Glenda Milham remembers spending weekends and long summers on Chinaman’s Island in the middle of Lake Conjola.
Her parents Roy and Mildred Ferreira built their cottage on the little island in 1957, while her grandfather built his house some 20 years earlier.
The island has a long history in Mrs Milham’s family and she has fond memories of fishing from the jetty, playing in the lake and transporting food and furniture to the cottage via boat.
Following a ballot, a 12 cottages were built on Crown Land early last century and seven remain, with only one permanently occupied.
Mrs Milham is leading the charge to have the cottages heritage listed before the owners are forced to tear them down.
She is collecting signatures on a petition to be sent to the Minister for Environment and Heritage Mark Speakman and is seeking historical photos and information from Lake Conjola residents and ‘island families’ to build a case for preserving the cottages.
The little houses were build on land leased from the Crown and, in the 1970s, the Lands Department told families they would have to be demolished when the last surviving occupant died.
There was to be no transferring of the houses and no passing down to family members.
To those of us that grew up or spent time at Lake Conjola, the cottages on Chinaman's Island have played a part in the making of our memories and to see them demolished would be tragic.Glenda Milham
Mrs Milham said, with the few remaining owners getting older, she hoped to have the cottages heritage listed before they were lost forever.
“To those of us that grew up or spent time at Lake Conjola, the cottages on Chinaman's Island have played a part in the making of our memories and to see them demolished would be tragic,” she said.
“These cottages have been in our family for years and we would like them to remain so they can be used by the generations to come.”
Mrs Milham said a cottage was torn down and removed from the island in February this year and there are plans to demolish more cottages soon.
“We are attempting to obtain an Interim Heritage Order with view to Heritage Listing to protect a part of the lakes history and prevent more of the cottages from being removed,” she added.
Ulladulla’s Renee Gough has thrown her support behind the Save Chinaman’s Island campaign after her family’s cottage was torn down.
“Our family cottage on Chinaman’s Island was built in the early 1940s by my great great grandfather and uncle Frank Smith and George Rushton,” she said.
“It was a heartbreaking end to our cottage after my great grandmother passed away and it would be so sad to see any more gone.
“There was a lifetime of amazing childhood memories in that house.”
To add insult to injury, Mrs Milham said the Lands Department has demanded all families pay a $30,000 bond to pay for the demolition and removal of the cottage and all outbuildings upon the death of the current owner should the estate not do so.
It is believed Chinaman’s Island was named after a Chinese man Ah-Poo who lived at Lake Conjola and harvested wild tobacco from the island.
The first European occupant was William Hilder who leased the whole Island in 1916 and later the Crown Lands Department offered 12 lots for lease by ballot on a permissive occupancy.
“A small number of cottages were subsequently built on the Island through lots of blood, sweat and tears as everything had to be moved by boat from the mainland,” Mrs Milham said.
“For the past 60 plus years these cottages have mostly been retained in the families that built them, with some having had permanent long term residents.”
She said a “show of community support” could save the cottages from destruction.
“It could make all the difference and prove that this beautiful area means so much to so many, so please sign this petition to show your support,” she added.
“To be successful in our bid to save these cottages we need to provide photographic and documentary evidence of how important this Island is to the fabric that is Lake Conjola.
If anybody has stories, pictures or memories they would like to share, please email: email@example.com or search for the ‘Saving Chinamans Island’ group on Facebook.
The petition is also available via the Facebook page.