25 years ago, today

Our History

25 years ago, the Cottage wasn’t such a different place … the children were still the heart of everything. The Cottage, operating purely on funds donated, provided a nurturing environment where children could build their potential and return to their lives happier and healthier individuals.

“As the longest serving staff member who joined Cottage by the Sea in 1994,” Anne Catchpole, Community Relations, remembers the era well. “Operating at that time as the Head Office located in Hawthorn, my role was to handle the intake of the children attending camps. Amazing improvements have taken place, including employment of highly professional staff, a highly qualified board, and an 80-year-old improved building.  I feel privileged to have seen these transformations.”

Back in the 1990s Cottage by the Sea operated twelve three weekly camps each year, with approximately 30 children in each camp. Fast forward 25 years and we have children staying at the Cottage 48 out of 52 weeks a year.  Children are collected by our camp leaders in Cottage by the Sea busses and spend four to five days at the Cottage.  They take part in specially designed programmes including surfing, fishing charters, stand up paddle boarding, historical walks and educational visits to the Marine Discovery Centre, Queenscliff.

Whereas 25 years ago, recalls Anne, “Families were organised to meet in the Travellers Aid Room at the then Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Railway Station) where Cottage staff would arrive on the train to accept the children into camp, farewelling parents/referrers/teachers etc., and taking them back to Geelong via train and then bus to Queenscliff. Should there be no one to collect the child on their return, I had to arrange transportation home or to school.”

“Many of the children would return year after year and there were no age specific programs,” Anne explains. The camps didn’t have the benefit of the fantastic programs run today.  It was more beach activities, art, craft and walks with the “Aunties,’ as staff members were called in those days.”

It wasn’t until the 1990s that any men worked at the Cottage with the children.  In its 100 year prior history all the Cottage staff were women – Aunties.

Below is a song, written in February 1994 by some of our Aunties 25years ago, sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star …


Cottage Cottage by the Sea
We come to work so gleefully
Running ‘round playing games
Calling Aunties nasty names
A happy bunch of souls are we
At the Cottage by the Sea
Jeanette comes in to start the day
Rise and shine we’re going to play
Down the stairs to Aunty Bet
Hope your appetites are whet
Back verandah’s where we meet
With Aunty Chris we brush our teeth
Mary says to Slip, Slop, Slap
Just don’t spill it in your lap
Lisa says to the beach we’ll run
Build sandcastles – have lots of fun
Uncle Michael shouts “lunchtime”
We’re so hungry that’s just fine
Kids are what we’re all about
Mavia and Wendy both help out
For when it’s all said and done
The important thing is the kids have fun
Teamwork’s how it’s all achieved
And it don’t matter if you’re personally peeved.

If you would like to know more about Cottage by the Sea follow us on social media and subscribe to our eNewsletter.  Anne Catchpole is also available for speaking engagements at your workplace, school or community group. [email protected] ph: 0412 431 233