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Experience of polio leads to community-focused farm

Watts Cottage Museum contains the fascinating history of Lionel and Dorothy Watts’ journey to make a difference.
Watts Cottage Museum contains the fascinating history of Lionel and Dorothy Watts’ journey to make a difference. Picasa

SUMMERLAND House Farm, on the scenic Alstonville plateau, has made a difference to so many lives.

It was established in 1972, as a regional operation for the House with No Steps organisation founded by Lionel Watts in Sydney 10 years earlier.

Business marketing manager Lisa Murphy said the organisation was dedicated to creating opportunities for people with a disability.

"House with No Steps businesses and community services have been established around 160 locations along the east coast of Australia, all working towards the empowerment, respect, inclusion, commitment and achievement of people living with a disability," marketing manager Lisa Murphy said.

"Our business is more than a farm, business or tourist attraction, it's a family, and I know that every visitor who leaves here is touched by the story of Lionel and the beautiful employees they meet here."

Lionel had contracted polio in the late 1950s and was left a quadriplegic.

He dedicated his life to change the way society dealt with disabilities.

Summerland House Farm has transformed a working macadamia and avocado farm into a large-scale agri-tourism destination for the Northern Rivers area.

"The farm is open seven days a week and operates a number of businesses on site, including a café, functions centre, nursery, gift shop and The Grocer," Lisa said.

 

Lionel Watts, founder of the House with No Steps.
Lionel Watts, founder of the House with No Steps. Picasa

"It attracts over 150,000 visitors each year, consistently winning awards as a tourist attraction and sustainable business model.

"There's a museum with a must-see display on the inspirational life of Lionel Watts which leaves visitors with goosebumps as they learn how one person's personal tragedy changed the lives of so many people around the world.

"Summer and Easter are our busiest times, however we're a great attraction for bus groups with our tractor tours and guided tours, so certain times of the year are busier with group visits."

"The tractor tour takes you around the property and through the orchards of our 172 acres with stunning views of the Ballina coastline.

"The tour outlines the history of House with No Steps and the local area, as well as some interesting facts on some of our farm crops. People of all ages love the tractor tour."

Summerland House Farm, 253 Wardell Rd, Alstonville, is open seven days, 9am-4pm.

WATTS COTTAGE MUSEUM

Watts Cottage was the original farmhouse on the Alstonville property - formerly a dairy farm of local family the Cawleys.

It's now an education centre and archive of the inspirational story behind House With No Steps, the history of social inclusion for people with a disability in Australia, and the personal story of Lionel and Dorothy Watts - their journey to make a difference.

Topics:  general-seniors-news history polio summerland house farm


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