Did you hear about the inner-city playgroup that improved its indoor space thanks to support from local government, surrounding business and volunteers?
While it sounds like the start of a fairy tale, it’s the real-life story of the Highgate Forrest Park Playgroup.
In fact, current playgroup president Fiona Russell believes the playgroup reboot wouldn’t have been possible without the help of City of Vincent Mayor John Carey, several local businesses and the many playgroup families who gave their time to get the work done.
“I think we started talking about improving the indoor areas a good 12-months ago,” Fiona said.
“Most of our committee meetings were spent discussing complaints about the flooring which wasn’t fit for purpose. Also, part of our lease agreement with the council stipulated that we repaint the facility, which got us thinking about what else we could do.”
At this point, Fiona took up discussions with the City of Vincent (lease holder) to find out more about the ins and outs of renovating council-owned property.
“The initial discussions gave us a good starting point and we were able to negotiate postponing the contractual ‘repaint’ until we knew what renovations we would eventually tackle,” she said.
Ideas developed quickly during playgroup sessions.
“We were lucky to have some relevant professions at playgroup – one of our members is an architect and she and I would brainstorm about what we’d like the space to look and feel like. she came up with the new floor design and layout, and then became our project manager!” Fiona said.
Once the ideas were fine-tuned, the playgroup submitted a funding application – with detailed project costings and plans for the renovation – to the City of Vincent.
“Around the same time, Mayor John Carey was visiting with local families and he happened across my door,” Fiona said.
“Once I told him more about our playgroup and how valuable it was for local families he became a wonderful advocate for us.
“He really championed our cause and his ongoing support was critical to the project receiving funding of $12,000 which covered the new flooring and electrical work.”
“He suggested local street artist Melissa McVee for her wonderfully colourful and child-friendly work and the finished mural is just beautiful.”
The playgroup covered the cost to repaint the rest of the internal spaces (as per its lease agreement with the council) and customised flat pack storage using timber and fixings donated from Bunnings Inglewood.
“We ended up shutting the playgroup for a couple of weeks and storing things at the local croquet club. This allowed us to pull the whole thing apart before putting it back together,” Fiona said.
“A big thank you has to go out to our member volunteers who chipped in to help prep, spring clean and build our interiors – we had mums, dads and grandparents chipping in – even with kids in tow!
“We would not have gotten it done if not for the people putting in long hours – some dads worked all weekend to get things put back together and the cabinetry built.”
“The Christmas party was an unveiling of sorts and gave us the opportunity to thank the many wonderful businesses who donated to the renovation, our raffle and Christmas party catering – Pierrot’s Hair Studios; Bodhi J Wellness Spa; Rochelle Adonis Cakes & Confections; Planet Books; Method Clothing; City Farm Café; Beaufort Realty; Source Foods; City of Vincent; Bunnings Inglewood; Mondo Butchers; Crust Gourmet Pizza.”
But things will continue to evolve at the playgroup.
“We’re not finished yet,” Fiona said. “We will keep looking for opportunities to improve the space for our families and we welcome ideas from everyone!
Kath is a mum of three who works part time and enjoys writing and catching up with other stressed out mums in her spare time. Usually she’s racing against the clock to make her boys (+ husband) arrive anywhere on time and feels quite the talented mother when two out of the three make it out of the house with shoes on!