Global Pandemic, Local Voices – No Guidebook for this Territory

In our first of hopefully several personal pieces, our long-time volunteer and Richmond local, Andrea Harper, has put down in words her feelings and thoughts from the past few months. Her words resonated with us and we believe that many of you would feel the same. Andrea’s daughter, Laura, took the photos dotted in between the page. We would like to thank them both for sharing this with us.

No Guidebook for this Territory

The Pandemic. What does that word mean for you? For many members of my wider community, my family and my friends, it means a journey of changing and mixed emotions. There has been extreme stress, isolation, sadness, loss and anxiety. On the other hand, for some there has also been an appreciation of new opportunities, discoveries about their local community and learnings about different ways of approaching life.

Some people revel in being able to step off the merry-go-round of rushing from one place to another. There is no visitors’ guide for this uncharted territory though, and for many of us, this has been the biggest challenge of all. New boundaries and practices have had to be adopted. Multiple unusual questions suddenly needed answers, particularly in the early phases of the first lockdown: should groceries be wiped down outside with an antibacterial spray before being brought into the house?  Should masks be ordered online and if so, what style? How should we negotiate important relationships with people we can no longer see in person and with those with whom we are in constant close contact?

In my house, older pastimes were revived and new ones created. That game of Boggle came out from the back of the cupboard. A version of ‘Masterchef’ developed, where a new and adventurous dish was cooked (sometimes a failure!) for dinner each night. Long walks around the neighbourhood became the order of the day. New laneways were explored and delightful corner stores discovered.

Spending more time outside meant becoming more aware of the subtle changes in the weather as autumn and then winter arrived. Teddy bears in windows, walls covered with red ivy, a collage of multi-coloured leaves on a footpath and chance encounters with birds, became magical distractions. Conversations with local takeaway coffee providers provided much needed contact with other humans, as did smiles and waves exchanged through the window with those who delivered groceries.

New small businesses were sought out to provide treats for special events which now had to be celebrated at home. Exercise moved from the local gym to online classes and special people in our lives were ‘zoomed’ on their birthdays. Novel words were created: a weekly Friday night ‘skyne’ (that’s a skype with a glass of wine) with friends was eagerly anticipated. As the weather cooled, a new TV series to binge on seemed essential. Many hours were spent devouring a complex and seemingly endless, sub-titled thriller.

Now, when I speak to others, the questions tend to be about the shape of a post-Covid future. What will remain of our old ways of doing things and what new aspects of our behaviour will become permanent? Will we be forever changed with a different perspective on our planet, our lives and relationships? What will be the impact on our local and wider community?

Andrea Harper, July 2020


On your first encounter with the Cubby House at Lord Street, one thing you are likely to notice is the generous outdoor area with its relaxed, backyard feel. On closer inspection, you will see a sandpit where a couple of pre-schoolers might be busily occupied, a cubby house, swings and a sizeable grassed space where children can run freely. Walk into the cosy interior and you might find children gathered around a table, chatting with each other and staff members, and perhaps eating their morning tea. You will see children’s artworks displayed on easels nearby, newly made creations hanging from the ‘belonging tree’ or perhaps a group of children absorbed in building their dream home from wooden blocks.















Here at the Cubby House, multi-aged flexible child-care sessions and a three plus-year-old learning program are provided to busy local families. These services are delivered by an established and experienced team whose enthusiasm and caring approach to the children is obvious when you step over the threshold. Shamma, the program’s coordinator, believes that one of the sessions’ secrets of success is the fact that close connections are developed between the educators, children and their families via positive and inclusive communication. Shamma herself derives a great deal of satisfaction from encouraging young children to develop their verbal skills, and seeing social networks grow, knowing that she has played a key role in providing a warm and secure environment. Being able to speak four languages means that Shamma is able to warmly welcome and communicate with families from various backgrounds. Her qualifications in fine art, and experience in teaching cooking, also enable her to design hands-on learning activities which enhance both the life skills and creativity of her young charges.

Diane, another team member whom you may also have the pleasure of meeting, has been involved with childcare at Richmond Community Learning Centre in one form or another since 2002.  She and her daughter attended playgroup (also run at the Cubby House) where Diane served as a volunteer on the committee, helping with fund-raising and organising and community lunches. In her view, the Cubby House childcare sessions are special because each activity is fun, interactive and specifically focuses on each child’s individual development. She enjoys setting up the various arts and craft, story-time and musical activities for the children. Diane also appreciates how gaining computer skills and learning the admissions process has boosted her own self-confidence. Another key advantage about the Cubby House she will point out to you, is having the spacious outdoor play area with its array of equipment designed for a range of ages

Sharmila enjoys working alongside such positive and supportive staff at The Cubby House which she describes as a caring place where children are given the freedom and encouragement to learn through play. She gains satisfaction from working closely with children and from her role in providing a creative and fun environment where young minds and bodies can explore. She loves playing with the children and seeing them grow and develop over time. Stand-out activities with the children for Sharmila are making shapes with playdough, painting and singing and dancing.

Megan’s family have lived in Richmond for four years and her children, Eugenie, aged three and Hugo, aged two, attend the occasional day care program at The Cubby House. Megan loves the family and community feel associated with the Centre and the fact that the staff are very friendly and genuinely love and care for the children. Her children have benefitted from attending and have grown in many ways such as developing more independence and mixing with other children and adults. They enjoy the activities offered and have brought some very impressive craft work home! There are a range of activities which Megan finds her children relish participating in, such as roleplay and dress-ups, playing in the sandpit, painting, drawing, singing, craft projects and playing with a wide range of toys including the outdoor equipment.  As she will tell you, ‘The half day childcare is so perfect for our family.  It gives me a chance to get some jobs done more efficiently, and also gives my children a social outlet with other kids, and independence from me.’

If you would like to know more about the programs held at The Cubby House, you can contact us on or 9428 9553

Click here to see more information about our Childcare Program

A TASTE OF RCLC – Gardening Together

There are few greater pleasures than planting a seed and watching it grow to maturity. Many people love to garden, and the residents of Richmond and its surrounding suburbs are no exception. A short stroll around our streets will demonstrate this with the variety of shrubs, trees, flowering plants and even vegetables that can be seen flourishing in front yards. The benefits of gardening abound: exercise, fresh air, sustainable living, fresh produce and where our Richmond Community Learning Centre Gardening Together group is concerned, a sense of community and inclusion.

Participants meet twice a month at Burnley Backyard under the guidance of volunteer group leader, Erin, who teaches them how to maintain a healthy garden, and where learning takes place by doing. It’s a great opportunity for those who don’t have the space at home to garden to still experience the joy of growing and eating fresh produce, while having a chat with other like-minded locals.

Amy-Kate is a relatively new member to volunteering and Gardening Together, who works as a school-based graphic designer. She and her partner (as well as being avid movie-watchers) both enjoy the exercise of the regular Gardening together times, and often are surprised by the achievements of the group at the end of a session. They originally became involved because they were keen on using the compost bins at Burnley Backyard but their interest grew into joining more of the gardening activities. Amy-Kate lists some of the perks for her as being, ‘Community engagement and meeting people, learning new skills and promoting sustainability through growing your own food.’

Ingrid moved to Richmond two and a half years ago and found swapping a large garden for a much smaller one somewhat challenging. She really missed the opportunity to compost and hated the thought of her fruit and veggie scraps going to landfill. Like Amy-Kate, Ingrid was initially attracted to the composting program at Burnley Backyard, and her involvement evolved into becoming a member of Gardening Together. She sees leader Erin as a real asset to the group, being very organised and great at planning, an essential skill to enable availability of vegetables in each season. Ingrid enjoyed watching the abundance of summer produce growing, and found being able to make several batches of her own pesto from the basil, particularly satisfying. She also volunteered for the watering roster which allowed her to keep an eye of the well-being of the veggies plus have a chat to the chooks which also inhabit Burnley Backyard.

According to Ingrid, ‘The gardening group is a great way to stay connected to the soil, learn from each other and enjoy some super-fresh produce.’


If you would like to know more, Erin can be contacted via email at or call Oren on 9428 9901.

A TASTE OF RCLC – The Yarra Songbirds

‘It is a great feeling when you say out loud that you belong somewhere.’ Roxanne, the Yarra Songbirds.


If you are lucky enough to walk past The Community Hub, Studio 1, 15 Barnet Way on a Tuesday evening, you may be treated to the harmonies of the Yarra Songbirds as their leader gently and skilfully encourages them to lift up their voices and sing. Such beautiful and familiar standards as Stand by me, Ain’t no Sunshine, Moon River, Blue Moon, Lovely Day, Didn’t leave Nobody but the Baby can be heard wafting through the air as the vocal group gives these classics their own local, Richmond twist.


This relaxed and inclusive ensemble of six to eight members (depending on the night) is now in its third year and meets weekly from 6.15 p.m. to 7.15 p.m. The Yarra Songbirds were formed by the Richmond Community Learning Centre (RCLC) in collaboration with The Richmond Music Academy and are led by the talented Jenna Stamp, a professional music teacher from the Academy.


Sue is one of the vocal group’s regulars who works in the field of design in Prahran and resides in Richmond. She moved from Geelong three years ago where she also participated in a choir. Her take on the Songbirds is that it’s a fun, social and casual group of local and not–so-local residents of all ages who meet to sing simple, popular songs from the past and more recent times, in unaccompanied three-part harmony. Sue finds the Tuesday night routine really works for her: beginning the evening with warm-up vocal exercises, then practising a song they are working on, and often finishing up with a favourite piece they have mastered. Another plus for Sue is that their leader, Jenna, is very patient with us as we all have different levels of singing experience. She is clever with her song choices to bring out the best in us all to achieve fantastic melodic results.’ Sue notes also that the members have become good friends as well as singing partners and often meet for dinner outside singing sessions.


Roxanne, another long-time member and nineteen-year resident of Richmond who teaches English at a local high school, echoes many of Sue’s sentiments about the group and adds that they have their own social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp. She sums up some of the benefits of being a member as, it is good for mental health, it connects people and there is a sense of belonging.  It is a pastime where you can express yourself creatively whilst releasing those all-important endorphins.  Dare I say, as good as chocolate!!’  One of the things that make the Songbirds so special for Roxanne is that their affiliation with the Richmond Music Academy means they have opportunities to perform during the year, particularly at open mic nights. She really values the community spirit such events can engender as they take place at local venues such as Dizzy’s Jazz Club, Annie Lewis Winehouse and Concrete Boots Bar.


A little Yarra birdy tells me the group would love their numbers to increase, so consider expressing your interest by contacting us at Richmond Community Learning Centre on: or by calling us on  03-9428 9901. The Yarra Songbirds can also be found on Facebook:

Cost: $10 per session – Your first session is free!





A TASTE OF RCLC – Creative Community

Our March ‘Taste of RCLC’ focus is on Community Art and Crafts which meets every Friday at the Burnley Backyard between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. This is a friendly and relaxed group where participants enjoy a morning cuppa, swap ideas and stories, work on current projects and help one another. You can BYO craft project, or start a new one there.

craft group

Our volunteer facilitator, Merril Pierrot, loves to show people how to incorporate materials which might otherwise go to waste, into such items as cushion covers, wall hangings or quilts, to name but a few.

Merril has lived in Richmond for around forty years and describes herself as a textile artist who is mostly self-taught but has also benefitted from attending short-courses and workshops. She has been involved in a local, community craft group for over fifteen years in various formats and sees her role as an encourager to participants.

One of the most valuable aspects of the group according to Merril is that, ‘people can work at their own pace, according to their abilities and preferences’, but she is always happy to step in if they need assistance. Merril will sometimes start someone off with an idea for a project and suggest the type of materials they might like to use and then they can take it from there. She particularly likes recycling such objects as stickers, shells and fabric scraps that are often donated to the group.

Merril derives a great deal of satisfaction from watching people develop their skills and confidence as they work on their chosen projects. As well as working with textiles, Merril also enjoys quilting, and both watercolour and mixed-medium painting.


Prue, a regular participant of the group, is a long-time resident of Richmond who also attends bingo on Mondays in the same space at the Burnley Backyard. She ensures a smooth start to the art and crafts sessions by opening up the space every Friday morning and arranging the tables. As Prue is unable to use her sewing machine at home due to renovations, she is pleased to be able to bring it in to the group and use it there. Over her time in the group, Prue has worked on a variety of different projects (including successfully shortening a pair of jeans) and is currently making toiletry bags out of fabric for gifts for family. Prue finds Community Art and Crafts provides the perfect opportunity ‘to get out of the house and have some company and people to talk to.’ 


Another regular is Jemima, who began attending this group last year. She has lived in Richmond for over fifty years and was encouraged to join by a neighbour. She describes her attendance as having had a ‘huge positive impact on her life as everyone has been so welcoming and friendly’. She loves coming and having a chat and a laugh and says she can’t thank Merril enough for her support and encouragement. Jemima loves to crochet and has made blankets for the Children’s Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital and other charitable organisations. Also a self-described bingo fanatic, when not busy at Community Arts and Crafts, Jemima attends bingo venues around Melbourne.


If you, or someone you know, are interested in joining Merril and friends at RCLC’s Community Art and Crafts group, you can do so at any time. It is open to all, including beginners and is very affordable, starting at just $3. For more information call 9428 9901. 

A TASTE OF RCLC – Beginner’s Yoga

Welcome to a New Year at A Taste of RCLC! In 2019, we will continue to introduce a range of programs, activities and people that help to make the Centre the diverse and busy place that it is.

Our February focus is on Beginner’s Yoga, a class which runs by our very dedicated volunteer Mia Ferreira.  1

Mia has been a passionate and committed yoga practitioner for ten years, an instructor for five years and has been running this particular community yoga class, as a volunteer, for two years. She hails originally from Madeira, Portugal, migrated as a child to Sydney, and has been a Richmond local for four years. Mia works in marketing and also studies professional writing. She continues to train in Iyengar Yoga which is the style of yoga taught in the group (see the link below for more information about Iyengar Yoga)*.

Volunteering is a valued aspect of Mia’s life, as in her eyes, ‘it’s important to balance working for money and working for love’. Mia also appreciates the benefits that teaching this class provides her with – meeting new people, learning new skills and ‘putting a little love back into the world’.

3Iyengar Yoga is recommended by Mia as a gentle alternative to keeping fit and combatting stress and anxiety. The classes are very affordable ($5!) and small, which means there is plenty of personalised attention. People of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities are welcome. The classes run on a repeated four week program, focusing on different skills and movements each week to ensure a balanced practice, which works on the entire body and mind. Mia outlines some of the benefits of attending the class as being: giving yourself ‘time out’ from daily responsibilities, improving strength, balance, sleep patterns and mindfulness, and meeting like-minded people who are also interested in health and well-being.

Tricia is a regular attendee of Mia’s classes. Starting as an absolute beginner, she describes this Iyengar Yoga course as challenging but fun. One of the key reasons Tricia finds the classes to be so enjoyable is that, ‘Mia talks you through the poses step by step, in absolute detail so you can’t go wrong.’ She values the personal instruction she receives and the way particular poses are adapted to the participant’s ability. More specifically, Tricia has found the stretching in yoga alleviates back pain and feels her body is more in alignment. She leaves the classes feeling relaxed but having done a full workout.


Perhaps the best way to pay tribute to Beginner’s Yoga is in Tricia’s own words, ‘I think Mia’s Yoga classes are one of RCLC’s best kept secrets!!!’


Time and Day: Every Friday morning from 9 am to 10 am at Studio 1 at the Community Hub ($5 per session)

To find out more about Beginner’s Yoga see here or call our office on 9428 9901.


* Iyengar Yoga:

A TASTE OF RCLC – Cheeky Chook Crew

Welcome to our final ‘A Taste of RCLC’ for 2019.


This month we take a look the Cheeky Chook Crew, a willing band of local volunteers who care for the hens living at Burnley Backyard. Individuals, families and community groups visit the chooks on a rotating roster to see if any eggs have been laid, clean out the chook shed and leave food and clean water. It’s a great experience for adults and especially children, who get to learn that eggs don’t just come from the supermarket shelf. As well as caring for the chooks, it’s very relaxing to just sit and watch them as well as giving them a gentle cuddle from time to time. In the words of crew-member Cate, who looks in on the chooks one evening every week, ‘I love talking to the chooks and hearing them cluck right back at me. If they are lucky I might tell them a story or two!’


Cate has been involved with the program for approximately a year, and really looks forward to visiting every week as an opportunity to be a part of and give back to, her local community. She also enjoys being able to experience nature while living in an urban environment. One of her activities during a session with the chooks is to clean the enclosure of food scraps to keep any unwanted night-time pests away. Being with the chooks also provides Cate with fond memories of her childhood when urban backyard chooks were popular and were kept by a few of her neighbours in Kew.

One of the community groups involved with the Cheeky Chook Crew is Bridge Road Early Learning Centre, a long day-care service that also runs a government-funded kindergarten program. They have been a part of the crew for a couple of months, and began this partnership in order to provide the children with an opportunity to engage with the local community. The visits to Burnley Backyard also complement their educational activities by teaching the children how to care for the environment and by demonstrating a way in which they can contribute to a sustainable future

Cheeky Chook Crew

Nikkita, who is the Kindergarten teacher at the Centre explains how the children’s involvement in this program also aims to teach them to take responsibility and care for the chickens by feeding them, replacing their water and tidying their home. It also helps to develop the children’s awareness and appreciation about where food comes from, by collecting the eggs and cooking healthy meals with the organic fresh produce.

So, thank you Cate, Nikkita and all of our fabulous Cheeky Chook Crew for helping to maintain a program which provides several community benefits and some valuable educational opportunities. Cate assures us that the name is a well-deserved one as not only are some of the crew cheeky 😀, the chooks are as well. When she opens the gate, a couple will often try to escape in order to sample some of the other delights Burnley and Richmond have to offer…

If you would like to join our Cheeky Chook Crew, please contact Oren, our Community and Programs Officer on, 9428 9901


A TASTE OF RCLC – BYO Bubs Playgroup

This month, we would like to focus on BYO Bubs Playgroup which is held every Monday of the school term at The Cubby House, a fun and welcoming home right on your doorstep, in Lord Street. There you will find great outdoor spaces to run and play, toys, activities, and other parents to talk to.    sunshine!

Allow us to introduce Cathy Boyce who is the BYO Bubs Program Coordinator:

Cathy began attending playgroup fourteen years ago with her son when it was originally located at the Burnley Backyard. As her son grew, she remained connected to Richmond Community Learning Centre as a member of the Committee and then later by working as a temporary staff member in the Occasional Care Program. Due to changing demographics in Richmond, the playgroup dwindled to one or two children at the most and the program folded. Cathy remained with RCLC then, taking on the role of Community Development Officer at the beginning of 2016 (defined by Cathy as-‘juggling lots of balls and doing whatever needs doing over the three sites we have now!’).

Cathy describes being a trainer of beginners in IT on Monday mornings, when the phone started ringing with parents asking whether the Centre had a Playgroup. Her response was, ‘Well of course we do!’ And BYO Bubs was off and running. To start with, they had a core group of five-six families, keen for some space to run, other parents to talk to and perhaps even the chance to have a coffee and finish a sentence with a grown up…

There are now over thirty families that attend the playgroup: some regularly and some whenever nap times and life works out (and some with nannies in tow). Cathy would like to think that playgroup is as much for parents as it is for the children. In her own words, ‘Parenting can be a lonely business sometimes and the opportunity to meet new people, talk to that mum you always see but have never actually met, get advice and feel like a human for a little while, is much needed.’

As a Richmond local, she appreciates that very few of us have backyards and room to run free, so the large outdoor space is utilised as much as possible with swings, sandpit, climbing frames, a cubby to work on with tools, cars to ride and bubbles to chase. A snack time is shared, sometimes they cook, dance, make sand cupcakes or push prams.  It is always a time though, for children to freely move between activities and join in when they want to, or do the same activity for the whole hour and a half! margo and maxie

As far as her own participation goes, Cathy says, ‘As a local, I find it lovely to be out at the shops, or park etc. and get some shy smiles or loud hellos from the precious faces I see on Monday mornings. Mondays are definitely my fun part of the working week before I have to ‘adult’ and get back into an office!’


Some parental perspectives…

As a mother, Sophie Moore finds BYO Bubs a valuable part of her life. This is how she describes her experience: ‘My three year old loves the role-play, building, constructing, riding cars and pushing prams. Group morning-tea is a highlight too. I have made wonderful friends who provide loads of support. Big thumbs up to Cath. Would be lost without Monday morning playgroup.’

Sarah McKenzie has been attending the group for two years. She is a busy mum of two, a wife and an artist and also works for a construction company. One of the attractions of living in Richmond for her is that virtually everything the family needs (including her work and art studio) is within walking distance. She describes the quality of life here in Richmond as great as she can watch her children grow up alongside other neighbourhood kids as they play, create together and form their identity in this nurturing community. Other local organisations and activities which Sarah values are St Bartholomew’s Church, the local primary schools, kinders and street picnics and barbecues. snack

Sarah has helped out with some of the craft activities at BYO Bubs and sometimes treats the children to face-painting. She has mentioned a key benefit of playgroup being coming across parents and children with different opinions on life. She finds it particularly encouraging to see different viewpoints respected as the parents share a hot cuppa while the children play together in the sandpit. Sarah credits the activities run by Cathy, RCLC and Burnley Backyard with helping to stimulate positive community relationships.

To all the staff and participants involved in BYO Bubs, we extend a huge thank-you from the Richmond community. You are providing a much-needed welcoming, supportive and educational environment for future generations and their parents.

The Cubby House offers a range of activities, programs and educational opportunities aimed to support families and their children.

These include:

  • occasional childcare
  • 3+ learning program
  • Parents groups
  • Parenting information evenings
  • Outdoor Playgroups
  • Facilities and Spaces to hire (Great for birthday parties!)
  • and other family orientated activities