Oral History of the lower Bellarine Peninsula recorded by the Rotary Club of Ocean Grove
 
During last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, the Rotary Club of Ocean Grove began an Oral History project to record the memories of long-term residents of the lower Bellarine Peninsula with the first seven interviews released in January 2021. Club members have been continuing to interview people who lived or holidayed in the area during the 1940s to 1970s period, and some memories go to even earlier times. There are now eighteen interviews which can be viewed on the Club’s website rotaryoceangrove.org.au with video and audio versions of each interview  available. So far, there have been almost 500 views of these interviews. More will be added as they become available. Project leader, Ann Hodgkinson said "This project has made an important contribution to recording the history of the lower Bellarine area from the point of view of the local residents. I thank all the narrators and Rotarians who gave their time to make it happen."
 
The project aims to bring the histories of the towns of the lower Bellarine alive for the newer residents of the area who have moved there in more recent times, to give them a greater understanding of their new home. The narrators describe the physical environment, social life and facilities in these towns when the populations were much smaller than today. They describe the arrival of post-war immigrants, early school days, and the development of community infrastructure such as surf lifesaving, the fire brigades, and the maternal health centre. They also discuss the social activities of the times, when the local cinemas, card playing, dancing, fishing and rabbit shooting were the main activities.  
 
There are now five interviews describing early Queenscliff, covering different aspects of the development of this historic town. Queenscliff had been a strategic location during the Second World War, but had languished in the post-war period as a small fishing village. The grandeur of its 1880s heyday as a major tourist destination was almost forgotten. Narrators recount their memories of this period, contrasting it with the current situation where tourism is again a major part of the local economy. The new interviews include the first interview from Wallington, which discusses the area’s development as a farming area specialising in potatoes and fruit orchards. There are several new interviews from Ocean Grove, including one from Tom Blackwell which traces the town’s development from the earliest European occupation in the 1860s. Descendants of this family have lived in the area ever since and witnessed the historical development of the town during that period. There are also two new interviews from Barwon Heads. One interview includes memories of its early fishing community which was the mainstay of this area in the first half of the twentieth century.  
 

 
Photograph of some of the interviewers from the Rotary Club
Photograph: first row L to R Margaret Campbell, Pearl Macmillan, Judy Greer, Coral Barker
Second row L to R Rod Greer, Heather Wilson, Noel Emselle, Rod Bush