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Celebrating 80 years of care at Wheller Gardens

Wesley Mission Queensland will proudly celebrate the 80th anniversary of Queensland’s first aged care community in Chermside at the historic Wheller Gardens site on Wednesday, 23 November.

Wesley Mission Queensland will proudly celebrate the 80th anniversary of Queensland’s first aged care community in Chermside at the historic Wheller Gardens site on Wednesday, 23 November.

The Wheller Gardens site was originally opened on this day in 1936, made possible by the vision of Reverend Harold M. Wheller, Superintendent of the Brisbane Central Mission, whose dream was to create a village where aged people could live independently in cottages surrounded by gardens in a loving and caring environment.

“Reverend Wheller’s dream in the 1930s is still very much alive today. We will continue to honour Reverend Wheller’s determination and courage to serve aged people in our community.” said Geoff Batkin, Chief Executive Officer.

Mr George Marchant, a successful soft drink and vending manufacturer believed in Reverend Wheller’s dream and financed the purchase of the land on which the Settlement was established and stands today.

“Thanks to the vision of Reverend Wheller and the generosity of Mr Marchant, whose original donation of £100 grew into a magnificent gift of £22,000, Wesley Mission Queensland continues to support people in need across Queensland” said Geoff Batkin, Chief Executive Officer.

As part of the 80 year celebration of the Wheller Gardens site, the Betty Smith Heritage Precinct will open in honour of Ann Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Smith, who left a generous bequest to Wesley Mission Queensland in 2007, to ensure that she could continue to help the community she loved.

The Betty Smith Heritage Precinct includes three original Marchant Cottages built for ageing Queenslanders in the 1930s, all of which have been restored to their original condition.

Each of the three cottages are themed to represent a time in Wesley Mission Queensland’s history. The Wheller cottage represents early history, the Marchant cottage represents the development and history of Wheller Gardens and the Smith cottage represents life in the 1930s. Guests will be given the opportunity to tour each cottage, which will display historical photos, furniture, personal and household items.

“We are humbled by the generosity of Betty Smith and others who have left a lasting legacy, which gives us the opportunity to keep the spirit of that dedication alive and to do even greater work for Queenslanders” said Geoff Batkin.

To commemorate the opening in 1936 by the then Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, the present Governor of Queensland, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC will officially open the Betty Smith Heritage Precinct.

A historical re-enactment of the opening of Wheller Gardens in 1936 will be held on the day, providing guests with an opportunity to learn about the history and significance of the Wheller Gardens site.

Professional Historian, Judith Nissen has spent this year delving deep into Wesley Mission Queensland’s history to uncover stories rich of historical content and significance.

“It has been an honour to be involved in bringing to life the efforts of Reverend Wheller and Mr George Marchant – two truly inspirational and progressive men. Together, this Methodist Minister and soft drink manufacturer established the Garden Settlement for retirement living in a home-like atmosphere, in stark contrast to the grim institutions of the day, which became the final homes of too many poor elderly folk” said Judith.

“The stories and photographs from the 1930s are just delightful. The Garden Settlement was also a farm, with flocks of chickens and ducks, dairy cows, and large vegetable gardens, as well as many and varied fruit trees and the beautiful flower gardens. Residents helped with the chores of weeding, chopping firewood, and domestic tasks such as laundry, washing up and so on” said Judith.

The official opening of the new Garden Settlement Bowls Club will commence at 11.30AM following the Settlement Day celebration. The first greens were laid in 1939 and the greenskeeper has tended to them for the last 43 years. President of the Wheller Gardens Bowls Club, Mr George Tenbrink aged 88, only began playing bowls nine years ago and has held the position of President for the last seven years.

“It’s a social club with 17 members at present. The greens are well maintained, the surface is good and anyone is free to join us. We’re looking forward to enjoying our new clubhouse” said George.

“As we reflect on the last 80 years, Wesley Mission Queensland looks forward to continuing our legacy into the next 80 years and beyond” said Geoff Batkin, Chief Executive Officer, Wesley Mission Queensland.

Descendents from the Wheller family, friends of Betty Smith and people who attended the opening in 1936 will be present on the day.



“Do dreams come true? Do we live in a world where we can make dreams come true? This is our dream and it concerns old folk… a lovely home, a block of buildings for administrative purposes and grouped around it comfortable little cottages and gardens for older married couples”.

The Annual Report of the Central Methodist Mission, 1934

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