The 80s

A small grant of $547 from the Recteation and Sport Division of the South Australian Government helped pay for some useful additions to the facilities of the Centre in early 1980. Eight craft tables and a table-tennis table were obtained for the Bishop Jones Hall. A safety fence was erected around the swimming pool, and the Warden, John Clarke, qualified to become a licensed SwimmingPool Operator. A report to the Synod at this time stated that the Centre was balancing its budget, and was also able to put money aside for maintenance and future replacements.

Pol Fence
Pool Fence

The 20th Anniversary

This event occurred on the 20th September 1981 and is recorded in “The Willochran” of the 31st October of that year as follows:

“Archbishop Robert Dann of Melbourne preached to a congregation of about 150 at the Diocesan Centre. Melrose, on September 20th. The Archbishop and Mrs Dann were on a four-day visit to the Diocese of Willochra. He spoke on the mystery and ‘magic’ of the love of God in our lives.

The Thanksgiving Evensong in the Chapel of Christ the King conducted by the Rev’d Peter Smith, Rector of Orroroo, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Centre, which came into being through the vision of the third Bishop of Willochra, the Rt Rev’d Tom Jones.

His dream was to see a place where the whole diocese could gather for worship, study and fellowship. The Centre has fulfilled that dream and now is a modern complex consisting of accommodation blocks, kitchen-doming room, recreation hall and chapel.

Bishop Rosier welcomed Archbishop and Mrs Dann to the service and also other special guests, Mrs Val Curyer (widow of the first warden), Mr and Mrs M Matthews (second warden), Mr and Mrs J Clarke (present warden). The Bishop gave a brief outline of the history of the Centre, its conception and planning by Bishop Tom Jones, the gracious gift of land by Messrs Laurie and Don Bishop, the initial work of the Rev’d Kevin Hoffman and Canon Ninian Shelby-James, and the present work of the Committee of management and the Church Office staff.

It was appropriate that Archbishop Dan should preach at the Thanksgiving as his predecessor as Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Frank Woods, opened the Centre in 1961. Many of the congregation at the Thanksgiving had been present at the opening twenty years previously.

The Port Augusta City Band provided the music for the service after which afternoon tea was served and the Band entertained with more music and a lovely setting on a warm spring afternoon.”

John and Wendy Clarke, with their three daughters, moved into a house in Melrose, since the Caretaker’s cottage had only two bedrooms – insufficient for three growing girls. The Cottage was let to Malcolm and Liz Reynolds, who provided after-hours supervision. John died suddenly on 5th April 1983, having been keen and conscientious Warden for nearly four years. his death as a relatively young man was quite a shock. Mr and Mrs Reynolds took care of the Centre during the vacancy. In September 1983 Mr Milos Sulda with his wife Helen took up the position of Warden.

The Diocesan Centre Management Committee began working on a project to replace the existing dormitory blocks with modern solid construction modules. Each module would have four 6-bunk rooms, each with ensuite bathroom and toilet to allow for family accommodation. Each module was costed at $70,000. The Nicholas Bannon Wing would be the first to be rebuild and the Centre Committee expected this to be the beginning of a total upgrade, needed to escape high maintenance costs, and to keep the Centre a viable concern. The architect was Mr Geoff harrison, of Clare.

In November 1984 a team of volunteers from around the Diocese laid the floor/foundation of the new dormitory block. The team poured 55 cubic meters of concrete during one day. The Committee tried to obtain workmen under the Community Employment Programme, but found the process frustratingly slow. Even to find professional bricklayers and other tradesmen was difficult, but the walls were topped by the end of June 1985. The Rev’d Ian Hardy, Registrat of the Diocese since January 1982, spent much time and imagination in endeavouring to keep the cost as low a possible, by arranging volunteer and other workmen and supplies. It had been hoped that the Bannon Wing would be replaced within 18 weeks.

Celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the Centre were held on Sunday 10th August 1986. Special guests were the Bishop of North-West Texas, the Rt Rev’d Sam Hulsey and his wife Linda and their son Byron, the Minister for Transport and Local Member Mr Gavin Keneally and his wife, Mrs Bannon and her son Andrew (the mother and brother of Nicholas Bannon). Also present were former Wardens and Acting Wardens, Mrs Val (Curyer) Christie, Mr and Mrs Matthews, Mr and Mrs Reynolds and some 400 people.

A service of Prayer and Thanksgiving was held in the Chapel of Christ the King, led by Bishop Rosier and the Parish Priest, the Rev’d Ted Horne. At the end of the service everyone walked to the new dormitory block, where Bishop Hulsey dedicated the new Bannon Wing. Mr Keneally declared the building open and unveiled a plaque in memory of the occasion and of Nicholas Bannon.

The Committee let a contract for the replacement of part of Jubilee Wing and small meeting room – that is the building along the northern boundary. There would be a new Meeting Room, a small kitchen, and five dormitories, one of which would be fitted out for the special needs of handicapped people. The estimated cost was about $80,000. Extensions to the Warden’s house were made using part of the demolished Jubilee Wing.

Bishop Bruce Rosier resigned as Diocesan from March 1987, after having served this Diocese fir 17 years. Fr David McCall, previously Rector of the Parish of Goodwood in the Diocese of Adelaide, was consecrated to be the fifth Bishop of Willochra on 1st November, 1987, in St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, and installed in the (then) Church of Ss Peter and Paul, Port Pirie, on the following day.

Jubilee Wing

The completed Jubilee Wing was dedicated by Bishop McCall on 19th July 1988, and then opened by Mrs Val Christie (formerly Mrs Curyer), the widow of the first Warden of the Centre. The building replaces the three old buildings which came from Radium Hill in 1962. In 1975, after some minor modifications, they were named “the Jubilee Wing” to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Founding of the Diocese in 1915. The new building contains eight rooms, each with ensuite facilities and beds for six people. Three are designated for use by handicapped people, and one as a “motel” unit for families wanting to stay in the area. A new meeting room and lounge provide a comfortable and relaxing area.
The history of Camp Willochra was compiled by Canon Ian Barlow.