In 1951 a new matron, Sister Nora Harper, arrived at Cottage by the Sea from the Ministering Children’s League (MCL) parent house in Ottershaw, England. She was highly qualified and well experienced both medically and administratively. In her notes from that year, Matron Harper writes: “the selection of children to be sent on holiday has been altered to include a wider range of needy children. As well as taking children from the State School Relief Committee and from the Hospital Almoners and from Clinics we have discussed the matter with the Mission to Streets and Lanes, which does such wonderful work among the very poor, and other missions all doing good work … of the 54 children recommended to us by the Mission in the last five months, only 7 have ever had a holiday in their lives.”

Approximately 400 children stayed at the Cottage each year throughout the 1950s. Generally staying for three weeks at a time. The annual budget to care for the children was somewhere between £5,000 and £7,000; derived solely through charitable donation. This was significantly supplemented through in-kind contributions of food, clothing etc. from a generous community of supporters.

In February 1954 HM Queen Elizabeth II sailed through Port Phillip Heads, clearly in view of the Cottage. Thanks to Queenscliff Town Hall and one of the staff, the children staying at the Cottage that February had a stand in Geelong to see HM Queen Elizabeth II.  Her Majesty sent chocolates to the children, which were distributed during the Annual Picnic.

Later that year, Janet and Edwina Brierly stayed at the Cottage. The sisters returned earlier this year to reminisce.  When they first came to Cottage by the Sea, Janet and Edwina were not long out from England and were living in Mooroopna in the Goulburn Valley.  They came by train to Spencer Street then another train to Queenscliff.  Both women have very fond memories of their time at Queenscliff; playing outside and on the beach.  Breakfast was always porridge and one piece of bread cut into four.

Two other sisters, Joy and Carolin Gibson from Mildura, stayed at the Cottage over the long summer break of 1954/5 while their mum worked.  Joy revisited the Cottage last year, and reminisced how she liked the roasted parsnip, walks along the beach, the staff making up Enid Blyton stories, walking to the movies in Queenscliff and the old tram in the playground.

As the decade progressed the last of the original wooden cottage was demolished and more improvements were made to the main Cottage (built in 1938). In 1956 the old tram was replaced with a newer version, recently decommissioned from the Geelong network.  In 1957 a new playroom was completed with turquoise walls, pink ceilings, sea blue door, white woodwork, natural polished floor and pastel coloured chairs.  In 1958 the Sun Garden was completed, providing a protected play area and new playground equipment was installed including a see-saw, swing and roundabout.

In 1956 Matron Harper wrote in her report: “any child regardless of colour and creed is welcome at the Cottage.”  The accompanying photograph shows a young Aboriginal girl, Yvonne Charles from Mooroopna, blonde haired Dianne Synott and Hungarian refugee Emmy Gargya happily building sandcastles together on Cottage Beach 1957.