By Oscar Perri
AT 93, Inverloch historian, conservationist and dedicated Girl Guide Eulalie Perry Brewster has certainly put the time in to deserve an Order of Australia Medal.
Eulalie is being awarded the medal for her service to the community of Inverloch, where she has lived since 1994 but has been telling the town’s history long before then.
Growing up in Melbourne, Eulalie trained as a teacher and found a job in the Latrobe Valley, where she developed a strong interest in nature and conservation, joining the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria in 1944, and becoming a founding member of the Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists.
Eulalie says she developed her love of history from her mother, who would answer her questions about their family history.
“I was always interested in family history, and then became interested in local history when my husband, children and I would go on holidays, we would always learn about the places to which we went.”
While she was teaching at a school in Yinnar, Eulalie met her late husband, Oswald, and once they were married the couple moved to Leongatha to share farm for his brother, before finding their own farm in Nerrena.
It was here where Eulalie had her formal introduction to our local history, when she and her husband joined Leongatha’s Woorayl Historical Society in 1970, where she has since been honoured as a life member.
It was through this group that Eulalie first became interested in the history of Inverloch, before eventually retiring to the town.
“We were members of Leongatha Historical Society, and when we came here there was no Inverloch history we could find that was written.
“So, we started digging and looking for it. Over the years more and more has come to light, and then eventually the Inverloch Historical Society formed in 1996.”
The society has since made Eulalie their patron, and she is still active as one of their most knowledgeable members, as well as opening her house up to store photographs and documents.
Eulalie says her bedroom is the only room in the house that does not have a bookcase full of Inverloch history.
Over the years, Eulalie wrote three of the town’s first history books.
She says these are especially important to her as almost all of the original Inverloch is now gone.
Eulalie’s early work compiling and recording has saved a lot of the town’s history from being lost, especially stories of the goings on in Inverloch’s early days.
As the leader of the Inverloch branch of the South Gippsland Conservation Society, Eulalie played a major role in revegetating Shack Bay, Townsends Bluff, and establishing the Screw Creek walking track.
“When we came here, the cliff tops were bare right to the edges of the cliff on one side, the conservation society planted all the things that are there now, seeing that still is wonderful to see.”
Although she is unable to do too much conservation work anymore, Eulalie is still an avid bird watcher and a member of multiple bird observer clubs.
All throughout this, Eulalie has been involved with the Girl Guides, since she joined as an 11-year-old in 1938 and has continued on into her adult life, as a commissioner for many years, and is still as involved as she can manage to be.
“I think Guiding training can make a big difference to people’s outlook on life, it’s certainly a strength for me.”
But Eulalie says the community aspect of all the groups she has been a part of is the most significant part.
“They’re important, they bring people together and help people understand their area better and learn how to help each other and make things better.”
Eulalie doesn’t think too much about her legacy, or receiving awards, but says she is humbled, although a little shocked by the recognition she has been given.
“It’s lovely to know that someone thinks I’m deserving of such an honour. You don’t do these jobs thinking you get a reward at the end of it or anything like that, you do it because you are just happy doing it.”
* Founding member and patron of the Inverloch Historical Society.
* Founding and life member of the South Gippsland Conservation Society.
* Girl Guides Australia member since 1938.