Care for lighthouse still runs in the family

Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve has had a $400,000 upgrade

When it comes to understanding the significance of the iconic Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve to the local community, Matthew Smith and Jacki Lamphee simply think back to childhood.

They are both direct descendants of two of the previous lighthouse keepers at Norah Head, and put up their hands to join the Norah Head Reserve Community Liaison Group, which held its first meeting at the lighthouse on November 9.

Norah Head Reserve Community Liaison Group held its first meeting on November 9

The group was established by experienced Crown Land Manager Reflections, appointed in July 2023 by the NSW Government as the new caretaker of Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve, which includes the lighthouse, three accommodation cottages and the nature reserve.

There are 14 members in the group including nine Norah Head locals and volunteers as well as representatives from Crown Lands and local government.

It will enable community input and two-way communication regarding the management of the lighthouse and reserve.

For Jacki Lamphee, who lived in one of the cottages in the early 1980s when her father John Byles was assistant lighthouse keeper, the reserve holds special memories.

“Dad worked there until I was about 10 and my friends would always say it was so fun visiting our house – it felt like we were living in the middle of nowhere, but it was great,” she said.

“We used to come home from school and run down to the beach and swim and play and have free rein there.”

Matthew Smith and Jacki Lamphee

Matthew Smith’s great grandfather, Clifford, worked for more than three decades as a lighthouse keeper, the last 12 years of his career at Norah Head.

Smith’s father, Ted, also lived in one of the Norah Head lighthouse keeper’s cottages with his grandfather Clifford, in the early 1960s following the death of his mum.

He recently learnt that his grandfather William (Bill) Smith was also a lighthouse keeper at Norah Head from 1966-1968 as a relief keeper.

Meanwhile, his great, great grandfather, William Smith Senior (Clifford’s father) was a lighthouse keeper at Norah Head twice – in 1905-1907 as assistant, then in 1922-1927 as head keeper.

Smith says Norah Head Lighhouse Reserve is unique because of its access to the community and he and his family visit regularly.

“It’s just amazing, and I was talking to Dad about it, that there are so few lighthouses today that are so publicly accessible,” he said.

“You can go to Norah Head and have a picnic, or stay there and go to a concert, whereas so many other lighthouses are remote. 

“To have that iconic location that is so beautiful and be able to go into the lighthouse and look at the photographs and the art deco tiles then climb up the stairs and look up and down the coast – it’s just magical.”

Smith said it was “emotional, humbling and special” to visit the lighthouse and see black and white photographs of his great grandfather on display.

Executive Director of Land and Asset Managementat Crown Lands, Greg Sullivan, said it was an asset to have Smith and Lamphee join the Community Liaison Group.

“We have gathered a group of people with different professional and life experiences, but they all share a passion to continue to maintain and nurture the reserve for the continued use of the NSW public and local communities,” he said.

Reflections is a Crown Land Manager which cares for more than 9,712ha of land belonging to the NSW public with 94 per cent being nature reserve and the remainder being where its holiday parks operate in coastal and inland NSW.

Reflections is the only holiday park group in Australia that is a certified social enterprise and it reinvests profit back into the land in its care.

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