News & Events

Garry’s dream childhood at Rushall Park

May 2, 2019

Garry Wilson, one of OCAV’s youngest ever residents, had the childhood most kids could only dream about. He lived in a quaint old village, rode his bike through the winding streets every day after school and feasted on the scones and cakes the locals fed him and his brothers.

That quaint old village was Rushall Park where the Wilson family of five, plus their dog, lived from 1964 to 1972. Garry’s father, Cornelius, a retired Air Force Group Captain, worked as Secretary-Superintendent at Rushall Park after leaving his military career. Garry was 13 when they moved in along with his two brothers, Kevin and Peter.

The family lived in the two-storey home that fronted Rushall Crescent before it was pulled down many years ago.  The home was surrounded by beautiful gardens that were tended by gardeners and ladies from the village, who shared Mrs Wilson’s love of horseracing, visited regularly and chatted over tea and cakes.

“We rode our bikes down the street to St Thomas’ Catholic Secondary College and when we came home, we rode our bikes around the village and probably terrorised some of the older ladies,” Garry said.

“After school they would ask us in for cakes and want to hear all about our day. I think we might have added a bit of energy to the place.”

Ironically, Garry’s connection to OCAV has lasted most of his life. Since the 1980s he has managed the organisation’s insurance.

“I don’t feel like I ever left really. I spent those important years there as a young fella and I have spent a lot of my adult life there for business,” Garry said.

Garry, 66, recalls his father’s great love for the village and his hard work in helping get the Berwick and St Helena villages off the ground. In 1981 he received an Order of Australia for services to older people.

While it might have seemed an unusual place to raise a family, the Wilsons were used to adapting to new environments, having lived in Townsville and the Butterworth Air Force Base in Malaysia, where Cornelius Wilson served as a Wing Commander, before moving to Rushall Park. The family always kept their home in Caulfield and in 1972 they moved back there, though ‘Con’, as he was known, remained as Superintendent until 1979.

Garry recalls his father’s great capacity to fix things and to come up with solutions to things that needed improving. His father was on call most days and felt very connected to the residents.

Frances O’Neill in her book, A Place of Their Own, writes:

Superintendent Wilson’s assistant, Anne Jeffery, described her first impressions of him (Wilson).

“Residents took to him in a big way. He was easy of approach, making it clear that class or any other kind of distinction had no place here. He was as Australian as his predecessor had been English…”
Wilson introduced the idea of self-help groups of residents within the Homes. These volunteers visit residents in hospital, write condolence letters, mend clothing for hostel residents, and carry out small repairs, for example, upholstering chairs in the hostel or repainting garden furniture.

“It’s always been a bit surreal for me having had an idyllic childhood at Rushall Park and then working for the organisation a few years later. They were such great times, I suppose I took them for granted,” Garry said.

“When I call in now I recognise all the changes and developments that are underway but the great atmosphere has never changed. It still feels like it did decades ago.”

Cornelius Wilson died in 1993 and his wife, Mary, died in 2003.

Dorothy Clayton has felt very much ‘at home’ since she moved into Braeside Park nine years ago. Now, Dorothy, the village’s volunteer pastoral care worker, tries to ensure that others also feel a sense of belonging in the Berwick village.

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