Who can forget The Castle, a 1997 film about a working-class family going to the courts after being told must vacate their home to allow for future expansion. 

Well, owners of fishing shacks at Wee Jasper’s Swinging Bridge Reserve may have a similar fight on their hands after being handed eviction notices by Crown Lands on May 22nd

The eight remaining corrugated iron fishing shacks are set to be demolished in September, but a desperate group of owners of the shacks are fighting to save their little slice of freedom. 

Sharyne Mullens, owner of holiday cabin site 312 at Swinging Bridge Reserve, Wee Jasper, said the shacks are an integral part of Wee Jasper’s history. 

“These humble cabins have been cherished landmarks, they started popping up after the war for a variety of reasons and today with only eight remaining, serve as a testament to both ours and Wee Jasper’s rich history and cultural identity,” Mullens said. 

“These shacks over the years have fostered a strong sense of community, provided respite at times, a gathering place for families, and become an integral part of the Wee Jasper community.

1956 Sharyne’s first Wee Jasper

Owners of the fishing shacks at Swinging Bridge Reserve received a follow-up letter from Crown Lands at the end of last month stating their reasoning behind the decision, including that the exclusive use of the land for private holiday accommodation is inconsistent with principles of Crown Lands. 

Crown Lands also stated that there “is no viable licencing pathway” and that “the Department must address any pre-existing Indigenous rights and interests in the land in order to issue new licences.”

Other reasons behind their decision include that the current infrastructure is located on the flood zone of the Goodradigbee River and is subject to inundation, as well stating “the cabins range in poor to very poor condition, and, that substantial works would be required to address existing structural issues” following a building structural assessment. 

1959 Family Sheather and Fryer’ and friends at Wee Jasper incl Bill and Grace Cathels


“The Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) – Crown Lands has recently completed its planned review of the future use and licencing arrangements for the Swinging Bridge holiday cabin sites at Wee Jasper Reserves. The Department previously wrote on 24 May 2022 advising that it was undertaking this review. I acknowledge the delay in finalising this review may have created some uncertainty in respect of your use and future plans for the cabin,” the letter sent to holiday cabin owners from Crown Lands.


“As you are aware, licences for use of the cabins have not been issued for the 2019/2020, 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 financial years, whilst this review was undertaken. The Department has not required exit from the cabins pending the outcomes of this review. 

“The Department can now advise that following the review, it is not intending to offer new licences for occupation of any of the holiday cabin sites at Swinging Bridge Reserve. Additionally, licences will not be issued retrospectively for this period and the associated licence rents will not be raised.”

Swinging Bridge Reserve Wee Jasper

Sharyne Mullens argues much like the movie The Castle, these shacks hold the memories of their families.

“We firmly believe that these corrugated shacks hold significant heritage potential and deserve to be preserved for future generations. However, the eviction notice threatens to disrupt our lives, fragment our community, and erase an essential piece of our shared history.

“We may not be ‘the story’ for another Australian box office success, but we are a diverse group of New South Welshman fighting to save our families little piece of serenity.”

Mullen also said she was disappointed with the decision from Crown Lands and hopes for a change in outcome.

“The eight shack owners who have been given the letters have been told to get out of our shacks before the 30th of September because they are going to pull them down,” Mullens continued.

“My cousin acquired the shack in there in the mid 1940’s. We’re the sixth generation of our family to have the shack. All the families are pretty much the same, over the years, some of them have decided not to renew the lease on the shacks and they’ve been pulled down but the eight that are left we’re all kind of really entrenched in Wee Jasper, it is our happy place, we love it.

“Crown Lands said once they remove the shacks, they will make the space available for campsites and public space. I think they’re looking at an easy out to get rid of them and I don’t really understand why because we don’t pose any threat to anyone, we’re part of the community.

“My ideal outcome would be for the eight shacks to remain as they are. If we can’t do that, at the very least we’d like more than four months to get out. There’s quite a lot of people in my immediate family including kids and grandkids who go down at different times of the year, and at times we all go down together. 

“We’ve got a lot of possessions still in the shack as we’ve got a couple of bedrooms and a kitchen. We’ve got furniture, an LPG stove, a heater, so it’s a lot of stuff to try and get rid of or get back home.

“Crown Lands have given us no compensation for when the shacks get removed. We’ve also had to have insurance on the buildings and public liability insurance. We’ve done all those things and kept up with the regulations and any requests that were made to us.”

Fellow shack owner at Swinging Bridge, Belinda Robinson spoke on behalf of the Robinson Family Cabin which has been in their family for decades. 

“Our grandfather (Douglas Main) received authorisation to build on the land by Wee Jasper station manager in 1958, the lease has been officially passed down over the years with the approval of the Department of Lands,” Robinson said. 

“Although the shack has undergone minor modifications, such as the addition of a small back room and kitchen, it remains remarkably similar to its original form. These enhancements have allowed our many extended families to comfortably stay for extended periods during Christmas, Easter, and various long weekends throughout the year.

“Throughout the decades, our shack has served as a constant presence in our lives, acting as a gathering place for our extended family. It holds great sentimental value, as the ashes of our father, uncle, aunt, and cousin have been scattered here. 

“The front door serves as a unique record of our family’s growth, displaying the height measurements of each sibling and cousin from childhood to adulthood.

1955 Bev Fryer’s first catch

“Trips to Wee Jasper have always entailed visits to Yass or Tumut to replenish our supplies, supporting local businesses along the way. We have regularly purchased timber, conducted pest treatments and inspections, acquired beds and appliances for our shack, and hired ‘poo carters’ to maintain the drop toilet’s hygiene. 

“Additionally, an annual excursion to Batlow enabling us to stock up on canned goods for the entire year and indulge in the joy of cherry picking.

“Our shack holds a special place in our heart and in the hearts of the Swinging Bridge community, serving as a testament to our family’s history and providing a sanctuary for generations. We have proudly embraced our role in the local community, forging enduring relationships and actively supporting businesses and initiatives in the surrounding areas.”


The various shack owners at Swinging Bridge Reserve remain hopeful to continue leasing from Crown Lands into the future, but at the moment that seems very unlikely. 

It will be interesting to see if enough public support can get the decision from Crown Lands overturned. 

Click here to sign a petition

To quote that famous Australian movie again, “it’s the vibe of it. It’s the constitution. It’s the history. It’s justice. It’s law. It’s the vibe. I rest my case.”

Tim Warren