Outsiders Club

Norah Head Community Group meets with special connections.

11 Nov 2023
5 minutes

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.

Mr Smith and Ms Lampheeare direct descendants of two of the previous lighthouse keepers at Norah Head, and both put their hand up to join the Norah Head Reserve Community Liaison Group, which held its first meeting at the Lighthouse 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.

The 14-member Group is comprised of nine members of the Norah Head community and volunteers as well as representatives from Crown Lands and local government. The Group was formed to enable community input and two-way communication regarding the management of the Lighthouse and Reserve.

For Mrs Lamphee, who lived in one of the cottages in the early 1980s when herfather 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’s great-grandfather, Clifford, worked for more than three decades as a lighthouse keeper, the last 12 years of his career at Norah Head.

Matthew’s father, Ted, also lived in one of the Norah Head Lighthouse Keeper’s cottages with his grandfather Clifford, in the early ‘60s following the death of his mum. 

Matthew recently learned 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 headkeeper.

Matthew believes Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve is unique because of its access to the community.

“It’s just amazing, and I was talking to Dad about it, that there are so few lighthouses today that are so publicly accessible – you can go to Norah and have a picnic, or stay there and go to a concert, whereas so many other lighthouses are remote,” said Mr Smith, who visits the Reserve with his family regularly.

“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.”

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

“I used to go there a lot as a kid and the funniest thing was that for years I heard the story that my grandfather had fallen off the roof of the lighthouse and I thought he must have been Superman but then I later found out that he had fallen off the roof of the stables [which today serve as the kiosk],” Mr Smith said.

Greg Sullivan, Executive Director of Land and Asset Management at Crown Lands, said it was an asset to have Mr Smith and Mrs 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,” Mr Sullivan said. 

The Member for Wyong, the Hon. David Harris, said that the Norah Head Reserve Community Liaison Group would play a crucial role in ensuring the Reserve was cared for to ensure the community could continue to enjoy it.

“Anyone who has visited Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve knows what a magnificent place it is and why it holds a special place in the community’s heart,” Mr Harris said.

Reflections CEO Nick Baker said it was a privilege for the social enterprise and Crown Lands Manager to be appointed as caretaker and it looked forward to working with the Group.

“Norah Head Lighthouse Reserve is a part of the social fabric of the Central Coast community and beyond and has been maintained beautifully by a dedicated group of volunteers, with whom we will continue to work alongside to ensure that it remains the jewel in the crown for the community,” he said.