October 17, 2015
There was lots of laughter – and some tears – when former residents of Cherbourg’s Girls Dormitory gathered on Friday afternoon to unveil a plaque on the site of the building.
The dormitory was opened in 1925 and burned to the ground in 1988.
It housed babies as young as six months old through to teenagers. Many of the older girls acted as “mothers” to the younger children.
The women travelled from all over Queensland and NSW for the ceremony, with many staying on for the weekend’s “Golden Oldies” reunion at Cherbourg.
They walked in silence from The Ration Shed to the site of the old dormitory, near the Wunjuada rehab building.
Artist Rocko Langton prepared the plaque which has been erected in Wunjuada’s garden.
It depicts the first girls entering the dormitory, younger girls and older girls over the decades, and finally the girls leaving the institution at the end of the dormitory system to get on with their lives.
The women observed a minute’s silence for lost friends as they gathered around the plaque.
Aunty Ruth Hegarty (nee Duncan) became tearful as she recalled life in the Dormitory system.
“We know the terror, the horror. We know all these things yet we have come together this afternoon silently … we have lost so many. I am the only one left from my group of 40 to 50 girls,” she said.
“That’s what life is about. We are going to go but this will remain.”
She thanked Ration Shed president Sandra Morgan for organising the plaque and the ceremony.
Aunty Ruth Hegarty (nee Duncan) sings a lullaby on the site of the old Girls Dormitory: