HomeHistoryHistory: Lake Ellen a community-driven project

History: Lake Ellen a community-driven project

Lake Ellen community
Dredging the lake area in 1980 at Lake Ellen. Photo: Picture Bundaberg

Lake Ellen was officially opened in the early '80s and, as a survey focussed on its future is launched, we take a look back it its history as a community-driven project.

The establishment of the lake turned out to be the first of many transformational efforts locals have been involved in for the recreational area over the decades.

Lake Ellen shaped into tourist attraction

Research undertaken by the Bundaberg Regional Libraries heritage team reveals the beginnings of the space came from the members of the Bundaberg East Rotary Club and included the establishment of a man-made lake.

The club was looking for a possible tourist attraction they could develop for the Bundaberg Region, which would also become a project that the whole community could be involved in.

They believed land at the eastern end of George Street was the perfect spot for a lake and picnic area.

Lake Ellen community
A fitness circuit at Lake Ellen 1984. Photo: Picture Bundaberg.

The proposed site was at the beginning of what was then a large tea tree swamp.

Club member Bert Bent approached the then Bundaberg City Council to ask permission for the club to turn the land into a lake.

Once permission was granted, the local Model Boat Club became interested in the project with members keen for the construction of a lake big enough for their boats.

After an initial donation of $4000 from the rotary club for the project, plans were underway.

Stage 1 of the lake began in 1980 and was assisted by Bundaberg City Council.

Time was spent excavating the area, clearing the scrub, digging the lake base, adding running tracks, a fitness circuit and a children's playground.

In 1982 club members decided to name the lake after Ellen Previte who, with husband Phil, ran the East End Hotel.

Ellen was tireless in her fundraising for the lake project.

Construction continued throughout the year and into 1983, with a concrete platform built for the Model Boat Club to launch their boats into the lake.

Two picnic shelters were also constructed on the western side of Lake Ellen and 120 trees were planted by club members.

Laken Ellen community
Lake Ellen filled and landscape completed. Photo: Picture Bundaberg

Lake Ellen was finally completed in 1984 with the installation of a gas barbecue for the public.

It was handed over to the Bundaberg City Council for the official opening.

Mayor Allan Stewart named and opened the lake complex on Sunday June 3, 1984 but that was not the end of development in the area.

In 1990, another picnic shelter was erected and painted, and in 1995 Stage 2 began.

Rotary club members had noticed the edges of the lake were crumbling and the lake silting so the decision was made to drain the lake, dredge it again and put stone pitching down.

Lake Ellen community
Adding in finishing stone bays for Lake Ellen. Photo: Picture Bundaberg

Eight long-term unemployed people were supervised by Rotarians in half day shifts, as they stone-pitched the banks as part of a special funding opportunity.

A concrete ring path was also constructed, the picnic shelters were repainted and more tree planting and landscaping was undertaken.

Since Stage 2 was completed, other groups have contributed to the development of Lake Ellen as a community and recreational area.

It has also been developed into a heritage hub, recognising the many cultural groups that make up Bundaberg’s diverse community.

Lake Ellen community spirit remains strong

In 2008, a project involving all levels of government with the help and muscle-power of community organisations saw the playground facilities developed on the site.

A significant community fundraising effort made the development possible.

The result was a vibrant, versatile family area that was suitable for all ages and all abilities.

Lake Ellen community
Tim Muluena enjoys the Liberty Swing at Lake Ellen Heritage Hub while dad Michael Muluena watches on.

This year, community consultation will continue with the development of Lake Ellen and transform it into a space that meets current and future community needs.

To have your say on the Lake Ellen development, fill out the online survey here.



  1. Bundaberg Radio Yacht Club stills operates at Lake Ellen , we meet and race on Sundays 12:30 to 3:30

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