The Development of the Playing Fields since its inception in 1953.
In the early 1950s it was identified that areas for women and girls to participate in sport were lacking in the metropolitan area. The National Fitness Council of SA was encouraging participation in sport in schools more strongly. In 1953, representatives of women’s sporting bodies and girls schools in Adelaide came together to find a suitable area that could be developed and used for home, state and national competitions for women’s sport. After much searching for a suitable location, 8 hectares was found at St Mary’s and the Premier of the day, Hon. Thomas Playford made the site available at a peppercorn rent. The site is on the corner of Ayliffe Road and Shepherds Hill Road, St Mary's.
The Women’s Amateur Sports Council of South Australia had been formed and set about organising the clearing and development of what were unfenced orange and almond groves. Land had to be levelled and prepared for sporting activities and this was no small undertaking. The development of the site owes much to Miss May Mills, Miss Helen Black and Mr Gordon Brown who brought together many of Adelaide’s prominent business men and women to achieve their goal. The land had to be surveyed, fenced and ovals prepared - bull-dozing, tree-pulling, maintenance of the small almond orchard, procurement of water, sinking of bores, planting of turf, court surfacing and building the pavilion all required time and money.
A decision was made to dedicate the entire area of 8 hectares of the Playing Fields in memory of the contribution made by women from the Army, Navy and Air Force during World War 2 with a particular focus on the 1942 Bangka Strait massacre. A dedication ceremony was held in 1956. The Bangka Strait Memorial Service was first held in 1955 and has continued annually in February each year. The memorial service has expanded its scope of commemoration to Australian women who served their country overseas in the armed forces.
An Appeals Committee raised thousands of dollars from businesses, private donations, balls and Sunday picnics, Sportswoman of the Year, Queen of Sport, Firelight Fiesta evenings, road-side collections, stalls and numerous other function to help maintain the area. Local, State and Federal governments have, over the years assisted the development of the Playing Fields through grants.
Initially, tennis, softball, cricket, and hockey were the sports played.
In 1967, the SA Women’s Memorial Playing Fields Trust was formed to take over the administration of the whole site.
Department of Recreation and Sport took a lease of the site when mounting costs became overwhelming for the Trust in the late 1980’s with a 21 year lease. In 2007, the site was leased to the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) as a home for women’s cricket who continue to develop the site.
The SA Women’s Memorial Playing Fields Trust continues to oversee the Memorial aspect of the site as well as organising the annual Bangka Strait Memorial Service.
The grounds now have 3 ovals which include the Helen Black Oval, the Gordon Brown Oval, and the May Mills Pavilion. As well as cricket, other sports played on the ovals now are soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and tennis.
Next Bangka Day Memorial Service
18 February 2024 9.45am for 10am to be held at South Australian Women's Memorial Playing Fields, Shepherds Hill Road, St Marys