Lessons from the Past: The 1919 Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Coffs Harbour

The current Coronavirus outbreak (COVID19)[1] has certainly aroused fears of a possible global pandemic in 2020 and the reactions of all levels of Australian Government: Federal, State and local bodies have some interesting parallels to the responses made by the same legislative groups back in 1919. Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo districts underwent a level of restrictions unheard of to minimise the possible outbreak of the influenza in the period from April 1 to September, 1919. There have been some successful initiatives adopted by current authorities as a result of the actions taken by the Australian Government to reduce the morbidity rates of the Spanish Flu in 1919; including compulsory notification, nursing and medical assistance, hospital accommodation, extensive use of vaccination, restrictions on travel and assembly (including the closure of schools and churches), and the wearing of masks at certain periods.

Distant view of a temporary isolation camp set up for interstate visitors at Jubilee Oval, Adelaide during the influenza outbreak of 1919. Picture Courtesy of State Library of South Australia. PRG 280/1/9/57

The Spanish Flu is a little of a misnomer as it was associated with the King of Spain catching influenza in 1918 but he managed to survive the illness.  Yet the truth is more intertwined with the fortunes of military activities and censorship during World War One of the combating Allied and German forces in the period of 1918, where the outcome of the war was still very much in the balance. Indeed, General Foch, the French General and Commander of the Allied forces, conceded that in May 1918 he had real fears of the German Ludendorff Offensive being successful leading to a decisive victory for the Germans. Likewise, the British Cabinet discussed on June 5, 1918 the possibility of evacuating the entire British Expeditionary force from the Continent[2]. Interestingly, the pneumonic influenza may have been a decisive factor in the demise of German troops. By July 1918, almost half a million German troops had contracted the first wave of the so called Spanish Flu. As well as this misfortune, 400,000 German citizens had died of the disease in 1918 on the Home front sealing the fate of the outcome of the war for Germany combined with the Allied Naval Blockade and civil unrest.[3] Elsewhere, the Spanish Flu had well and truly affected Allied troops.

Sister Anne Donnell an Australian field nurse on the Western Front, contracted the same influenza as early as in early March 1918 but recovered. She believed the flu originated amongst the troops around Etaples in France.[4]

Whatever the origin of the Spanish Flu, the mass return home of armed forces globally led to a greater spread of the disease and misery just after the cessation of the war. Figures vary greatly but most sources acknowledge at least 40 million to possibly 100 million people died during the period 1918-1919. Far more fatalities than World War One of around 18 million people soldiers and civilians combined.

Soldiers returning to Australia and particularly men from Coffs Harbour were looking forward to welcome home parades and ceremonies on their homecoming. It was not to be for many for some time.

The Diggers Ball, Coffs Harbour, 3 September 1919. Front row: (from the left) Beatrice Matten, Dick Gailer, unknown, unknown, ? Worland, Mary Dunlop, Tommy Dent, Joe Cavanagh, Alf Dodd, ‘Nugget’ Worland, Billy Kay. Second row: 6th from left Jim Gailer, 8th from left Jack Knight. Third row (only two people in the row) Billy Sutton on far right. Fourth row: 6th on left Col Buchanan. Back row: Captain Seymour 2nd from the right. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-1624.    Note the date of the image 3.9.1919

To give some picture of the spread of the disease originating from Victoria towards New South Wales in 1919, a letter addressed to the NSW Health Minister from an engine driver [5] highlighted the problems of enforcing regulations with ex Servicemen who happened to attend the races in Corowa. Reference to them as “wasters” was a peculiar term describing the quarantine breakers.

Courtesy of State of New South Wales through the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW 2016 

By January 27, 1919 the Spanish Flu had reached NSW. By the time the disease was officially declared over in September some 6,387 people died in New South Wales, infecting as many as 290,000 in Metropolitan Sydney alone.[6] In terms of loss of life, the ‘outbreak’ first wave of the disease was “comparatively mild” when contrasted with the second and third ‘high-mortality’ waves in 1919. Up until the middle of March 1919, only fifty people had died across NSW, while the second wave killed 1,542, and the third 4,302, with the peak occurring between the weeks ending 24 June and 8 July:

  1. (Outbreak wave) 27/1/1919 – 18/3/1919
  2. (High mortality wave) 19/3/1919 – 27/5/1919
  3. (Highest mortality wave)  28/5/1919 – 30/9/1919

Influenza leaflet, Department of Public Health, April 1919. From: NRS 905, [5/8097], 19/57573

Courtesy of State of New South Wales through the State Archives and Records Authority of NSW 2016 

What was unusual about the death rates was the group of males aged between 20 and 39 years accounted for half of the deaths in this period. [7] The NSW Government acted quickly with state wide inoculations and quarantine periods for those people affected. People in Coffs Harbour reacted quickly to the news of the Spanish Flu. Organisations such as the Red Cross started preparations for quarantining people suffering the disease at the Coffs Harbour Showground but desperately needed volunteers. What is interesting to compare were the isolation periods of four days for this pandemic recommended by the Department of Health in NSW compared to the 14 days recommended for the current COVID19 virus in 2020.

https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Flu-Pandemic-proclamation-timeline-.pdf page41

Coffs Harbour Advocate Wednesday April 9, 1919, P.3. Retrieved from Trove.

Coffs Harbour Advocate Wednesday April 5, 1919, P. 2. Retrieved from Trove.

Likewise, in Dorrigo local government regulations were quickly enforced. Drinking in hotels, local social groups and even church attendance were affected.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Wednesday April 2, 1919, P.3, Retrieved from Trove.

Public association of any kind was restricted. Imagine a publican enforcing the five minute rule with serving drinks and asking patrons to move along!

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate April 23, 1919, P.3.  Retrieved from Trove.

In Australia, while the estimated death toll of 15,000 people was still high, it was less than a quarter of the country’s 62,000 death toll from the First World War. Australia’s death rate of 2.7 per 1000 of population was one of the lowest recorded of any country during the pandemic.  In Coffs Harbour, so successful were the prevention measures of quarantine, inoculations and wearing of face masks that only a couple of residents succumbed to the disease. It did affect emotionally the community when death came, as outlined in the newspaper announcement of Mrs Cosgrove in 1919:

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate Wednesday 30th July 1919, P.3. Retrieved from Trove.

In effect, the death toll was far greater in 1919 than the COVID19 virus in 2020, yet the hysteria and misinformation of the contagiousness of the disease and the protective measures to prevent falling ill bear an interesting comparison. Perhaps the more contagious the disease became during this time, the more anxious were people to minimise the spread of the Flu. Even the morals and health of train passengers, through constant kissing of one another, was a subject of debate at a Camden Council meeting.

The Don Dorrigo Gazette and Guy Fawkes Advocate Wednesday 28th May, 1919, P.4. Retrieved from Trove.

Rhonda Dahlen recorded her grandfather Irvine may have accidentally brought the first case of Spanish Flu to Coffs Harbour after his marriage to his wife Elsie on March 19, 1919 in Sydney. On their return to Coffs Harbour Irvine known as Scob to his family developed flu symptoms  of headaches and fever. This was later identified by Dr Larbaleister as a possible case of the Spanish Flu. The Pier Hotel at the Jetty was used to quarantine possible contacts of Irvine Smith whilst he was quarantined at the back of the old police station in a house in North Street.  His sister Violet and his mother shared the nursing duties to care for him in his recovery from a mild case of the flu.[8]

Perusing the local Coffs Advocate during the period of April to September, 1919, there was a steady update of new Spanish Flu outbreaks and deaths occurring in Sydney in virtually every edition, constantly reinforcing the perception that the danger was ever present in the minds of the citizens of Coffs Harbour. This vigilance can be seen expressed in a few letters to the Coffs Harbour Advocate newspaper whenever newcomers to town managed to obtain free passage from infected regions. The following letter is a particularly good example of xenophobia of people living directly to the north of us in South Grafton.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Wednesday May 21, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday June 28, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

However, not everyone “slipped through the net”, as indicated by the band member being nursed by Mr E. Fogarty. This highlights the importance of selfless volunteering by the people of Coffs Harbour who were a key factor in preventing the spread of the disease by volunteering at the quarantine area at the Coffs Harbour Showground. Additionally, the generous donations of food and linen, as well as a cow for milking, were ways people felt they were being part of the community preventing the spread of the pandemic.


Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday April 5, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

The actions of Dr Larbalestier as the town’s physician and Mr Leonard coordinating quarantine and recovery at the Coffs Harbour Showground were important in the low mortality rate. The Showground was used up until August 1919 when the Spanish Flu had run its course in the town.  Volunteer nurses were inoculated by Dr Larbalestier, whilst co-ordination of supplies was under the care of Mr Leonard. According to Neil Yeate’s investigation, Mrs Moore from the Red Cross Society and Honorary Secretary helped open up Coffs Harbour Primary School as a convalescent during July, 1919 overseeing the recovery of several patients.[9]

What is little known was the effect on the Aboriginal Community at this time as records are lacking both of infection rates and hospitalisation in Coffs Harbour.  Although, Indigenous Australians, particularly in rural and remote areas, experience profound social disparity, including overcrowding, excess co-morbidity, poor access to health care, communication difficulties with health professionals, reduced access to pharmaceuticals, and institutionalised racism. During the 1918-1919 pandemic, mortality rates approaching 50% were reported in some Australian Indigenous communities, compared with the national rate of 0.3%.[10]

Even spiritual worship was not immune from the restrictions of the pandemic with a stern reminder of wearing masks for religious services and with an estimated finish time so the congregation would not be worried about spending so much in a public with so many parishioners.

Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate Saturday July 19, 1919, P.2. Retrieved from Trove.

Local and regional businesses were keen to advocate all sorts of remedies to alleviate the symptoms of the Spanish Flu. Many people parted with their money judging by the volume and variety of so called “cures” appearing in the local newspapers. Below is a selection of the wide range of medicines available:

The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 28 February 1919, P. 2. Retrieved from Trove.

The Tweed Daily Tuesday June 24, 1919, P.1. Retrieved from Trove.

Nicely nestled in the Jay’s fashion advertisement of the latest fashionwear, was the sale of influenza masks at the fixed price of sixpence.


The role of volunteers during this period were essential for the control of the disease and although they were recognised in occasional columns in the Coffs Harbour Advocate, their role was quickly forgotten as the Federal Government’s action plan to rehabilitate Ex -Servicemen back into society through plans such as the Soldier Settlement Scheme had an immediate impact on the economy of Coffs Harbour. Yet there are small tangible reminders of the work completed by volunteers of the rarely seen Influenza Emergency Worker Badge. Coffs Harbour’ first recorded case was on April 1 and the official end of the disease was declared on July 6, 1919. Dorrigo was registered as the last town in New South Wales to record a Spanish Flu case on 27th September 1919.

The significance of the work against preventing this global pandemic through quarantining; extensive use of inoculations; wearing of masks and people adhering to restrictions of public association were successful in stopping the disease from being contagious in Coffs Harbour. The historical importance of this public health event has certainly been overshadowed by the end of World War One and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles by historians but the global response to the Spanish Flu does warrant more recognition for its significance in world history and in particular to those selfless men and women that cared for patients putting their own health at risk in doing their work.

Research by Charlie Bellemore, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum Volunteer.


[1] https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

[2] Joan Beaumont (2013) page 443 Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War

[3] Peter Rees (2014) page 295 Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War One Nurses

[4] Susanna De Vires (2013) page 236  Australian Heroines of World War One

[5] Copy of letter 24/3/1919 from H S Robinson engine driver re irregularities in NSW Victoria border controls (prepared as Circular for    Cabinet) [4/6247]

[6] https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/stories/pneumonic-influenza-1919

[7] Joan Beaumont (2013) page 443 Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War page 524

[8] Cowling, N (2012) Coffs Harbour Time Capsule Book 1847-2011 pages 146-147

[9] Yeates, Neil (1990) Coffs Harbour Story Volume 1 pre1880-1945 pages 104-106

[10] Massey, P. (2007) https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/article/1179


Beaumont, J. (2013). Broken Nation Australians in the Great War. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Cowling, N (2012) Coffs Harbour Time Capsule Book 1847-2011 Office Choice. Coffs Harbour.

De Vires, S.  (2013)  Australian Heroines of World War One Brisbane. Pirgos Press

Rees, P. (2014) Anzac Girls: The Extraordinary Story of Our World War One Nurses Sydney. Allen and Unwin

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour Story.  Volume 1: pre1880-1945 Coffs Harbour: Banancoast Printers


Massey, P et al.  https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/article/1179

Aldrich R, Zwi AB, Short S. Advance Australia Fair: social democratic and conservative politicians’ discourses concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their health 1972-2001. Social Science & Medicine 2007; 64: 125-137

https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Flu-Pandemic-proclamation-timeline-.pdf page41


Trove National Library of Australia

Letter 24/3/1919 from H S Robinson engine driver re irregularities in NSW Victoria border controls (prepared as Circular for Cabinet) [4/6247]


Water Skiing on the Coffs Coast


Fig 1, Bob Hannaford, Gail Murray, and Tammy Mills-Thom, 1960s. Tammy is at the top of the human totem pole. Courtesy of Coffs Collections

The first man to water ski in the world is widely believed to be Ralph Samuelson of Minnesota, USA, in 1922. In 1925 Ralph Samuelson also became the world’s first water ski jumper.  Water skiing came to Australia in 1934, when Ted Parker skied at Hen & Chicken Bay in Sydney. The sport did not become popular until after the Second World War. Coffs Harbour’s entry into water skiing in around 1949 proved it to be a pioneer in the regional water-skiing arena.

Jim and Bob Limbert (see Fig 2 below) from the Coffs Harbour region were reputedly among the first water skiers in Australia. They built a boat from local flooded gum, powered with a car engine. They also made their own skis using 9 foot (3 metres) long, one inch (2.5 cm) thick and 8 inch wide Oregon planks. They skied at Jetty Beach and on the Bellinger River. Later the Coffs Harbour Water Ski Club used North Beach where they built a concrete launch pad and club house. (Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-1266)

Cliff Murray, together with Bill & Patty Mills-Thom, were the founding members of the Coffs Harbour Water Ski Club. The club began in around 1954 and continued until the late 1970’s. All three were made life members in 1975.

Fig 2, Water skiers at Jetty Beach in Coffs Harbour, 1950, L-R, Fred Reid, unknown, Jim Limbert, Ray Alcock, Bob Limbert, Front Row, Cliff Murray, unknown. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour mus07-1266

During the 1950s, Cliff Murray and Bill Mills-Thom were the only people in Coffs Harbour to make water skis. They initially referenced a photo in a magazine showing Italian skiers and copied the idea. Over time they developed their own techniques to get better performance. The first skis in Coffs Harbour were probably made about 1950 and were very basic in design. The picture above shows a group of skiers in about 1950. The skis were little more that planks with a foot hold screwed on. Cliff is the man with the white shirt sitting on the sand in the picture above (fig 2).

Water skiing was very much a novelty pastime and exhibitions by these men and women attracted much community interest in as evidenced by several articles in the Coffs Harbour Advocate at that time.   In December 1958 a well attended carnival at North Beach, Mylestom, netted £400 which was donated to the Ambulance service as was the usual practice.  Local skiers and the Coffs team between 1961-64 took out several zone, state, and national titles, some of our local famous skiers were Peter Brindley, Graham Loader and Doug McQuade and Bob Hannaford.

Fig 3, Gail Murray, Patty Mills-Thom and Narelle Murray in a water-skiing ballet, 1960s. Courtesy Coffs Collections

The Coffs Harbour women skiers became well known with performances of pyramid skiing (see fig 4 below) and ballet (see fig 3 above). The ballet team which competed at Keepit Dam in 1964 included Margaret Forsythe, Elaine Murray, Aili Smith, Narelle Murray and Grace Gibson.

Coffs Harbour had a vibrant water-skiing community from the 1950s till the late 1970s, particularly excelling in Show Skiing. Coffs Harbour skiers may have been the first group to do the Totem Pole (see Fig 1) and the first group to do a Pyramid (fig 4 below) with each person using only one ski.

Fig 4, Coffs Harbour lady water skiers demonstrating their skills with a performance of the Pyramid at North Beach early 1960s. L to R (top): Margaret Forsythe, Elaine Murray; (lower): Aili Smith, Judy Timms, Grace Gibson.  Photo: Judy Timms. Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour mus 07-11148.

The Coffs Harbour Regional Museum has on display two separate wooden water skis (see below, fig 5) that were hand made from local timber by Cliff Murray in the mid 1950s. One of the skis has a foot holder made from wood and thick leather and is currently configured for backwards skiing. The second ski has two rubber foot holders, indicating that it was made and used as a single ski. Both skis are shaped and varnished. The skis are in good condition for their age and both show evidence of having been converted. These markings help tell the story of the progression of water-skiing skills and the innovation required in the resource poor post World War II period. They are a rare example of handmade water skis in Australia and are likely to be the earliest surviving skis made at Coffs Harbour.  They illustrate the beginning of a new era in the Coffs Harbour economy with increasingly reliance on water sports and leisure based tourism.

Fig 5, Wooden Water Skis, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum.

Research by Lyn Matthews 2019


Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 16 1962, P.12.

Coffs Harbour Advocate, October 29 1964, P.12.

Daily Examiner Grafton, December 14, 1953, P. 4, retrieved from Trove

eHive, retreived from: https://ehive.com/collections/7265/objects/1049281/water-skis

Mills-Thom, Bill, Personal recollections, 2019.

Picture Coffs Harbour (now Coffs Collections)

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol II, 1946 to 1964: Bananacoast Printers.


The History of Our Rural Fire Service

Bush fires are a constant in Australia and after three months of fires in our local region we are still intermittently shrouded in smoke and with bush fires still active, everyone is extremely thankful that we have a professional and able Rural Fire Service.  So when and how was it formed?

The Bush Fires Act which was passed in 1949 led to the formation of The Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade in Coffs Harbour in 1951.

This followed  a series of devastating fires in the region. Including what was known as “Black Monday” 20 November 1944, when several disastrous fires occurred in Boambee and Korora.  One of the fires started in West Korora and raged all the way to the sea, burning banana plantations, packing sheds and some homes.  Many of the local residents spent the night on the beach. One of the homes destroyed was Mr Tom Jordan’s and after the fire passed the water tank remained precariously tilted with the water boiling inside it.

1946 was again another bad year for fires and when these photos were taken they were fought by local residents working together in informal bush fire brigades with “green bushes , wet bags, chipping hoes and perhaps an odd knapsack spray, mainly possessed by the few banana-growers in the area’ (Secomb, Michael, Red Gold to Green Grass, 1986, P.78)

“The Great Smoke”, Karangi, Neil Potts on bike, 12/9/1946. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5950
Bushfire Coffs Harbour 1946, Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5954
Dairyville Road , bushfire viewed from above Orara Road at Houlahans, 14/9/1946.  Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour 07-5957.

1950 was a very wet year with floods and cyclones, which resulted in the heavy growth of fuel.  This was followed by by a severe frost in July 1951 and then eight months of drought which did not break until March 1952.  After once again another series of devastating fires in 1951 when 22 000 acres was burnt in the Coffs Harbour area Cr Norm Jordan recommended the formation of a shire sanctioned volunteer bush fire brigade which was finally endorsed by the Dorrigo and Bellingen Shire Councils. This meant that combined with the Forestry Department effective bush fire protection could be instituted across the region which has continued to this day.

We thank our Rural Fire Service members for their unstinting service to the community and wish everyone a fire free and peaceful festive season.

Research by Simone Newman


Brewer, Mary,. Looking back: Nana Glen, 1878-1979,. 1979, P47-50.

Blundell, Geoff (retired Bushfire Control Officer for Coffs Harbour and Bellingen Shires),. The History and Development of Bushfire Brigades in the Shire of Coffs Harbour, An Address to the Coffs Harbour and District Historical Society, 22 March 1982.

Bush Fire Brigades to be Formed (1951, December 14). Coffs Harbour Advocate (NSW : 1907 – 1942; 1946 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187774511

Our Bush was on Fire when Capt. Cook Came In.  (18 October 1962). The Coffs Harbour Advocate.

Raging Bushfires In Coff’s District (1944, November 21). Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW : 1915 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved December 18, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194283766

Secomb, Michael,. Red Gold to Green Grass,. 1986, P.78.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.


George Ellis’ “Flintstone Cart”


Picture courtesy of the Coffs Harbour Historical Society and Museum “Remembering Coffs Harbour : A Century of Photographs” 2001 P.76.

The “Flintstone Cart” is a rare and well-preserved example of a timber jinker, designed and handmade by George Albert Ellis [1875-1948] in the early 1900s. George Ellis was one of the first settlers to Moleton, Upper Orara, in the Coffs Harbour region of NSW.

Originally, the wooden cart was used to clear the timber on Ellis’ selection. It was later used to haul the ore from his gold mine to the crusher and to carry corn from his fields to the barn.  A team of bullocks was used to pull the cart. The “Flintstone” design of the wheels meant that it was able to traverse rough terrain.  The rear wheels are made from a cedar log, cut and shaped with an axe and adze, the front wheels are made from brush box, the front section of the chassis has been cut from a piece of box log with the bearing portion incorporating a limb, adding strength to the design.

George Ellis was an innovative and skilled wood craftsman who frequently utilised the natural form and strength of timber in his designs.  He was one of the first cedar cutters in the region and would have needed the cart in the rough terrain to haul out cut timber.  The cart would have additionally been necessary for the requirements of his selection of land that it be cleared and used for farming.

George was also a keen gold miner and used the cart to drag the ore downhill to his crusher and there are community memories of it being used to transport corn from the fields to his barn.

Timber Slab Barn on George Ellis’s property, Moleton, Coffs Harbour circa. 1990. Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour (Mus 07-4750)

This timber jinker is representative of timber jinkers, of which very few survive today, and reflects George Ellis’ excellent woodworking skills and adaptations which make it unique. It is appears to have been repaired, however, these have been kept true to the original form.

The cart has been in the Coffs Harbour Museum collection since the early 1970s and is one of its favourite and treasured objects.  It has strong community ties and memories, having featured in numerous newspaper articles and local history publications. It has affectionately been given its own special name by the Coffs Harbour community, and is widely known as the “The Flintstone Cart”.

The “Flintstone Cart” or timber jinker reflects the ingenuity and innovation of pioneers, such as George Ellis, in crafting from local resources and their ability to build items from scratch. It demonstrates a primitive yet sculptural and ingenious design which immediately draws attention, and has a powerful, robust, vernancular and masculine design which resonates with most who view it.

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum 2019

Research by Simone Newman


Edwards, R. (1987). Bushcraft 3 : More Australian traditional bush crafts. Kuranda, QLD: The Rams Skull Press.

Edwards, R. (1988). Bushcraft 1: Australian traditional bush crafts. Kuranda, QLD: The Rams Skull Press.

Explore our history. (14 October 1988). Coffs Coast Advocate, p. 19.

Historical items ready for Coffs Museum. (22 September 1971). The Coffs Harbour Advocate, p. 8.

The house that grew. (7 January 1970). The Coffs Harbour Advocate.

Museum is a mine of information. (4 July 1997). Coffs Coast Advocate.

Nehl, G. (August 1977). Pioneer Power. The Bush Telegraph, pp. 15-16.

Obiturary G. A. Ellis. (12 October 1949). Daily Examiner, p. 2.

Remembering Coffs Harbour : A century of photographs. (2001).  (D. Townsend & A. Hope Eds.). Coffs Harobur: Coffs Harbour Historical Society and Museum Inc.

Rising from the ashes : the Ulong Ex-Serviceman’s : the Eastern Dorrigo pioneering spirit. (2003).  (A. Hope, C. Young, & Orara Valley Historical Society Eds.). Dorrigo, NSW: Orara Valley Historical Society.

Robb, G. (2000). Georges gold : A book about gold mining on the Orara gold fields of Eastern Dorrigo and the gold mining pioneers (R. Mill Ed.). Coffs Harbour, NSW: Robert Mill.

Voice of time: oral history interview with Dulcie Martin. (1987). Retrieved from https://coffsharbour.spydus.com/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/ENQ/WOHIST/BIBENQ?SETLVL=&BRN=76724

Walker, M. (1978). Pioneer crafts of early Australia. Artarmon, South Melbourne: The Macmillan Company of Australia Pty Ltd.

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945: Bananacoast Printers.

Intangible Tourism


Picture courtesy of Gay Bell

A mid-North Coast Tourist Authority was formed in 1956 [1], and Coffs Harbour’s first motel was opened in 1958 [2].  But not everyone was a supporter of this new-fangled industry.

In 1963, H.L. Bailey, not to be confused with Councillor Bailey, [3] sent the following letter to the Coffs Harbour Advocate. [4].

“Tourist Potential

H.L. Bailey, Camperdown Street, Jetty, writes to the editor:

Sir, – Why are Coffs Harbour folk so apathetic to our tourist potential?

A large number of the Coffs Harbour community are not “apathetic” about the tourist potential – far from being apathetic they have very strong views, and they have no wish to assist in its development.

Consider the many disadvantages:

(1) In the long run property values tend to rise by inflation, and sites are utilised for furnished flats, cabins and so on, which should more properly be used for domestic housing.

(2) The tourist trade is bad for business, since a large number of shops are tempted to develop to meet the peak holiday trade. Temporary assistants are engaged for this period and are dismissed when business returns to normal. Those affected find it difficult to get steady jobs.

(3) When the size and number of jobs are governed by the peak tourist trade, rents tend to rise, and some businesses give up, fail, etc, and empty shops result!

(4) The tourist industry attracts outside capital, and frequently outside management. While there are many instances of local people developing tourist amenities, there are numerous cases where this development is in the hands and pockets of people who have come from outside the area.

(5) Tourism is the enemy of retired people. You are able to call to mind many places where elderly people have settled down in their own home, with reasonable rates to pay, expecting that their expenses would remain constant; with the development of tourism they have found property values increase and rates have jumped without additional benefits.

(6) Councils are persuaded to provide amenities for the tourist instead of for the average ratepayer. Precedence may be given to spending loan money on camping areas instead of playing fields.

Let those who benefit from tourism look after themselves. Let them provide the cabins and camping areas.  Let them provide the amenities and the entertainment, and let the poor ratepayers continue with their struggle to get from the Council adequate playing fields, residential streets that are not booby traps, public libraries and even civic centres. The ratepayer is more interested in the development of primary and secondary industry and backyard factories, than he is in the tourist trade.” (Coffs Harbour Advocate, 22 Feb 1963, p 3)

 A week after this letter’s publication, Council became locked in a debate about the merits of tourism – when businessmen A. Heynatz and L. Mills came to town with a proposal to build a whaling station at Coffs Harbour. [5]

The Councillors were divided on this proposal, some arguing for tangible jobs, others concerned at the possible negative effect on tourism. Councillor F. Fountain cut-through everyone’s concerns by saying that a whaling station would be a tourist attraction. [6]

 A month after the proposal was received, a decision in favour of allowing a whaling station was made by five votes to four. [7]

This, however, spooked the businessmen. Without strong Council support, Messrs. Heynatz and Mills decided to keep their money in their pockets. [8]

Local Coffs Harbour resident Gay Bell has a take on this story. In the 1950s, Gay’s parents took her to a popular Byron Bay tourist attraction – yes, the local whaling station.

Warning! Graphic content follows:

“And there it was, the tell-tale sign of a ship listing heavily to one side, a sign of a successful harpooning with two dead whales being hauled towards the jetty. The crowd of onlookers at the whaling station anxiously waited for the jetty train to bring the whales up on the flatbed to be processed. To an eight-year-old this was an exciting event, in fact everyone was excited to see these huge creatures. How life has changed. Today I would have been appalled to witness this scene. It was so smelly and gory. A foreman gave a running commentary explaining the whole process. This was considered to be both entertainment and an educational form of whale watching, the complete opposite of today. Instead, we were fascinated watching the chained whale being winched up the ramp, its body dissected by men with extremely sharp flensing knives slicing through the blubber to expose the red muscle underneath. To further entertain the crowd, one worker cut off squares of blubber for people to have a taste.  We held our noses tighter against the smell and refused the offer, horrified, while the adults laughed. Even today I can still remember the smell and sight of the exposed whale. This event was in the late 1950s, just a few years before the Byron Bay whaling station was shut down.”

Picture courtesy of Gay Bell


  1. Neil Yeates, Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964, page 145
  2. Neil Yeates, Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964, pages 148 and 248
  3. This is probably the same H. L. Bailey who is mentioned numerous times in Coffs Harbour Vol 2:1946 to 1964 as a Public Works Department Engineer and Coffs Harbour community leader.
  4. Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 22, 1963, page 3
  5. Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 27, 1963, page 1
  6. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 5, 1963, pages 1 and 5
  7. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 20, 1963, pages 1 and 5
  8. Coffs Harbour Advocate, March 26, 1963, page 1

Research courtesy of Geoffrey Watts & Gay Bell


Coffs Harbour’s Fishing Industry

Local historian, George England  in 1970, noted that between 1883-1892 there were several fishermen operating in Coffs Harbour and Charlesworth Bay.  They took the fish out to ships from the Clarence where it was packed with ice.  There was also some smoked and dried fish sent to Sydney or sold to ships crews but it was not an important industry until the local ice works at the Butter Factory were established in 1910.

Fishing Fleet Coffs Harbour 1946, Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour, Mus 07-5931

Coffs Harbour’s Fishing Industry Time-line

1892   Jetty completed.

1906   Beginning of Coffs Harbour fishing industry.

1908   Four motor-boats (and 20 crewmen) engaged in the fishing industry at Coffs Harbour.

1910   Introduction of local ice-works at Butter Factory.

1912   South Coffs Island and mainland connected.

1914-1927   Northern Breakwater to Muttonbird Island built.

1919-1946   Eastern Breakwater built.

1946   Nambucca Fishermen’s Co-operative Ltd formed.

1947   Coffs Harbour’s fishermen amalgamate with Nambucca Fishermen’s Co-op.

1947   Temporary use of a shed on railway land for first depot.

1950   Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op’s purpose-built depot opened – located next to the railway gates.

1953   Ice-making machine installed at Coffs Harbour depot. (Prior to that, ice was sourced from the Butter Factory. The Butter Factory closed in 1953, according to Neil Yeates in Coffs Harbour Volume 2, page 150.)

1954   Registered office of the Nambucca-Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op Ltd transferred to Coffs Harbour.

1967   Eric Hogbin sets up proper business guidelines for Co-op.

1970   35 boats and 100 men engaged in local industry. (25 boats operate from the Port of Coffs Harbour.)

1975   Inner Harbour (Marina) completed.

1979   New Co-op building opened in current location.

Fishermans Co-op Coffs Harbour 1983, Courtesy of Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-5557

The origins of the Coffs Harbour Fishermen’s Co-operative.

In 1946, the New South Wales State Government was encouraging the formation of Fishing Co-operatives as a way to stabilize the fishing industry, which had a large black-market and a wildly fluctuating price for fish which made it difficult to create a livelihood from the industry. [1,2]

In March 1947, about 40 Coffs Harbour fishermen met to discuss whether to join the Grafton Co-operative, join the Nambucca Co-operative, or form a separate Coffs Harbour Co-operative. [3]

Three months later, they chose the Nambucca option, and looked forward to enjoying “all the special privileges with regard to the sale, control and marketing that are available to co-operative societies.” [4]

While plans were being made in September 1947 to build a depot and a jetty extending into the harbour from the northern breakwater wall [5], the Coffs Harbour members of the commercial fishermen’s union were voting to join a state-wide strike aimed at increasing the price of fish by 25%. [6]  The Coffs Harbour district’s fishing fleet of 25 craft and 60 men [6] was finding its feet….

The Fishermen’s Co-operative Society – comprising depots at Macksville, Nambucca, Sawtell and Coffs Harbour – began its Coffs Harbour operations in November 1947 [7]

Fishing was a relatively small part of Coffs Harbour’s economy. (Figures for 1959 list fishing as 2% of the local economy. [8]) But the decades following 1947 produced services for the fishing fleet such as the marine rescue service, a slipway and a marina; services which have helped give Coffs Harbour its distinctive harbour-town character.

Coffs Harbour Advocate 11 August 1953, P.1, Courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187939313


  1. Coffs Harbour Advocate 11 February 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185034842
  2. Coffs Harbour Advocate 24 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18043001
  3. Coffs Harbour Advocate 18 March 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185035250
  4. Coffs Harbour Advocate 13 June 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185036228
  5. Coffs Harbour Advocate 5 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185037275
  6. Coffs Harbour Advocate 5 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185037268
  7. Coffs Harbour Advocate 14 November 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185038138
  8. Coffs Harbour Advocate 1 January 1960: 1959 figures: Timber 43%; Bananas 39%; Tourism 10%; Dairying 6%; Fishing 2%.

Research Courtesy of Geoffrey Watts

Our New Publications Available on Trove

We are proud to announce the addition of two publications The Beacon, the Coffs Harbour High School magazine, and The Bananacoast Opinion newspaper, which have recently been added to Trove , with collections provided by the Museum, including public donations from members of the community, and funding provided by the Coffs Harbour City Council.

You can read about the memories and experiences of a teacher at Coffs Harbour High School teacher, Neil Bonnell, who is in the 1958 edition of The Beacon in an earlier Our Stories blog here.

They are easily available to search on Trove here –  The Beacon and  The Bananacoast Opinion

Above documents courtesy of Steve Newman (design and editing) and Debbie Campbell (research).

How did Bruxner Park become a Flora Reserve?

Bruxner Park Road circa 1910.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-3818)

Bruxner Park Flora Reserve is located approximately four kilometres North West of Coffs Harbour and is 420 hectares in area. It is within two kilometres of the Pacific Ocean and is comprised of Rainforest, Hardwood, Blackbutt, Flooded Gum and Old Growth forest and is remarkable as being one of the few areas that links the Great Dividing Range to the ocean.  It is also listed on the Register of the National Estate as part of the Orara Ornithological Area due to having very high bird diversity.

The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve region has always been an important place for the Gumbaynggirr people, the traditional custodians of the area, and still holds significance as a place that connects them with their Dream time stories.  It is part of a larger “men’s area” and traditionally was used for hunting and gathering of bush foods and medicines.  The creation stories of the Gumbaynggirr people incorporates these lands and it has also been used for initiation and ceremonies and holds several recorded Aboriginal sites. The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve region was also part of a known travel route for the Gumbaynggirr people to and from the coastline of the Coffs Harbour region through the escarpment to the Orara Valley.

Logging commenced in the area in the 1880s soon after European settlement to the Coffs Harbour area. The logging industry was one of Coffs Harbour’s most significant economic industries at the time. There are tree stumps in the reserve that still display the signs of board cuts, a type of logging that was used until the 1950s.  There is also remnants of the tram line that was built by the British Australian Timber Company (BAT) to transport the logs down the steep incline to the sawmill in Coffs Harbour between 1908-1914. This is where Bruxner Road is today.

Steam train – “Fanny” B.A.T loco, carrying logs across Coffs Creek, logs from Bruxner Park , Coffs Harbour, circa 1910.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-2842)

From early settlement days the Bruxner Park area was used as an area for recreation where local residents went for picnics and walks in the rain forest, (See Fig 2) and by the 1930s the local community became concerned that the logging industry would destroy the rain forest and began lobbying the government. In 1933 the local member Ray Vincent who was also the Minister for Forests directed that a suitable area be reserved for Bruxner Park (named after the Deputy Premier of NSW at the time) and in 1936 57 hectares was transferred from the Orara East State Forest and it was finally declared a flora reserve in 1958. This was extended in 1984 to its current size, incorporating Sealy Lookout and thereby providing a larger buffer to the rain forest. There has been no logging since this time except for two trees as a demonstration when the Queen visited in 1970 as part of the Captain Cook Bicentenary celebrations.

The Queen and Princess Anne watch the logging in Bruxner Park, 11 April 1970. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (accession no. 802179572)

The first walking trails and picnic areas were built in the late 1950s and in 1961 a large flooded gum tree believed to be approximately 500 years old and still standing today was named the “Vincent Tree” in recognition of Ray Vincent’s role in the establishment of the park.  At a height of 65 metres and a diameter at breast height of 2.27 metres, the Vincent Tree was one of the biggest trees in New South Wales. The building of Sealy Lookout (which was named after a local forester who was involved in the Lions club) was commenced in the late 1960s with the noteworthy assistance of the Coffs Harbour Lions Club.

The Vincent Tree Bruxner Park 1962.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-5525)

The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve is now a major tourist site for the Coffs Harbour region as well as a popular recreation area for local residents.  It is still comprised of the original walking trails through the rain forest, picnic areas, The Vincent Tree and Sealy Lookout; but has also expanded to become a certified Eco Tourist Attraction; and includes Gumbaynggirr Cultural Heritage tours and experiences; an interpretive walk telling the story of Gumgali, the Black Goanna using mural art, signage, sculpture and sound; and a tree top adventure park.


Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation. (2019). Make a Booking.   Retrieved from https://bmnac.org.au/giingan-tourism-experience/make-a-booking/

The Coffs Harbour Story. (1984). Coffs Harbour: The Central North Coast Newspaper Company Pty Ltd.

Eco Tourism Australia. (2019). Bruxner Park Fora Reserve Acheive Ecotourism Certification.   Retrieved from https://www.ecotourism.org.au/news/forestry-corporation-achieve/

Forests NSW. (2011). Working Plan for Bruxner Park Flora Reserve No 3 Upper North East Forest Agreement Region North East Region. Retrieved from https://www.forestrycorporation.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/731411/bruxner-park-flora-reserve-working-plan.pdf

Kramer, J. (1985). Ships and timber: a short history of Coffs Harbour port and associated railways. Victoria: Light Railway Research Society of Australia.

National Parks (2019) End Peak walking track Ulidarra National Park.  Retrieved from https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/end-peak-walking-track?p=1&pdfprint=true

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. (2012). Ulidarra National Park Plan of Management. Retrieved from https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/-/media/OEH/Corporate-Site/Documents/Parks-reserves-and-protected-areas/Parks-plans-of-management/ulidarra-national-park-plan-of-management-120472.pdf

Treetops. (2019). Choose your adventure.   Retrieved from https://www.treetops.com.au

Yeates, N. (1990). Coffs Harbour: Vol I, Pre-1880 to 1945. Coffs Harbour: Bananacoast Printers.

Yeates, N. (1993). Coffs Harbour Vol II: 1946 TO 1964. Coffs Harbour: Bananacoast Printers.

The Early Days of the Coffs Harbour Show

Cattle, horses and riders and vehicles in the arena, Coffs Harbour Annual ShowCoffs Harbour Showground (circa.1964)   Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour Mus 07-1196

Who’s going to the show this weekend?  Have you ever wondered when and how the show started? What was it like back then?

The Coffs Harbour Advocate 22 April 1975 had a special Coffs Harbour Show feature written by local historian George England as below:


The Coffs Harbour Show site has a history as old as the area it covers. Local historian George England here outlines some of the highlights.

In 1865-66 Walter Harvie and George Tucker with cedar cutters and aborigines camped on the showground site. They hauled logs and tilted them into the stream about where the present horse stalls are located.  The area was used as a slaughter yard in the 1880s.

A debate developed about 1912 on where to locate a showground at Coffs Harbour, with the choice being the site of the present Coffs Harbour Golf Course or north of Coffs Creek. The creek site won after much bitter squabbling. During the same year violent explosions from the showground area convinced many that their worst fears had come true and the Germans were attacking. However an investigation showed the disturbance was caused by an explosives expert demonstrating his skills. The ground was cleared and levelled by Mr. W. J. (Palmdale or Long Bill) Smith, assisted by Billy Perkins. The whole town turned out in full finery for the first show in 1914.  The ladies auxiliary provided lunch for a moderate charge.  There was a good response from dairy farmers who had stocks of differing breeds of cattle. Because there were no stalls, the cattle were tied to trees at the southern end of the ground where the present caravan park is located. Prize lists show there was splendid response from home vegetable and fruit growers.  J. Smith won many prizes for vegetables from his home garden and continued to do so for many years. Pavilion space was fully utilised. A problem of the early shows was that small boys used a convenient log to cross the creek and avoid the one shilling entrance charge.  When the log was blown up an enterprising lad brought his boat to offer passage across the creek for three pence. After two shows the war effort occupied the minds of farmers and show committees and the show was not held for a couple of years.

Members of the Coffs Harbour Show Society Ladies Auxiliary and the President of the Society W. T.Perry (seated), at the Coffs Harbour Show, (1914-1919?) Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour

In 1928 the newly-formed Golf Club established six holes on the centre green and outside the fence, which provided a hazard for the golfers.  After two years the club moved to Mr. W. R. Smith’s farm at North Boambee. However they later returned to the showground site after an argument with the landowner. The need for an aircraft landing strip was on everybody’s lips about 1928 and the showground would be ideal. It was close to town and large enough for the planes of the day.  But it stayed as a showground.

During World War 11 the area was taken over by the Army and the headquarters of 3,000 men in the local area was established there.  A barbed wire gaol near the entrance gate was used as a detention centre for men who had gone absent without leave and been picked up by the provosts. No shows were held for three years during the war.  There have been suggestions to sell the land fronting the main street and use the money to develop the larger area at the rear of the present showground.

Coramba and Ulong both once had shows of their own. In 1905 Coramba staged a three-day show and Ulong held a two-day show. During 26 years of shows at Coramba, only one had fine weather. However both these centres lacked a large population and their shows eventually failed. One event that created interest and finally disquiet was the worst turn-out, in which a broken-down horse dragged a vehicle of unimaginable disrepute with a driver to match. Public boos and disapproval finally drove this event from the program.”


The award list from the second Coffs Harbour Show  1915 (Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo Advocate, 27 February 1915, p 2-3 found in Trove) speaks of a different time. The farm produce section had awards for the following fruits and vegetables:  potatoes, pumpkins, grammas, cabbage, leeks, carrots, rhubarb, chillies, vegetable marrow, squashes, rock melons, onions, celery, turnips, tomatoes, shallots, radishes, kitchen herbs, sunflowers, sweet potatoes, parsnips, French beans, beetroots, water melons, bananas, cucumbers, baking pears and oranges. The expression “grow your own” had real meaning back then, this impressive list of fruit and vegetables speaks of a time when the health of your family depended on you having a green thumb.

The plain needlework, fancy work, etc, section had awards for the following sewing categories: Collection fancy work; Drawn thread work; Point lace work; Shadow work; Cortecilli work; Mount Mellick work; Teneriffe work; Ribbon work; Ivory work; Huckaback worked vest; Three crochet D’Oyleys; Buttonholes in cloth worked in silk; Buttonholes worked with cotton; Baby’s smocked dress; Best made boy’s washing suit; Crochet D’Oyleys with linen centres; Ladies’ underclothing; Crochet quilt; Darned stocking; Darned net pillow shams; Pin cushion; Specimen stiletto embroidery; Cross-stitch work; Child’s woollen petticoat in crochet; Crochet bonnet in silk; Hemstitched handkerchief; White shirt and collar. Being able to “make your own” was also essential back in the early 1900s.

Coffs Harbour Show Society Inc. centenary book: 1914-2014, compiled by Nan Cowling, is available at Coffs Harbour Library, for anyone wanting to look further into the history of the Coffs Harbour Show.

Research courtesy of Geoff Watts.

Was Coffs Harbour the First Place to Adopt a Universal Healthcare Scheme?


Opening Day Coffs Harbour Hospital 1917

The  Coffs Harbour Hospital was opened in 1917 after eight years of fundraising by the local community to provide the initial one thousand pounds as required by the government at the time.  Once it was opened however there was ongoing struggles to fund the everyday running costs and despite various schemes the hospital was struggling to stay open by 1927.

On page 100 of Jean Donn-Patterson’s Coffs Harbour 100 Years Down the Track” , believed to have been published in the 1980s, Jean states the following:

 “In those early days it was rumoured that Sydney was quite impressed by our [Hospital’s] financial improvements and they sent representatives here to see how it worked. They were very impressed and so, they say, this was the beginning of our medical benefits. The old identities firmly believed this, and I feel it could be right too, but have found no evidence, so far, to support this claim.”  [1]

Now through Trove, evidence for the old identities claim is available. The 17 June 1930 edition of the Coffs Harbour Advocate describes how the Coffs Harbour Hospital’s contribution scheme was being adopted around the State. [2]


Coffs Harbour Hospital initiated the scheme for financing the hospital that is now gaining State-wide application, and demonstrated the efficiency of it in rural districts. It has made Coffs Harbour so prominent throughout the State that the secretary is becoming quite used to explaining the scheme to other hospitals which write for particulars. These inquiries have become so frequent that he has drafted out a terse and explicit explanation of the scheme and the way it was launched here, which is typed in his office and sent to those asking for it. It is as follows:– 

     “We have a scheme here which is proving a great success. For the payment of 6d per week for an adult or in the case of a married man 1/ per week, we guarantee to give free treatment should it be required. This does not include medical attention, the subscribers making their own arrangements with the doctor. We have 1500 subscribers which means an income of about £37 per week. On this we get Government subsidy. We employ a collector to collect the subscriptions. This is a full-time position. We pay £4/10/ per week and 10 per cent. of all money collected over £80 per month. When we started this scheme we forwarded a circular to every house-holder in the district explaining the scheme and stating that our collector would be calling at an early date. We also received much publicity through the Press. We found that the people responded readily, and generally prefer this scheme to the old methods of cadging. When the scheme was launched we promised not to hold any functions, etc., in aid of the hospital, beyond the annual ball, and this we adhered to. We have found the scheme a great success. We started off in debt and now we have £1200 at fixed deposit, have painted the institution and are now building a new men’s ward, maternity ward, and installing a septic sewerage system. For the 1/ per week paid by a family we treat husband, wife and children up to the age of 18 years. I will be glad to give you any further information required at any time.”

Occasionally, of course, one or two necessary amendments of figures have to be made.

Taree Hospital has adopted the scheme and appointed Mr. W. G. Hopper collector on a 10 per cent. basis.

George England’s history of Coffs Harbour Hospital, published in the Coffs Harbour Advocate in 1970, refers to this scheme as the “Jackson scheme”. [3] In 1927, Coffs Harbour Hospital was in danger of closing due to lack of funds. The Hospital committee (under President R. G. Jackson) decided to try the above-described scheme. It was a voluntary scheme, but there were “very few refusals” from the local residents. [4]

The scheme thus amounted to a universal contribution scheme, and by this means cracked the puzzle of how to fund the weekly running costs of a hospital.

To find out more details of this interesting story, please visit our Local Heritage page here for the full article.


  1. Donn-Patterson, Jean Coffs Harbour 100 Years Down the Track, page 100.
  2. Coffs Harbour Advocate, June 17 1930, page 1, retrieved from: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185723244
  3. England, George  A History of Coffs Harbour Hospital (Part 4), Coffs Harbour Advocate, February 25, 1970, page 4.
  4. Yeates, Neil (1990) Coffs Harbour Vol I ; pre-1880 to 1945, page 187.

(Research courtesy of Volunteer Geoff Watts)


The continuing struggles for adequate health care for regional patients also led to the development of the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme.

The 24th of March, 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the Royal Far West Children’s Health Scheme in Coffs Harbour. Over the years, the members of the Coffs Harbour branch have raised funds and worked with health practitioners to benefit thousands of local children, as well as contributing to the charitable works of the organisation across New South Wales.

As an integral part of the provision of health care in Coffs Harbour, the history of Royal Far West highlights how members of our community have rallied together, often in the face of isolation, financial scarcity and official indifference, to address the health needs of the Coffs Coast region.

The current exhibition on display at the museum until 11 May 2019 celebrates Royal Far West’s work in our community over the past 70 years, honouring the energy and commitment of its members and volunteers.