Mystery shrouded those little communities dotted along the coastline of the Royal National Park. But not any more.
Four Northern Illawarra locals have published a book to showcase this amazing, unique lifestyle, and to document its incredible history.
The instigator is Thirroul’s Ingeborg Van Tesseling, who began collecting ideas and stories, and researching the history of the shack communities of Burning Palms, Era and Garie.
Ingeborg called on the expertise of Coledale’s Dr Helen Voysey, who is an unofficial guardian of the Shack Community. “Helen played an integral part in having the shacks State Heritage listed, and stopping the NPWS removing the shacks from their owners,” says designer Megan Badham. ” Helen worked closely with Ingeborg, and with the shack communities, to sort information and organise the book. ”
With the help of graphic designers (and shack-family) Megan and Kiara Mucci, the women brought together a story they say was begging to be told.
“Ingeborg needed graphic designers to make the idea a reality so we were more than keen to help out. We both have a strong love for the community so together we created the deign, the layout and the cover, then meeting with Ingeborg and Helen over a two year period to create the 300 page book.
“Ingeborg carried out extensive research, interviewing many of the residents,” says Megan. “She looks at the history of the shacks, the architecture of the cabins and the community services, as well as the tenuous relationship with National Parks and Wildlife.
“She also looks at the artists who have been a part of this history. Reg Mombassa has a shack, so his artist-daughter Lucy O’Doherty is also a part of the history. In fact, Lucy’s painting entitled ‘Shacks of Little Garie’ won her the 2016 Brett Whitely Travelling Art Scholarship!
Margaret Olly and Max Dupain have also been known to make the trek in to soak up the inspiration and escape the rat race- both producing work from their time spent on the waterline.
While not everyone was keen to have their secret lives exposed, Megan says 75 families didn’t want their history to disappear, so agreed to help with the book.
“The lifestyle is unique,” says Megan. “Everything that goes in and out has to be carried. There is no power, no food and no fresh water. For that reason, everyone looks out for one another. There are no cars, and there is no sense of time, but there is a strong sense of community.”
The four local women have spent more than two years working on the project, with all the content approved by the owners of the shacks. “The book celebrates these incredible communities,” says Megan. “and records the history so far. The locals certainly didn’t want to advertise their existence, but they were happy to have their memories recorded in a book because everyone there loves their shack so much and wants their little slice of paradise remembered forever.”