Web Site Launch Celebration

28 September 2022

120 fun loving people joined us on 28th September 2022 to celebrate the launch of our new web site at Swansea RSL.

We thank Cavalcade of History and Fashion for travelling from Sydney to take us on a journey into the fashions and customs of the 1950s.  The room, decorated in 1950s style, was a buzz of chatter and giggles of recalled memories as the fashions were shown around the tables.

Over the past couple of years we’ve developed a heritage walk along Swansea Channel, produced a set of Then & Now postcards, some videos, worked with Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club to digitise some of their heritage collection and so much more.  We’re grateful to Daniel Zeaiter of Codex IT Services for building a web site which serves not only as a home for all of our past and future projects but makes it easy to members of the community to access them also.

We thank Swansea RSL for their generosity in allowing us to use the beautiful Blue Water Function Centre and especially to Ashley Wade, Events Manager, who went above and beyond to assist us; to Heritage NSW for the grant that enabled the many community minded projects we’ve done; Daniel Zeaiter, Codex IT Services, Ray Cosier of Raymar Signs for our amazing banner and extra-large postcards; and Susie England Quinn of Luscious Little Bites for making our logo which was on our celebration cake.

Some lovely encouraging comments from our guests included:

What a fabulous initiative. The website is a wonderful resource to the generations of our community. I am particularly impressed with the then and now page.

Great community resource. Fantastic presentation. Lovely fashions – thoroughly enjoyable. Most unexpected supply of delicious food.

Great to hear about the work being done by such dedicated volunteers





During 2022 we produced a set of postcards on the Then & Now theme which are available to people at some of our events.


The calendars, produced by HELM for the past three years have been very popular with the community.  2022 had a Then & Now theme.

Digitisation Project

April/May/June 2022

Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC) was one of six regional councils across NSW, to receive a NSW Government in association with Museums & Galleries NSW (MGNSW) grant to improve access to important regional collections of artworks, objects and archives by photographing a selection of items, writing up their stories, and then showcasing them on the MGNSW website, which will give Australia-wide access. To kickstart the program specialised equipment, training and resources were acquired by LMCC.

HELM worked with Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club and LMCC to bring our surf culture to prominence. WOW! what an amazing collection of heritage memories, items and photos. We were very excited when the club agreed to share some of their amazing treasures with us and the wider world. Alan Wallace is a wealth of knowledge of the Club’s history along with Phil Rowe and Steve Smith. Meg O’Donnell from LMCC supervised the selection of objects and transported them to the Speers Point studio for photographing by a professional photographer. With the assistance of Alan Wallace, HELM wrote stories to match each object, which will be sent to MGNSW for uploading to their Storyplace web site.

It’s important that our heritage is recorded for visitors, newcomers and future generations of our area and further afield. The items will be added gradually throughout the year. Others taking part are West Wallsend Heritage Group, Lake Macquarie History Society, Morisset Hospital Museum, and Lake Macquarie City Council’s collection. The fascinating stories about the history and culture of NSW can be found at: storyplace.org.au

Seniors Festival at Belmont Library

March 2022

On a very rainy day we had a good-sized audience to whom we demonstrated how to turn photos, interviews and newspaper stories about the past into short videos to share with the community.

History Illuminated Festival

November 2021

HELM was thrilled to participate in two sessions at Lake Mac Libraries 2021 History Illuminated Festival.

Friday 19 November we held our inaugural heritage walk, Channel-ing our Past, along the Swansea channel, starting at the Rising Sun Anzac Memorial at the RSL Club and ending at the boat ramp at Thomas Humphreys Reserve.  Much fun was had by 40 walkers, many who travelled from different areas around the Lake. Along the way stories were told of cattle thieves, Swansea’s four bridges, two wharves, a police station on 5 acres of land, the school, Chinese fishermen, a boatbuilder and squatters.

Our guest speakers added to the joy of the walk with their personal memories of McEwan’s delicious cream buns, fishing with a soccer goal net, and billy-cart racing down a coal loading gantry. It was a privilege for us to share Swansea’s interesting history with all who attended.

On Thursday, 25 November, HELM hosted a session at Warners Bay Theatre using our Stories from the Shoebox series to explore turning archival materials and oral history interviews into short videos to share with the community.

The stories featured local icons: a shipbuilder, whose contribution to Australia’s war effort was so valued that his portrait is in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra; a world champion ski paddler who overcame two potentially life changing accidents injuries that didn’t deter his joy of life, love of adventure and determination to participate in competitive sports; an artist who returned home from World War 1 suffering both physical and emotional trauma.  Combating his demons with alcohol, he found it difficult to hold down a job, however he was befriended and supported by the people of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.

Secrets of Swansea

May 2021

Swansea Community Cottage invited HELM to contribute to the Swansea Secrets Festival with a display of images of Swansea’s past at St Peters Chapel.

Swansea Secrets Festival was a cultural celebration sharing the area’s little-known facts through art, food, history and Aboriginal culture.

Teresa Purnell

May 2021

Snake catcher and natural history illustrator Teresa Purnell, whose exhibition SnakeAbout was on display at SEEN@Swnasea gave us all an entertaining afternoon with tales of her Chinese family and their days at their fruit and vegetable shops in Swansea and Hamilton.

We heard of Teresa’s ancestors arrival in Darwin from Hongkong in the late 1800s and of time on a tobacco farm in Quirindi before opening a fruit shop in Beaumont St, Hamilton.  Teresa told us of the importance of family and the family business in her life along with many hilarious tales of opening wooden fruit and vegetable boxes with a tomahawk, introducing her school friends to her different lifestyle and the antics of her Mum, Phyllis Mook, “Newcastle’s jitterbug dynamo”.

We learnt how the family’s and Phyllis’s reputation follows Teresa, when members of our audience recalled their memories of queuing up at the family’s restaurant, Chung Hing Café, with their own pots for a take-away Chinese meal. And one Swansea character in the audience who recalled being chased down Woods St, Swansea, by Phyllis’s father late one night when he delivered her home on the back of his motor bike.

HELM appreciates Teresa’s generosity in sharing her stories with us and thanks Lake Macquarie City Council for the use of the venue at Swansea Library.

Stories from Shoebox Series Launch

February 2021

Held at Swansea Library, with Scott Bevan as MC, our launch of the series featured well-known local boat builder, James Lewis Boyd, and the life story the much-loved Swansea resident Keven Harman.

James Boyd, who built over 200 boats at his Lake Rd shipyard, including 24 vessels for the American Army’s small ship fleet in WWII. A life-sized portrait of James Lewis Boyd at the Australian War Memorial acknowledges his contribution to the war effort.

Keven Harman is the star of our video The Old Man of the Sea. In his discussion with Scott Bevan, Keven mentioned how much he enjoyed being interviewed by HELM on his life’s adventures and achievements. He was surprised and pleased at how it stirred up memories he thought he’d long forgotten. As a thank you, Keven received from HELM a presentation case containing a photo, DVD of the video and a USB drive containing an audio of his full interview.

Scott Bevan at St Peters Chapel at Swansea

March 2020

Growing up in Newcastle, Scott travelled the country and abroad as a journalist, reporter and presenter.  Like many Novocastrians, Scott completed the cycle by returning to Newcastle and the Newcastle Herald in 2016.  Now living on the shores on Lake Macquarie, he circumnavigated the Lake in his Kayak gathering stories about our history, heritage and characters from our bays, villages and islands, resulting in The Lake, Exploring a Splendid Sheet of Water.

A full house of 70 people were charmed, enthralled and entertained as Scott introduced us to the characters who have lived, worked and played on the lake and around its shores, from boatbuilders and environmentalists to scientists and Indigenous leaders, from historians and artists to sailors and adventurers.