Aboriginal History of the Black Diamond Districts and Beyond


Our Museum is respectful of Aboriginal history and culture – and also who should tell the stories. Our approach on this page is to help people locate information by listing  resources on aspects of Aboriginal history of our local area – which includes the Appin massacre of 1816, and the relocation of Children of the Stolen Generation who were evacuated from Croker Island to Otford during WW2.


Croker Island, Otford, Scarborough and Wollongong – a remarkable tale

  • The former Methodist Crusader Camp became home to about 95 Aboriginal children of the Stolen Generation in 1942, when their home on Croker Island off the Northern Territory north coast, became at risk from enemy attack. White women and children had been evacuated – and the  white workers at Croker Island were ordered to evacuate. But what of the children of the Stolen Generation ? The workers at Croker Island refused to leave the children behind, and eventually they were evacuated on an epic journey.
  • Click here for a list of 48 contemporaneous newspaper stories of the Croker Island children at Otford.
  • Other newspaper stories of Croker Island in the 1940’s1950’s 
  • The children were aged from only a year old and up to teenagers – at Croker Island they had apparently not been given any school education. But when they came to Otford, they went to local schools – the younger one’s went to Otford School and the older one’s caught the train to Scarborough School.
  • Later some girls went to Wollongong Domestic Home Science High School. Did the boys go to the Tech High School, which became Keira Boys High School and then Keira Technical High School ? Some of the older girls also went into Domestic Service.
  • When the children  returned to Croker Island after the end of WW2,  their school education was able to be completed, with rebuilding of services there..
  • Note –  a European perspective of the Otford camp
  • References to Croker Island Children and Otford
    • Find and Connect – 1 – more,
    • Neil’s Decade – a blogger on the Croker Island children at Otford – 2 ,
    •  South Coast Register artticle – 3,
    • Connie Cole – one of the Croker Island children at Otford in WW2 – 4,
    • Molly Baban nee Shepherd, one of the Croker Island children at Otford in WW2 – 5,
    • Methodist Church- goers eyes opened  – 6 – “We learned a lot about social justice from the church’, her younger sister, Margaret Eyre, recalls: But it didn’t come particularly from Earlwood, it came from the wider church. We were exposed to it through Crusader camps. That was where we learned about poverty, religious freedom, tolerance—some Aboriginal children from Croker Island stayed at the Crusader camp site at Otford for a while, and we met them through the Crusader movement. All that was a big eye-opener to us.79 Margaret, a contemporary of the older (john Howard) Howard boys, does not recall John among the Earlwood Crusader campers, suggesting that he missed out on much of the broadening that the Methodist church offered to those who got involved beyond the local congregation.
    • A former Northern Illawarra  teacher, Rona Powell remembers – Helensburgh District Historical Society – 7,
    • 2015 – Bob Randall, one of the Croker Island children in WW2 returns to Otford – recalls school days and sport at Otford – now the Govinda Valley Retreat – 8,
    • Betty Fisher, singer, who was evacuated from Croker Island to Otford – 9 – more,
    • KH History on Croker Island and Otford – 10,
    • Claire Henty Gebert a Croker Island child recalls Otford and Croker Island – 11,
    • ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY MS QUENTIN BRYCE AC GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA ON THE OCCASION OF WELCOME TO PUUYA FOUNDATION MEMBERS: MARGARET SOMERVILLE LAUNCH ADMIRALTY HOUSE, SYDNEY 27 SEPTEMBER 2011 …. An especially warm welcome to Margaret Somerville on the publication of the third edition of her remarkable book – They Crossed a Continent. – 12,
    • Alec Ross remembers his childhood at Croker Island and Otford – 13,
    • Photos – ehive – 14 – more images
    • A Carefree War – child evacuees in WW2 including the Croker Island children – 15,
    • An interview with Margaret Somerville – who worked on Croker Island and Otford from the 1940’s to  1960’s – 16,  and the launch of her book by Governor General Quentin Bryce – 17,
    • National Archives of Australia on Children’s Homes and Missions in the Northern Territory – 18,
    • Interviews with Una Clarke and Margaret Somerville – 19,
    • Documentary – “Croker Island Exodus” – 20, 21,
    • “Paint Me Black – Memories of Croker Island and Other Journeys” – 22.
    • Other Otford resources – 1, 2, 3, 4,


The anniversary of the Appin Massacre of April 17 1816 is commemorated annually in April – however for many on the eastern side of the Illawarra escarpment its story is almost unknown. Some links about the Massacre, and Aboriginal history from pre-European times.



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