HISTORY OF TOMAREE LODGE
Tomaree Lodge is a heritage-listed former military camp, hospital and residential disability accommodation located on the Tomaree Headland at Shoal Bay, New South Wales, Australia. It was designed by the NSW Government Architect’s Office and built by the NSW Department of Public Works for the Commonwealth Government in 1942. It was formerly known as the Tomaree Head Army/RAAF Camp. It was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 2 April 1999.
Tomaree Headland is situated at the southern entrance to Port Stephens and Tomaree Lodge comprises a range of ten predominantly single-storey weatherboard ex-World War Two Australian Army garrison camp buildings, a large hall and an administration block (built in the 1980s) as well as 8.8 hectares of terraced and landscaped land on the western foreshore of the headland. Tomaree National Park occupies the remainder of land on Tomaree Head.
The Port Stephens area, including Tomaree Head, is part of land occupied by the Worimi Aboriginal language group. Captain Cook noted Tomaree Head in 1770 when he was travelling along the NSW coast. Following European settlement to the east coast of NSW from 1788, Port Stephens’s rich resources were harvested; fishing and cedar forestry were the main industries in the early nineteenth century. Port Stephens was occupied by the Australian Agricultural Company from 1824. Point Stephens lighthouse was erected in 1864 to provide safe entrance to Port Stephens.
Under the Crown Lands Alienation Act 1861, Tomaree Head was declared a reserve; it was used for recreational purposes and occasional squatting from the 1860s until the 1930s. In 1932, Alfred Ernest Dickenson made an application for a special lease of Tomaree Head to graze goats. Dickenson’s lease was withdrawn in 1947, but before this Tomaree Head had played an important role in the defence of Australia during the Second World War.
Following the withdrawal of Dickenson’s lease in 1947, the site has been used for health purposes until 2020.
In 1949, the Annual Report for the Inspector General of Mental Hospitals reported that “the establishment of a Convalescent Hostel for mental patients by the adaption of an ex-army camp situated at the southern headland at Port Stephens is more half completed so far as the accommodation required for male patients is concerned. Future development of the Hostel will provide for females as well as male patients, and in the meantime the accommodation for about fifty patients will be put into use.”.
Works at Tomaree continued into the 1950s, following the initiation of a “five-year plan of general development” in 1950. This plan involved the demolition of “the old army huts high on the hill” (presumably this is in reference to the camp at Upper Tomaree), with some ‘re-built in modernised form on the present site to provide additional accommodation for the increasing number of patients enjoying the hostel’s peaceful surroundings. A new recreation hall was built from material salvaged with great ingenuity from the old army installations. Garages, workshops and other outbuildings were also erected”.
By 1952, the number of patients at the Tomaree Holiday Lodge increased to 118, with a staff of eleven. In 1953-55 “two tennis courts and a concrete cricket pitch were laid in the lawn area in the entrance to the grounds”.
In 1960 a holiday scheme was introduced whereby patients from other hospitals were given a two-week holiday at Tomaree before returning to their permanent accommodation; by 1962, there were approximately 40 holiday beds available. During this time, there was a permanent population of around forty residents who carried out maintenance works on the buildings and grounds. In 1965, it was reported that Tomaree Holiday Lodge was “used by the Health Department to provide holiday accommodation for long-stay patients from metropolitan and country psychiatric hospitals”, known as Schedule 5 Hospitals. In this year, it was reported that “a new fresh water, white tile, swimming pool equipped with dressing and toilet facilities” was under construction.’
Tomaree National Park, comprising 2266 hectares, was gazetted in 1984. The hospital reserve was divided and the eastern portion of it was added to the park. In 1985, the practice of providing “holiday beds” was suspended when permanent residents were relocated to Tomaree Lodge from the Stockton and Kanangra Centres.
In 1989 the State Government proposed to sell Tomaree Lodge, but the decision was retracted following fierce local opposition. In 1992, Tomaree Lodge was in the ownership of the Department of Health and was included in the Department’s s170 Heritage and Conservation Register in this year. By this time, the centre no longer provided respite holiday care for patients at mental hospitals in New South Wales, but was providing long-term accommodation for people with developmental disabilities.
Tomaree Lodge has been operated by Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care as a Large Residential Centre from 2001, providing accommodation for around 45-50 residents. Today, Tomaree Lodge occupies 8.8 hectares of land on the foreshores of Shoal Bay. Site plans dated to 1942 and 1959 show that Tomaree Lodge has changed little since it was erected in 1942; as at 2008, the buildings on the site were in roughly the same location and configuration as they were in these years.
Content retrieved from: https://www.tomareemuseum.org.au/history.