Burwood Walks #14: Bushy Park Wetlands

Our fourteenth walk is a continuation of the twelfth walk, starting at Tally Ho Business Park, in Burwood East, then walking to Glen Waverley and Vermont South. Catch the 75 tram (the longest tram route in Melbourne) and get off at Lakeside Drive (Stop 72, Melway map 62 C7). This walk is about 6km, plus 2km for the return bird- hide walk.

From the tram stop, cross Burwood Highway to the south side, then enter Lakeside Drive, past the lovely little park and its picnic table near the “palms” and a small lake. At the bridge, continue downstream along a path that starts on the left-hand side then wends its way through this watery park. (If you come on a Sunday, it is hard to imagine that you are actually in a business park.) You will hear busy Springvale Road getting closer. At the end of the lake, just past a landing near a green shed, walk up the grassy slope to Springvale Road, carefully crossing to the grassy sections in the median strip and opposite road verge, to Baranbali Drive (well signposted). Walk easterly along this street, which runs gently downhill, with fine views of the Dandenongs. This is very pleasant strolling, approaching an obvious park.
Enter this park (Billabong Park, but I didn’t see any billabongs). Walk past the baseball ground towards the clubrooms, where you will see a flood retarding embankment that has a path heading east on top. There are some lovely old Australian trees here, and this short path finishes at Weeden Drive. Walk easterly along this gently undulating street for about 20 minutes, again a pleasant stroll. Look for views to the south of the Police Academy, and for several other hills to try and identify. On the corner of Narracan Street, look at the attractive bark on a large, old paperbark.

When you reach the corner of Lascelle Drive (on the right), you will see a gravel path entering the smallish – but very attractive – Tyrol Park. The rustic wooden seat just over the rise is a good spot to take a break. How many sports can you practise here, do you think? This park also features many fine Australian trees. Walk diagonally across the park and exit by another gravel path that will come into view. On exiting, follow Akrana Court, then turn left into another street, cross Salsburg Court and find a short, concrete laneway (with new fences) on your left, which takes you to what becomes Bushy Creek Wetlands. Turn right (south) for 200 metres where there is a post-and-rail fence, Parks Victoria signage and a choice of two tracks (one to the south, one to the east). We can use both of them.

Bird hide at Bushy Park wetlands
Bird hide at Bushy Park wetlands

The track to the south goes to the bird hide, well worth the half-hour return walk. Look out for (believe it or not) cattle, and their attendant egrets. Cattle have two roles in this park – they keep the fire risk down, and they provide part of the heritage story of the reserve. You probably won’t need binoculars at the bird hide – the ducks will come to you!

Once back at the junction, take the track to the east. (There are a lot of tracks in this area, but you will reach the finish of the walk if you keep heading northerly.) This track passes a drinking-water tap, then crosses a small bridge. After the bridge it turns right, then at about 50 metres farther on take the left track, which climbs the hill. Where another track (on your left) joins this one a few minutes later, you will see a set of wooden steps ahead. Take these to the top of the hill, turn left, and walk around where until recently the lookout tower used to be. (Locals fervently hope that it will return soon.) You may also be interested to learn that this lovely, bushy “hill” is actually made up of garbage – it used to be a rubbish tip, which was very nicely rehabilitated.

After less than 50 metres you will come to another gravel path. Turn left heading downhill, and after 100 metres you will come to another track (close to the current waste centre), but instead go down the set of wooden steps to your left. At the bottom of the steps, turn right and head for the small bridge (green poles and orange caps) leading into a small, attractively set playground. (From here, there are informal tracks to an entrance into Bunnings carpark, but they can be slippery.) The safe route to follow is to exit at the northwest corner of the playground into Mont Court, first westerly, then northerly to Burwood Highway. Turn right here and walk for about 50 metres to a bus stop between Officeworks and Bunnings. There is a cafe, and public toilets, in Bunnings.

One day the 75 tram route will extend even farther to Knox Shopping Centre, but for now there is a frequent route 732 bus that goes right to the tram terminus outside Vermont South Shopping Centre, for our return to Burwood Village.

Burwood Walks #17: East to Malvern

Walk along Toorak Road towards the city and turn into the first street on your left – Myrniong Street. Admire the variety of street trees. Manchurian Pears; soft, flaky paperbarks, lilly pillys and even olives (among others) make this a lovely stroll to a large park which we enter beside a big oak tree. In fact, this whole walk features many attractive street trees.

When we last visited this park (Burwood Reserve), it was largely a construction site. Now that all that work is finished, we can stroll straight across past the sheltered seats to the right hand side of the clubrooms to a path which gently climbs the embankment. At the first bend, look for a narrow right-of-way near the cricket practice nets to exit the park. After five minutes, we reach Bath Road, where we turn right (westerly) to another park.

In just 5 to 10 minutes, you will reach Hartwell Sports Ground, where the path diverts around a really large tree. At the south-west corner of the park, you will see Clitus Avenue (near a postbox). Walk south along this street, noting the interesting mix of housing that characterises Burwood. Five minutes later, turn right into Dion Street and cross the Alamein railway, turning left (south), into Prosper Parade.

About 300m along this, at the pedestrian crossing, follow the sign west onto the Ferndale Trail, which starts here in Summerhill Park (Melway 60 D8). This must be one of our finest suburban walks, which we take for 15 to 20 minutes (to the third road crossing). The skate park we pass must get very busy – it has directional arrows!

You have a choice at this third road crossing (Ferndale Road) (Melway 60 B7). If you wish, you can continue down to the picnic/playground (with toilets), then return to this spot (return distance is about 750m).

However, at the Ferndale Road crossing, we will take the right-of-way, beside a house on your left, heading uphill to the south. This route becomes Brownell Road, and at the second roundabout, turn right, then left one block later into Lurnea Road. Just after the top of the rise, you will see a very narrow right-of-way (between 13 and 15 Lurnea Sreet). Take this all the way to Glen Iris Road. I crossed over Glen Iris Road to admire the Primary School and the Wesleyan Chapel, both built in 1856. Continue downhill to the shops, cross High Street Road, turning right towards Eric Raven Reserve, with its prominent entrance arch.

Just inside this reserve, there is an indigenous grass reserve. I walked downhill beside it, past a large basalt rock, an unusual basketball ring and then anticlockwise around the playing field, and through a swamp paperbark woodland beside Gardiners Creek. You will notice that we are walking upstream.

At the end of the carpark, there is a bridge across Gardiners Creek. After crossing this bridge, continue more or less straight ahead (westerly) past Nursery Lake (so named because it used to be a nursery) with two great animal “voices” installations. Keeping west of the lake, soon find our very own pedestrian subway under the freeway(!) (Melway 59 K9). This leads into a very small park (called Allenby Walk). A sign here points to Hedgeley Dene Gardens and Central Park. Turn left along Allenby Street, and look for two unusual stucco houses. At the end of this street, turn right onto a well-defined footpath, heading south-westerly. Carefully cross Malvern Road into Hedgeley Dene Gardens. Wandering is encouraged, as you explore this linear park. The western end of these gardens is hard to describe – just beautiful; picnic spots galore, toilets, bridges to explore, and lots more. At the end of the park, you will exit on Kardella Street, walking westerly to Burke Road. Turn right (north) to Wattletree Road shops. (You will see Central Park, but you do not need to explore it today, because we will look at it in a future walk.)

We are now a fair way from Burwood, but it is quite easy to get back by using three trams. Hop on Route 5 (which starts here), getting off at Glenferrie Road (stop 45 – about 10 minutes), then head north on route 16 to Riversdale Road (stop 70 – about 15 minutes), and finally east on route 75 (not route 70) to Vermont South, which is the tram through Burwood Village (stop 58 – about 15 minutes).

Art by students of Camberwell South Primary School

The children from Camberwell South Primary School have been working very hard this year to produce some fantastic art work. The work will be on display at the Hawthorn Town Hall gallery space from August 1 to 27.

The work of Preps through to Grade 6 children is on display, providing a great example of the type of art that is happening in primary schools. The children visit the art room once a week for a 50 minute session. Sometimes an art task may take two or three weeks to complete. The children are always very proud of their work. Throughout the year we try to cover all areas of art – drawing, painting, textiles, construction, modelling, printing and appreciation. We often learn about the work of famous artists and use these discussions as a stimulus for our work. The elements of art (line, space, texture, form and shape) are also covered as the children complete their work.

Due to restrictions in the gallery space, only 2D work is on display in this current exhibition. Collages have been completed by the Grade 1 and 2 children. Some reflect holiday happenings and some are based on the work of popular artists, Ken Done and Michael Leunig. The Grade 6 children worked collaboratively interpreting a piece of work by David Hockney, whose recent exhibition at the NGV was studied by the children.

Prep children love to dress up and this was the basis for some lovely paintings showing their favourite costumes. We are sure you will find the Camberwell South Primary School exhibition enjoyable, so please make time to drop in during August.

The artists’ muse for 65 years

There’s a reason the Box Hill Art Group has been going strong for 65 years this year. Commencing in 1952, it has serviced its community well, nurturing the talents of thousands of budding artists, as well as stretching the skills of experienced and exhibiting artists along the way.

Its weekly classes cater for watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastel, drawing and mixed media. Then there’s the monthly life drawing sessions, all with tutorage from seasoned award-winning artists who are only too eager to pass on their practical secrets about how to make excellent works of art. But there’s more to it than just making art.

While we know that painting and drawing are enjoyable, satisfying, therapeutic and good for the soul, it also combats social isolation by extending one’s social life, and it helps in the fight against depression and dementia by stretching one’s brain in the art of learning.

Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan
Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan

Not only does the Box Hill Art Group provide for all styles and competence levels, it also provides opportunities for special workshops; regular painting expeditions to local destinations of note (followed up with social lunches); and the opportunity of exhibiting original art twice each year.

The Group also keeps interested parties abreast of what is going on in the wider art communities. For those who enjoy engaging online, there is a range of information available on the Box Hill Art Group website, as well as on its Facebook and meetup pages. As Helen Harris, Chair of the Whitehorse Council’s Visual  Arts Committee said:

“Whether you’ve just  retired, or simply have  time on your hands,  I cannot recommend  the Box Hill Art Group  highly enough. It’s made  up of really interesting  people from all walks of life who  simply love to paint fabulous pictures.  Some enter their creative art into  community art competitions where  many attract buyers, while others  simply have them framed for their  own walls at home.”

It’s the holistic art experience  which allows new people to try out  a class or two before committing  to a term of lessons by booking  online for only $10 per lesson.  For more information visit www. boxhillartgroup.com.au or call Eric on 0424 775 540.

Burwood Walks #16: Blackburn Lake

Our sixteenth walk takes us to an area which is quite shady; namely the wonderful Blackburn Lake Sanctuary. The length of this walk lies between 6 and 10km, depending upon how much “exploration” you do within the sanctuary. We start this walk at  Laburnum Railway Station and walk through the Blackburn Creeklands to the sanctuary. From Burwood Village, you can catch the SmartBus 903, or the local 766 bus to Box Hill, then take a train just one station to Laburnum (Melway 47H10). This walk is within the City of Whitehorse.

From Laburnum station platform, head easterly down the ramps and then to Laburnum Village, just to the south of the railway. Walk past the shops (if you can!), cross Pakenham Street, and turn left into the next street, Fuchsia Street. Walk just 50m or so, and you will see a corridor of parkland on both sides of this street. Curiously, the section to the north looks promising, but is a dead end. The path south is a lovely walk, and after about five minutes, you cross a street and come to a pebblestone building (a Girl Guides Hall). Turn right just before this building, heading west, and listen for kookaburras and gang gang cockatoos along this bushy winding track. After five minutes you will approach busy Middleborough Road, with the first of several interesting Artists Trail notices. You also see the first (of many) post-and-rail fences. Walk just 50m south along Middleborough Road, then turn left back into the bush along Blacks Walk, staying fairly close to the creek -roughly easterly.

Pass the first footbridge, and at the road bridge (Kalang Park sign and information board), cross to the northern side of the creek, walking for about 15 minutes (including a wetland) to the next road crossing. Cross now to the southern side of the creek again, along a meandering path which, after about five minutes, emerges onto a street  (Heath Street). Walk up to, and cross busy Blackburn Road, then walk south for a few minutes to Naughton Grove. Turn left into this tree lined street, past a small playground; and an interesting mix of housing appropriately vegetated for its location so close to the sanctuary. (You will notice that there is a “Below the Lake” Friends Group caring for the creek you have been walking along – thanks!)

Blackburn Creeklands
Blackburn Creeklands

When you are 100m from the post-and-rail fence of the sanctuary (still in Naughton Grove), there is a choice. You can walk straight ahead into the north-west section of the Sanctuary and explore this area (finishing at the information centre/toilets); or take a path on your right, which continues along the creek line and emerges directly across Lake Road (from another entrance), to the south-east section of the sanctuary. This is the route I took, crossing Lake Road just opposite Halley Street.

Once inside the sanctuary, you will see that you are on “Lakeside Circuit”. I chose to walk along the south-east leg, then back along the north-west, taking in Pobblebonk Point”, a Boardwalk, and arriving at “The Landing” about 30 minutes later. Enjoy your wandering around! The lake itself gradually comes into view as you walk along the circuit. From “The Landing”, walk along the tracks going uphill (northerly) past the attractive small garden (called “Flowers of the Past”) with its very interesting historical information. The main information building near the toilets is also very good, and recently refurbished. Several brochures are available. Nearby is a huge(!) playground, which also includes a xylophone, and a small analemmatic sunclock.

Shady picnic area near the playground in Blackburn Lake Sanctuary
Shady picnic area near the playground in Blackburn Lake Sanctuary

Once you decide to leave, exit the park by walking northerly from the information centre (under the palms), turning left onto Central Road. (There is also a 736 bus on this road that runs to Blackburn Station).

Just as you start walking westerly, you will see a small native grassland reserve. Cross the road at the school crossing and walk back to Blackburn just inside Morton Park, and then past the well-kept War Memorial Gardens. The walk from the information board to the station takes about 15 minutes. From Blackburn station, catch any city-bound train back to Box Hill, and return to Burwood by the route 766 or 903 bus. It is also only a 10-minute walk along shady Laburnum Street to return you where you began.

The Highway Gallery for talent

THE City of Monash’s community gallery, The Highway Gallery, is going from strength to strength and, in 2015, celebrated its 25th anniversary with an exhibition of selected works by previous Exhibitors.

The gallery had its germination way back in 1965 when Waverley was something of a cultural desert as far as visual arts were concerned but the formation of the Waverley Arts Society in 1969 heralded the beginning of change. It took a while, but by the early 1980s Waverley Council had established two bodies relevant to the arts: the Art Acquisition Committee (which was allocated funds to acquire art for the City) and Arts Waverley (an advisory body to foster all of the Visual and Performing Arts).

Acting proactively, The Arts Acquisition Committee persuaded Council to assign to them a property acquired due to road widening. This they did, and 14 The Highway Mount Waverley eventually became known as The Highway Gallery. Its goal was to benefit the local arts and wider community. Its first exhibition was on 19 January 1990. Since then the gallery has been the venue for a wide range of exhibitions by artists and community groups. It is operated by the City of Monash and its use is open to groups and individual applicants.

Storybook Yarn Art
Storybook Yarn Art

Over the years, artists and groups exhibiting at the gallery have been provided with professional guidance in curatorial skills, presentation and how to seek sponsorship. The Committee of Management and Exhibitors are forever grateful to the many volunteers who have contributed years of valuable service on their behalf. If you are interested in volunteering with The Highway Gallery, phone 9807 7261 during opening hours (see page 30) or email timing_nza@yahoo.com.au

The gallery very proudly mentions some of Australia’s prominent citizens who have opened past exhibitions: Weary Dunlop, Cathy Freeman, Mirka Mora, Dacre Smyth, Tim Bowden and Lady Southey. Parents, mark your diaries – a must-see exhibition for 2017’s first term holidays is Storybook Yarn Art by school children. Open from 5 to 23 April (Wednesdays to Sundays 12 noon–4pm), it includes a program of workshops and demonstrations. Also, if you have some spare time, check out the Gallery’s very interesting website – there are lots of images for upcoming and past exhibitions. highwaygallery.wordpress.com 

Upcoming Exhibitions at The Highway Gallery
1–19 March Paintings of Australian Landscapes, by Greg Footit
22 Mar–2 April Living Colour, A Peg Widdows Retrospective
5–23 April Storybook Yarn Art, from Longbeach Place, Bayside
25 April–22 May Indonesian Art and Artefacts, Museum of Indonesian Arts
23 May–6 Jun Reconciliation and NAIDOC, a Monash Reconciliation Group presentation

The Highway Gallery Map
The Highway Gallery Map

 

You can find The Highway Gallery adjacent to Mount Waverley Shopping Centre, close to trains, buses and cafés. It is easily accessible and there is ample car parking and disability access. 14 The Highway, Mount Waverley.
Opening hours: Wed–Sun 12noon–4pm.

Burwood Walks #15: Village to Village

OUR fifteenth walk takes us northerly “from village to village” (about 6km), from Burwood to Mont Albert.

Starting in Burwood Village (Melway 60G6), walk westerly from Warrigal Road to the second street heading north from Toorak Road – Fairview Avenue. It may not have a street sign, but it has large street trees and is almost opposite Queens Parade.

This is an attractive street with many traditional gardens around older homes, and runs gently downhill. At the end of Fairview Avenue, turn left into Oxford Street, then right into Joffre Street. As you pass Thomas Street, you may like to explore the lovely small park, Through Road Reserve, with its playground and great seats. After you do this, continue north along Joffre Street. The next street on the right is Morey Street – turn into it, and after about 100m there is an entrance into a much larger park (Cooper Reserve). Walk through Cooper Reserve on the western side, where there is a popular playground, seats and a toilet. Sitting near the playground gives a good view over the reserve.

The path leading to the viewing platform in Harding Street Reserve
The path leading to the viewing platform in Harding Street Reserve

Leave Cooper Reserve, turning left along Green Street, and you will reach Through Road in a few minutes, where you turn right, continuing north to the tempting Through Road Shops. Cross Riversdale Road, and continue north between the shops and a small car park for just 30m to a walking track on the left (also more-or-less northerly). A little farther on, keep left of both the kindergarten and the playground, taking in the information signs and still continuing roughly north. This path leads to a wetland area. There are two junctions in the wetland area – take the right fork at both of them. When you reach a road, cross directly into a blocked street (Rose Avenue).

At the end of Rose Avenue, cross busy Warrigal Road and walk along Mathilde Road, then right (south) into Russell Street, left into Scottsdale Street and left again into Royal Lane. At the end of Royal Lane, go right into Belmont Street. (This all sounds complicated, but it looks OK “on the ground”). At the end of Belmont Street, you will see Edyvean Street slightly to your left. At the end of it you will see a very small park entrance (to your north) beside a tennis club. This path winds uphill through Harding Street Reserve, and, yes, you guessed it, we will be going past the Surrey Hills Communication Tower, reviled by many, but recognised as a very important historical structure by others; and certainly seen by possibly millions of motorists. However, there is something else to see prior to reaching the tower. As you ascend this park path, you reach a real highlight, a lookout platform, with a seat and panoramic views of the eastern suburbs and city, as would be expected from this most prominent hill.

The unmistakable Surrey Hills Communication Tower
The unmistakable Surrey Hills Communication Tower

Continue north past the tower, cross busy Canterbury Road, walk west (to your left) past the reservoir, admiring more great city views. Turn first right into Benwerrin Road, which is also a 10-minute gentle downhill stroll past many interesting houses. At another very small park there is an interesting heritage sign. Walk westerly from it into Windsor Crescent, then take the first street on your right (Louise Avenue). Five minutes away, cross Mont Albert Road (We have traffic lights here) and wander through Mont Albert towards the railway station. It certainly has a “village” feel, a variety of interesting shops, including coffee shops, seating and a public toilet.

There are two choices for returning to Burwood: just near the corner of Louise Avenue and Mont Albert Road there is a bus stop (on the southern side) for route 766, which is easily the quicker way back – but check its timetable, because it can be “patchy”. Alternatively take any train heading east (Blackburn, Belgrave, Lilydale, etc.) just one stop to Box Hill, then catch SmartBus 903, heading towards Mordialloc.

An extraordinary life

IT was an auspicious day on 6 August 1926 in Kent, England, when Edna Frances Clarke joined the fold. By age three, it was clear she had weak ankles so her aunt suggested enrolling her in dance classes. Edna’s life-long love of singing, dancing and acting resulted. Although dancing strengthened her legs, she was never able to play active sport. Keen to assist children, when schools closed during World War II, 14-year-old Edna, who had been dux of her school, started a school for neighbourhood children in her parents’ attic.

A year later, 17-year-old Bill Jones first saw her in the local park; he later wrote that he knew that this was the girl he would marry.

 

Daughter Vivien:

“Dad adored her from that moment until his untimely death at 56 years.”

Their first child, Martin, was born in a London Hospital in June 1944 when the first of thousands of doodlebugs (bombs with wings) landed on London. The new young mothers were handed their babies each evening and the nursing staff went home!

Edna Clarke
Edna Clarke

In 1958, Bill, Edna, Martin, Vivien and Trevor emigrated to Australia. Seeking immediate community involvement, they joined an entertainment group called the Modernaires and travelled around Victoria presenting musical shows at aged care facilities and hospitals.

I spoke with the effervescent Edna in February this year at a Peridot dress rehearsal where she was accompanied by enthusiastic residents of her senior citizens’ village. Meeting Edna was a true ‘experience’ – 90 years of age, slim and spry body, topped by bright red hair to match her bubbly personality.

In the 1960s, Edna enrolled at Swinburne Technical College – a lifetime of producing, directing, set design, stage management, adjudication, dramaturgy and a children’s theatre workshop were the result. Edna said that students were not only taught acting but about makeup, sound and lighting. “You’ve got to know how to put the lights in the right place to get the effect you want. We had to learn everything – not just being on stage.”

Around the same time, she studied at Ingmar Bergman’s Melbourne’s School of Film. Edna and Bill produced environmental documentaries and Vivien recalls:

“They also filmed a TV series – the video equipment was so heavy they were often up to their knees in mud and being chased by trains on bridges when they had been told trains didn’t run on Sundays!”

Although Edna trained at Kenwood Theatre where many actors went on to TV shows such as Cop Shop and Number 96, she wouldn’t give up full-time employment to pursue that possibility, instead continuing in community theatre in plays and musicals and she was involved in establishing and running of Melbourne’s first ‘accredited’ hospitality training programs and ran a licensed motel/restaurant in the ‘seventies.

Edna in directing mode
Edna in directing mode

Following the death of her beloved Bill in 1980, Edna worked in youth theatre and also coordinated an after-school program where she taught boys to knit and girls to be more assertive! Back to her thespian pursuits: at the 1983 Waverley Festival of Theatre, Edna won Best Production, Best Set Design and Best Actress award!

Although her ambition to enter the 1986 Moomba Festival was thwarted by local groups, at an after-show cast party the woman running the Moomba Festival, having just seen her work, suggested Edna join the festival! “You will only have to do two plays that we’ll come and see, and we’ll invite you into it.”

The outcome was that she and future husband Gordon Bartlett started their own theatre company – Peridot (named for her August birthstone). With no time for auditions, she asked friends to join the cast of Moving. They had no flats or props and thankfully the (now defunct) Box Hill City Theatre Company loaned them a set.

Edna’s Moomba entry, The Dresser (its first non-professional production) resulted in Best Production, Best Director and Best Set Design – bear in mind that Edna was now nearly 60.

Edna filming with Gordon in the 1980s
Edna filming with Gordon in the 1980s

Over the years Edna worked with schools, casting and directing school musicals at Primary and Secondary level and, having had no previous background in films or theatre, Gordon assisted Edna in producing educational videos for schools and the Victorian indigenous pre-school community.

Playwrights were still seeking Edna’s assistance earlier this year – until Vivien told her that she must tell people her age – no one could guess – because she thought she could still do anything.

“As kids we laughed because Mum couldn’t run”, recalls Vivien. “However, x-rays revealed, when she was in her 70s and had resorted to directing plays on her knees, that she had been born with deformed ankles. The specialist surgeons couldn’t believe that she had walked at all. Her ankle bones were fused to relieve some pain but she refused to use a stick!”

Vivien says that Edna was also a superb seamstress and made fine tapestries and cross-stitch work – her unfinished work will be completed by family members. Vivien: “Mum had a finger in every pie but everything she did she did extremely well. Right to the last Mum just wanted to help people and make them good at what they do.”

Edna was fortunate to have husbands very willing to, as Vivien put it, ‘follow her dream’. When she and Gordon moved to a retirement village in their eighties, they soon had other villagers embroiled in play readings – what every retirement village needs is an Edna!

Following a life of constant pain, Edna passed away from cancer on 15 September, shortly after celebrating her 90th birthday. She is survived by her husband, Gordon, aged 95; two of three children, five of seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Peridot’s next production, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, is a fast-paced whodunit. Venue: Unicorn Theatre, Mt Waverley Secondary College, Lechte Road, Mt Waverley (2–18 February 2017).

Waverley Helpmates celebrate

WAVERLEY Helpmates, a not-for-profit community based Supported Employment & Training Program located in Ashwood is celebrating 30 years of service in 2016.

In October 1986, a group of forward-thinking community members established a new program in Ashwood to employ and support young people with Intellectual Disability. Set up as an alternate employment option to the sheltered workshop model, Waverley Helpmates’ goal was to provide meaningful work beneficial to both community members and young people who required a supportive work environment. From its humble beginnings of ten Helpmates with 50 jobs, Waverley Helpmates has grown to be a thriving organisation of 33 Helpmates and with over 700 customers – meeting and far exceeding its original aims.

The Ashwood location was specifically selected to match the needs of an ageing population with the abilities of young people who were requiring regular work. Although the Ashwood, Mt Waverley & Chadstone areas make up the bulk of Helpmates’ customers, the Helpmates travel far and wide, and also maintain six retirement villages and five schools.

Being a small organisation, Waverley Helpmates provides lots of time for relationships to develop between customers and Helpmates. These friendships are celebrated each year in early December at the Thank You Afternoon Tea. There are no restrictions on who can become a customer, providing they fall within our “catchment” area and will be supportive of the way our program operates.

Occasionally described as an “onion”, (when one layer is removed, another layer will be revealed underneath), there are many facets to the Waverley Helpmates’ program. Literacy, numeracy, work ethic, punctuality, reliability, budgeting and cooking are some of the skills that the Helpmates learn. They also fundraise annually for Reefton CFA and collect blankets and clothes for the Avalon Centre in Malvern, in the part of the program that aims to develop social awareness and community responsibility. An optional holiday is offered to the Helpmates every year, and this year 14 Helpmates and six staff members holidayed for 12 days in Chiang Mai Thailand.

By offering work within the community, several boundaries are being broken down, with both sides being winners. Customers receive a regular, reliable and affordable lawn service and the Helpmates win because they are receiving payment for a valuable and real job being done. Everybody is learning that being a little bit different does not mean you cannot do as well as someone else. Diversity is important, welcomed and encouraged. Empowered by the committee, the staff empower the Helpmates in their work so that the standards are of an excellent quality.

Every person in the world needs essentially the same things – a safe environment, something worthwhile to do, someone to love and be loved by and something to look forward to; for those involved in the Waverley Helpmates’ program, all of these goals are surely being met every day. Please visit our website: Waverley Helpmates

Mad Cat – a joyous beginning

THEATRE is alive and well … which is attested to by the fact that, along with the established companies, new ones are still emerging. And one of these is Mad Cat Theatre Company. Mad Cat (Music and Dance, Comedy and Theatre) springs from the St Dunstan’s Rep Circle; under which umbrella Mad Cat’s first two productions, in 2014 and 2015, were staged.

The enthusiasm of Joanna Buddee and Marianne Duane for the company they’ve helped create is infectious as they tell of the plunge into the deep end they experienced as not only writers of the original music and lyrics for 2016’s show Baba Yaga, but also producing, directing, costumes and marketing. Why such a plunge?

“David and Jess (Hewitson-Kerr), who revived St Dunstan’s Rep Circle in 2014, are moving to South Australia,” says Joanna. “So this year Marianne and I took the helm. We co-directed Baba Yaga as well as starring in it – though we didn’t cast ourselves!

Vasilisa is captured by some evil sprites during Baba Yaga
Vasilisa in Baba Yaga

“With this production we decided to take it to the next level – to change the name and also the venue. The quality of our shows just keeps improving. The last three shows have all been original scripts. David was the playwright of those and then Marianne and I wrote the music to Baba Yaga. We had an extremely talented cast of 20 in Baba Yaga, the majority from the Boroondara area – especially Hartwell Primary School. We performed at Kew Renaissance Theatre, which is part of Kew High School. Four hundred and fifty people came to see Baba Yaga and they loved it! We feel exceptionally proud”.

 

Anyone who has been in a play knows that, even in the best-run productions, things go wrong. Joanna has an example to share:

“The worst mistake was something I did. I had my song – and it was opening night – and it was so well received I was just in shock at the applause. I got off stage in a bit of a daze and then went to the dressing room and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh! That was amazing!’ Then I stopped for a minute because I knew I had a quick change as I was going from my main character, Dunyasha, to become a sprite. ‘Quick,’ I said to myself. ‘Pull it together. You’ve got a quick change’. “So I got dressed as a sprite; then one of the other actors came in and she went ‘aren’t you meant to be on stage now as Dunyasha?’ I (swore!) and flung the Dunyasha cloak over the sprite costume. I had no shoes on, but my skirt was really long. Then I went on like that! It wasn’t my full flamboyant character because I was trying not to show that I didn’t have the right outfit on, but actually no one noticed!”

Marianne remembers another story:

“We also had a major change the night before the opening. We didn’t realise that a costume change was actually too difficult. The witch, Baba Yaga, had a scene where there is a great big fight, with smoke and special effects and then she disappears, presumably dead, but then shortly afterwards has a big confrontational scene in which she is revealed as (spoiler alert) the herione’s mother. But there was simply not enough time in between the big stand-off and the reveal, so we had to re-write stuff just before Opening Night … in the end we pre-recorded a whole speech and had it coming over the speakers – and it worked better than the original idea!”

Twenty-sixteen was the year of Baba Yaga (though it hasn’t necessarily breathed its last), but already next year is under consideration, with one major production planned, as well as a children’s workshop in the summer holidays under the Mad Cat name. Mad Cat Theatre pride themselves on being inclusive, so anyone interested in being involved either on-stage or off, or in the workshops, are invited to like their facebook page or email them: madcattheatre1@gmail.com