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February 12, 2018

Dilapidated visions of your youth from Greenhills Adventure Park

Photographer Sia Duff and writer, Walter Marsh go back in time.

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  • Pictures: Sia Duff
  • Words: Walter Marsh & Sia Duff

Although it operated right up until early 2016, Greenhills was like a time capsule of ’80s and ’90s Australian summers. But the dayglo pinks and yellows and blues of those optimistic decades were now faded from years of sun and weather and generations of bathered bums. A weirdly bleak Ken Done painting. Plastic and fibreglass lay brittle from the years of exposure, and glossy black water sat pooled at the bottom of giant, gumleaf-strewn waterslides.


In July 2016 photographer Sia Duff and writer Walter Marsh visited a just-closed Greenhills Adventure Park as it was being prepared for auction. The resulting photo essay reflects on the childhoods of many South Australian millennials — and the limits of that nostalgia.

The family that ran the park right until the end had packed up and left weeks earlier, and with a handful of auctioneers running the show it was like an open museum. Everything was unlocked and for sale, so nothing was off-limits, right down to the wall of decades-old cereal box toys, lost matchbox cars and dozens of discarded odd thongs, all nailed up like depressing trophies.

People are obsessed with abandoned theme parks around the world – something about the combination of nostalgia, the thrill of trespass and juicy Instagram fodder. In South Australia, we’re still hung up on places like Dazzeland and Magic Mountain, probably aided by the fact they’ve been completely wiped away by taste or economics.

We caught Greenhills just in time; a few weeks later it was all sold and shipped away to sheds and private properties (an eccentric dog breeder threw his back out trying to transport his just-bought waterslide away). These images are the death rattle of that era — enough to remind us that even those good times have a use-by date.

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