In April and May 1942, Margaret Somerville was one of three women who helped to safely transport 95 Stolen Generation Aboriginal children from the mission they lived at on war-threatened Minjilang (Croker Island) 5,000km across Australia to safety in the south.
In 1946, Margaret helped bring the children back to Minjilang where the cottage home mission continued until December 1968. In 1970 Margaret’s story of the exodus and return was published as “They Crossed a Continent”. The story was also told through a film titled “Croker Island Exodus”.
Somerville Homes came into existence in 1965. The homes were named in honour of Margaret Somerville’s dedication, tenacity, and commitment to caring for others.
In 1980, Somerville Homes changed its name to Somerville Community Services to reflect its expanded service offer.
In its over 50 year history, Somerville has operated childcare centres, family services, housing and homelessness services, financial counselling services, and emergency relief services. Disability services have always been at the core of Somerville’s businesses, with the first homes in Darwin opening over 40 years ago and homes in Katherine operational since the 1980s. In 2022, the decision was made to focus on providing high-quality disability services.
Somerville now operates its disability services in Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, and Alice Springs, with over 350 staff and plans to expand. It is a uniquely well-loved Northern Territory institution which has had a place in many peoples’ lives across its history.
Images below from Somerville’s history.