Let them be young and happy

Our History

“For a great many years this refuge has been known to teachers and parents here as ‘The Magical Place,’” states Mrs McEvoy, principal at West Heidelberg Olympic Village Primary School, writing of Cottage by the Sea in 1977.  “The holiday is an exciting adventure for small children from the moment they are met at the Travellers’ Aid in Spencer Street and board the train with their new friends.  Afterwards, the children often recall their delight in the regular sleep and food.  Walks by the sea and miles of playing sand with interested companions bring rosy cheeks and smiles.”

In the 1970s Australian society was changing and the children arriving at Cottage by the Sea reflected this. In 1973 the Matron of Cottage by the Sea notes: “Most of the children come from broken homes and many from high rise flats and it is most noticeable how these children love a yard to play in and how they improve. They want very little TV and are much too busy being out and about in the fresh air and the space around them.”

She also observes that the older girls, 11-13 year-olds, are more sophisticated than previous generations and used to much more freedom.  Because of this, Matron tries to separate the younger and older girls more than she had before, giving them different activities.  Her aim with the older girls is to “just let them be young and happy for the short time they are here.”

Days at the Cottage were not much different than they have ever been.  In 1977, Matron writes: “Our programme is purposely simple.  We try to provide the kind of holiday which we give to our own children, and the worth of this programme seems amply demonstrated by the results as judged by our referring agencies.  The Cottage gives the security of a well-ordered but undemanding routine with plenty of nourishing food and freedom from problems and tensions, and the children generally flourish. Their time spent at the Cottage usually makes a lasting impression.”

In 1976, a new adventure playground was opened, built with $2,000 from the William Buckland Foundation.  Writing her own report that year, one young camper, Wendy, wrote: “I like this House and it is Grate (sic) fun out in the playground.  It has nice food and the cooks are nice.  I like all of the books in the play room, and toys.  I like the beach.  I found a cuttlefish and about ten shells. I have a lot of friends and I’m in the big girls room and we watch T.V for an hour before that we have a shower. Then we go to bed the little kids go to bed at half past 7.00 we get up at 7.30 again the food is beautiful. I like all the Aunties. We went to look at the light-house and that was good. I had grate-fun (sic). The end!”