The Wonga Park Community Cottage 40th anniversary
by Sandi Miller
6th December 2021
WONGA PARK Community Cottage passed its 40-year milestone in early 2020.
Celebrations had to be delayed for close to two years as COVID suspended celebrations and gatherings.
So, on November 27, the Cottage belatedly marked its anniversary with a “Back to the Cottage” day and the unveiling of a commemorative artwork.
Current and former tutors and students all gathered for a laughter-filled afternoon — clearly everyone was delighted to be in one another’s company again.
Emcee of the official proceedings, Joan Hume, recounted a brief history of the cottage, which started its life in 1950 as the home of Alan Bickford and his family, some of whom were in attendance at the event.
In 1978, the then Lilydale Shire Council purchased the property as part of their plans to establish a recreational reserve in Wonga Park and the cottage began its life as a community centre.
It has been used extensively by locals and those from neighbouring suburbs for arts and craft, history clubs, cooking, bread making, exercise classes, and even laughter classes.
In the mid-80s it opened a childminding centre offering a supervised playroom for $1 per week per child.
In 1990 Lynda Hay became the first salaried coordinator, who retired in 2019 after chalking up an incredible 29 years at the helm.
“You could have tried for 30,” quipped laughter class facilitator, Tracy Bartram.
Louise Schweiger started as assistant coordinator in 2008, and then took over as coordinator in 2019 upon Lynda’s retirement.
In early 2021 the native garden and tables and chairs were installed with help from Manningham Council’s placemaking funding, where Brew & Willow’s coffee van now visits most Saturday mornings.
Manningham Mayor, Michelle Kleinert assisted the artist Janet Hayes in the unveiling of her painting, which was drawn from photographs throughout the last four decades at the cottage.
Janet, who teaches art classes at the cottage, reflected that it was in a way like painting portraits of her family.
“I feel that the people of the centre are like my extended family.
“40 years encompasses my adult life, so I could be any one of the people in this painting,” Janet said.
Cr Kleinert said everyone that attends the cottage is creating history. “The beauty of this cottage, there is life here — there is 40 years of history that we are celebrating, and we think there is going to be another 40 years, and you are part of the history here today,” she said.
Member for Warrandyte, Ryan Smith said he could sense the connection that everyone at the cottage felt for one another, especially after lockdown.
“Let’s not ever take for granted the people we are able to spend time with because we never know what is around the corner, none of us saw the last two years happening, and now that it is hopefully behind us, let us embrace every moment together, because there is no one so special as each other,” he said.
Joan thanked everyone who contributed during those 40 years to the cottage, and Manager Louise Schweiger for organising the event.
“Everybody puts their little part into the cottage on a weekly basis,”she said.
Which is why it is such a special part of the Wonga Park community.