50 years of caring for children - Gumnut Preschool celebrates
The Sector > Provider > General News > 50 years of caring for children – Gumnut Preschool is ready to celebrate

50 years of caring for children – Gumnut Preschool is ready to celebrate

by Freya Lucas

October 13, 2022

The broader Southern Highlands community of New South Wales will celebrate later this month, acknowledging the efforts of staff, volunteers and families who have supported Gumnut Preschool in Bowral for 50 years. 


Children were first welcomed to the Wingecarribee Street preschool in 1970, and current Director Meredith Wakeman recently met with local news source The Fold – Southern Highlands to talk about the history and philosophy of the preschool, what makes it so special to Bowral, and plans for the 50th birthday bash.


Ms Wakeman began by sharing that the preschool’s roots extend even deeper than the 50 years being celebrated, sharing that the preschool got its start after World War II as a memorial preschool, even though building did not start on the current site until the late 1960s. 


“It was actually the persistence and generosity of countless parents and community members throughout the 1950s and 1960s that got it off the ground,” she explained. “At the time, there were no services for small children in Bowral.”


The service owns the land, and the council helped to fund the building, which has been a community-based service ever since.


“We keep the best of the past alive while moving forward with new educational concepts,” she continued. The team is well established, with Ms Wakeman heading up the service since 1988, one staff member with 30 years service, another with 20, and many with over 15.  


Some families have been bringing their children to Gumnut for the second and third generations, and while it’s hard to articulate just one thing which keeps them coming back, Ms Wakeman believes it’s a combination of the warmth, the home-like environment, consistency and tradition.  


An open day will be held on the 22 October to celebrate the special milestone, with funding from the Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund being used to help the preschool put together a special day of connection.


‘Classic preschool play stations’ including a play dough station, a painting station, and a plant-a-seed station will be set up, and two original committee members will be inattendance. 


Ms Wakeman encouraged anyone with a connection to the Gumnut community to attend between 10.00am and 1pm, with commissioned artwork from a First Nations artist to be unveiled.  


“The work reflects the growing range of cultural groups that attend Gumnut and their time here,” she added.


“It features footprints which show the children coming to Gumnut, learning new skills and making new friendships before they leave to continue their life journey. The work also shows the culturally significant landscape features for the Gundungurra people including the Wingecarribee river, the Berrima hills, and Mt Gibraltar with the grey stone.”


“The children will be singing on the day, there’ll be sausage sizzles, the art unveiling, preschool play stations, lots of families – old and new.”

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