A grand farewell to Anne Catchpole after 29 years at Cottage by the Sea!

News Updates

Today, we said farewell to Anne Catchpole after 29 years of incredible service, commitment and contribution to Cottage by the Sea. Anne retires as the longest-serving staff member in the 132-year history of Cottage.

Anne retires officially at the end of February and was given a farewell lunch on Valentines Day at Cottage by the Sea.

Anne is a wonderful storyteller and we recently asked her to capture in her words some of the rich history of Cottage and the transformation of Cottage over time. Please enjoy Anne’s story below.

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My journey with the Cottage commenced in early 1994 when, as a recently divorced single parent and mother of a little 6 year old girl (Georgie), I needed to return to the workforce and was seeking part time work.

I noticed a five line, single column advertisement in The Age for a Booking Secretary and applied for the position with The Ministering Children’s League, Queenscliff Inc. (a name change to Cottage by the Sea took place in 1998) and following an interview with Board Member Eril Deighton and Paulin Walter and then by the Board, I was selected for the role.

My journey commenced the first week of March 1994 in a little room above a Pet Food Shop in Hawthorn – with only one computer used for donor data entry. I was handed a small exercise book with handwritten names and telephone numbers of schools and referring agencies who referred children annually for a three week holiday at Cottage by the Sea in Queenscliff. For the Booking Secretary role I completed Community Services & Health Management studies and undertook a Speaking with Impact course – all having held me in good stead.

Initially my role involved liaising with schools, agencies, parents etc. and meeting them, and the children who I had selected to attend camp, at the Travellers’ Aid Room at the then Spencer Street Station, on the forward and return journey. Staff would travel by train to meet and greet us, take the children via train to Geelong and then they would catch a bus to the Cottage at Queenscliff. A questionnaire was distributed to a cross section of participants (families, agencies, referrers etc.) to gain insight into the needs of the children and families regarding duration of camps etc. which ultimately produced shorter camps and more of them.

The purchase of the Cottage bus was a great initiative, broadening the activities we could offer, along with expanding the pickup/drop off points, particularly in regional Victoria. After fire, flood, drought etc. we were able to drive to regional areas, extending the reach to families in remote areas, previously not possible.

One of my first actions was to design an Intake Form along with a Medical Form covering each child. Any medication had to be in labelled containers and was instantly handed over to staff for safe keeping. When intake transferred to Queenscliff, my role was changed to producing, with the assistance of a graphic designer, the Annual Report, Annual Calendar and the 4 times a year Newsletter, liaising with Melbourne groups, collecting donations and guest speaking. This wonderful organisation, with a proven 132 year history of helping children and families in need has played an important role in my life. Whether that be organising fundraising via the Australian Open Garden Scheme (ably assisted by volunteers Gwenda and Barbara), arranging the 125 year celebratory Afternoon Tea at Government House, a special 125 year Australia Post stamp along with a fundraising commemorative paver initiative around the Cottage flagpole.

Charles Adams, who attended following the 1939 fires, stands beside the little Cottage car that proudly displays the Cottage logo – free advertising. It has over 100,000 km on the clock and has travelled widely throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria (even as far afield as Deniliquin) where I was invited to address a large group in the local hall.

My partner David has been involved with the Cottage, supporting me and using his electronic engineering skills and equipment at the Annual Fairs, spruiking all types of wares and encouraging people to give generously for such a great cause. One highlight, after a personal visit to Uganda, was to provide the visiting African Children’s Choir with untold firsts e.g. entering the ocean for the first time, plentiful food etc. I remember meeting their plane, with staff and the Cottage bus, at Tullamarine at 1 am.

Today our highly qualified Camp Leaders have the skills to deal with many situations, encourage and build up the confidence of the participants, extend their skill base and offer them memories to treasure. An A.G.M. speaker was a young qualified Doctor who spoke of his time as a child at the Cottage. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Maree Duffy (Steel) (3) and Trish Duffy (Holmes) (4) who remembered attending the Cottage in the early 1960’s and enjoyed reminiscing, telling me about Fish Pie on a Friday. Sunday was always Party Night and to this day a particular soap smell brings back memories of their time there.

The Cottage has always been supported by its wonderful branches and volunteers and I have been supported personally in Melbourne by volunteers Gwenda, Barbara and Jan (now an Ambassador for the Cottage). I have had the privilege of working with three General Managers – Paulin Walter, Tony Featherston and now Adam Wake.

The Founders Elizabeth Calder (1) from Maldon and Annie Hitchcock (2) from Geelong, who formed the Cottage in 1890 and purchased the land on which we reside today, erected a timber building which opened in 1895 (costing 1,222 pounds) would be so proud to know the organisation has a secure future supporting children and their families through fun, inspiration and opportunity, thanks to the wonderful support from our donors.

In the mid 1930s the original old timber building needed to be replaced with the U shaped double storey brick building we have today which opened in 1938 (costing 10,000 pounds). With a recent grant, the old brick building has now become a fantastic renovated purpose built facility with wonderful playground equipment offering programs by highly qualified staff. 2 1 The Board were successful in purchasing the adjoining property – Riptide – which increased our capacity to offer more camps to both children and families and currently fundraising is underway to improve this facility.

Both David and I will continue to be involved with this great organisation and I can’t express how proud I am to have had the privilege of working for it for 28 years and, although difficult, my decision to finally retire has not been an easy one, but it is the right one.

Anne Catchpole Community Relations – Melbourne