Mervyn Charles Penrith

Mervyn Charles Penrith was born in Berry in 1941. He would have been born in Nowra, but his mother, being Aboriginal, was not permitted into the hospital there. He was named after his mother’s two brothers, Mervyn and Charles Penrith. His mother was Ruby Penrith. Ruby Penrith’s father was Bert Penrith, born on the banks of Dignams Creek, which runs into Wallaga Lake. Mervyn’s father was Hector Stewart from Batemans Bay. Hector’s father was Henry Stewart. Mervyn came to Wallaga Lake to live permanently in 1953, aged 12.

Mervyn’s grandparents, and others from their generation, worked for the farmers at Tilba Tilba. During the 1950s and 1960s Mervyn regularly walked through Wallaga Lake in search of oysters, Mussels, bimbullas. His elders took him up Gulaga, and passed on the cultural significance of the place to him. Mervyn helped Ted Thomas and Percy Mumbler to protest against a Japanese company logging on Gulaga (and Biamanga) Mountains. The company was blowing up sacred rocks and knocking down sacred trees. Mervyn Penrith, Shirley Foster, Kevin Gilbert and Ronald Mc Leod took a signed petition to the Japanese Embassy in Canberra. The logging was stopped and the process to return the ownership of the two mountains back to Aboriginal people began. Mervyn was delighted to speak at the recent hand back of Gulaga and Biamanga Mountains to Aboriginal custodians.

Merv and his partner Shirley Foster frequently take their children, and grandchildren to camp and fish at Tilba Lake. They also go to Mystery Bay and 1080 Beach and teach their children and grandchildren about the significance of the land, including Gulaga, Baranguba and Najanuka. Mervyn and Shirley continue to reside at the Wallaga Lake Community.

Excerpt from Stories About the Eurobodalla by Aboriginal People, 2006. Story contributed by Martin Ind from Moruya High School.