward the Eighth first became our King and later abdicated; it was the year the last-known Tasmanian tiger died at the Hobart Zoo; and, notoriously, it was the year Don Bradman was out for a duck – not once, but twice.
Those events were headlined around the country – indeed, around the world.
But closer to home, here in our own Chermside, named after our 9th Governor, Major General Chermside, a quite different event took place that year which, arguably, has had a much longer and more profound impact on our history: the opening of The Garden Settlement.
It’s difficult for us to comprehend just how visionary this project was at a time when Australia was still emerging from the devastation of the Great Depression.
Certainly, nobody at the time could have imagined that the Reverend Harold Manuel Wheller’s dream of “a lovely home” for “old folk” with “comfortable little cottages and gardens” could become the magnificent facility here today – and in putting it that way I don’t for one moment seek to diminish that dream in any degree. It was to my 21st century mind an Elysian vision, and that has been fulfilled, indeed enhanced, over these decades.
The generously altruistic dream shared by the Reverend Harold Wheller, mr George Marchant and, more recently, Miss Betty Smith and many other wonderful benefactors, is a remarkable story that has earned its place in the history of this community and of our State. May I particularly today acknowledge the Council Chair, Dr Ian Airey, my former classmate at Churchie, and his many wonderful charitable commitments over the ensuing years.
I congratulate Wesley Mission Queensland on the achievement of the past eighty years on this site, and on behalf of all Queenslanders, thank the Mission for its ongoing commitment to supporting people in need, wherever they may be in this great State.
I also congratulate everyone concerned with bringing today’s wonderful event to fruition, and now have the greatest pleasure in joining Mr Batkin, the Reverend Lyn Burden and the Reverend Wheller’s eldest granddaughter, Mrs Pamela Newman, in unveiling a commemorative plaque, and declaring officially open the Betty Smith Heritage Precinct. Thank you.