Climate change future proofing could spell the end of beach kinder in Elwood

by Freya Lucas

September 23, 2019

Measures introduced by the Victorian Government, designed to prepare Victoria for a deepening climate crisis are having a very real impact on the young citizens from Lady Forster Kindergarten, located a stone’s throw from Elwood Beach. 

 

Lady Forster Kindergarten (LFK) is a stalwart of the Port Melbourne community, having been established in 1924, thanks to a generous endowment from the wife of the then Governor General of Australia. The kindergarten is also no stranger to being moved thanks to the ebb and flow of tides – political and otherwise. The latest change, however, is being met with some opposition. 

 

LFK has a long association with all things aquatic, with the Port Melbourne site of the kindergarten originally under water, and called the Lagoon. Once used as a fish market, it was filled in during the 1920s, and the original kindergarten building was established on the site in 1928. 

 

In the 1960s, the original building was sinking into the old lagoon, and the search for a new home commended. A purpose-built space was completed in 1969, and the Kindergarten remained on site until 2012, when the kindergarten lost a three year campaign to remain in the building. 

 

At that time, LFK was caught up in the transfer of the management of the Crown land allotments, which the kindergarten had successfully managed since 1926, to the Port Phillip City Council. Following that outcome, LFK was relocated to the new site, and current home, on Elwood Beach. 

 

Elwood Beach is one of many foreshores in the Port Phillip Bay area which are set to undergo a change of use, with the State Government seeking to combat the impact of a predicted rise in sea levels by removing any structures or land users that are not “marine dependant” from the landscape in a move designed to eliminate risk to property and person. 

 

As a result, LFK must find a new location when their lease expires in 2023. Despite a curriculum based heavily on their beachside location, which sees children involved in beach clean-up days, a “nature immersive” learning  program and successfully winning a Port Phillip Bay conservation grant, the LFK community has yet to convince the State Government that their work is “marine dependent”.

 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported LFK Director Allison Prasser as making a desperate plea for intervention from the local council on the kindergarten’s behalf, seeking advocacy and intervention. 

 

“We were located to the Elwood site temporarily, but we have worked hard to not only make the foreshore our home but to also give back to the community and the natural environment,” Ms Prasser told the meeting.

 

“We are well aware of the privilege of being located on such a beautiful stretch of natural coastline. Our connection to the foreshore is more than a group of children skipping down Elwood Beach on a spring morning.”

 

As a result of her urging, The Herald noted, LFK gained council support, with the council also expressing concern about the need to maintain adequate childcare options in the area, promising to work with LFK to lobby the State Government for a change of mind. 

 

Brighton MP James Newbury  said “Rather than evicting them, we should be congratulating and embracing our fellow neighbours who spend their time running the kinder, and the first-rate educators who teach there.”

 

Speaking on behalf of the State Government, a spokesperson for the Victorian Department of  Environment, Land, Water and Planning told The Herald  that the government was prepared to negotiate with LFK and Port Phillip about the kinder’s future.

 

“[The department] is open to discussions with council and the kindergarten operator to get the best outcome for the kindergarten and best use of this public space heading forward,” the spokesman said.

 

To read the original coverage of this story, as produced by The Sydney Morning Herald, please see here. 

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