Park News – July, 2015

Billabong – Open for Inspection

duck on billabong3

  • Our reporter snapped this picture on his phone of a male Wood Duck happily cruising the waters of the northern pond in the billabong complex after the good rains we had in the second week of this month.  Our reporter says he seemed to be calling his girlfriends over for a look too.
  • Since then, both of our other two species of duck – the Pacific Black Duck and the Chestnut Teal – have also been spotted testing the waters…
  • We’ve been noticing more frog calls too on both sides of the Billabong.  By the way, we have a new frogs page if you find, like we do, that our frogs tend to be heard but not seen!

60 Main Street – Back to VCAT Again!

  • Objectors were notified by mail (in a letter dated 2/7) that the overseas developer behind the 60 Main Street proposal has lodged an Application for Review of Council’s decision with VCAT.  The VCAT reference is P1227/2015 and the hearing date is set for 14/12/2015.
  • Objectors who wish to lodge a Statement of Grounds with VCAT, the applicant and Council must do so by the closing date of 11/8/2015.
  • Please click here for a summary of the saga to date.

Working Bees

This time of year is important for planting – given the soil should be moist and there should be plenty of rain to help the plants get established:

  • 26/7/2015:  on July 26th, we returned to the Southern Corridor on the main path to the north of Kalang Oval and combined with a Joey Scouts event (see below).  With fewer Friends attending than usual (no doubt wary of the dire weather forecast), we managed to plant 370 plants on National Tree Day.  Happily, the weather wasn’t too bad and, once again, it was great to welcome some new faces to our efforts.
  • Joey Scouts: A Joey Scouts group, with parents and assistance from Council staff and a couple of committee members, ran a working bee in Kalang Park on the embankment near the cricket nets at the same time.   We understand they outstripped our efforts – putting in 400 plants!  Great news for the park!

Kalang Oval Pavilion Redevelopment

Frosty work

Frosty work!

  • Rebuilding is underway with half of the slab having being laid recently.
  • Storm-water drainage works has been a concern because of proximity to park trees – work is being conducted using hydro and manual digging as necessary under supervision of the Council arborist.


Cathy’s Story

  • Cathy is a young student who regularly works with the small band of Monday/Thursday weeders on Thursdays.   You may have met her in the park being taken for a walk by Jasper – her family’s boisterous white Golden (Platinum?) Retriever.
  • Cathy is a neighbour of the park and got involved after seeing a notice inviting participation on our Noticeboard.  She studied Ecology (and Arabic!) as part of her undergraduate studies.  She especially likes the idea of bush regeneration in suburban areas, likes working outdoors and fully understands the concept of the Corridor – so was eager to make a contribution.  She phoned Mary, our working bee coordinator, and arranged to start after confirming one of the group’s days fitted with her schedule.
  • She has one unit to go to complete her Masters in International Relations  and is planning to go on to do a PhD after returning from a short holiday in Montréal (Canada) and a national park near Grand Rapids (Michigan, USA) – where she’ll no doubt closely study North American weeding techniques.  She is fluent in French and her studies have included a year in France at Sciences Po (The Paris Institute of Political Studies).
  • So, not all our weekday volunteers are old fogies – she nevertheless seems to enjoy meeting the locals and the group’s debates on saving the world as the weeds are pulled out and planting is done!
  • We hasten to add that you certainly don’t need to be highly qualified or academically inclined like Cathy to volunteer in the Park.  All you need is some enthusiasm and a little time.  You get training as you go and the group’s members are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience.  We are lucky Cathy has been able to invest some time in the Creeklands this year and wish her every success in her future endeavours.

Walk-through Meetings

  • Periodically, representatives from Committee meet with the senior Parkswide staff on-site in the Creeklands for “Walk-through” meetings.  These are a very effective way of meeting to discuss a range of maintenance and other matters in the park.  The “meeting” walks to the site of each topic to discuss the issues in situ and perhaps might mark an area on the ground in chalk.  They take 1.5-2 hours (much like a meeting around a table in a cosy office) but tend to be far better informed, of far broader scope and agreements are (literally) on more solid ground.
View from Proposed Seat (see faint yellow chalk on ground in the foreground?)

View from Proposed Seat (see faint yellow chalk on ground in the foreground?)

  • For example, here are a few items from the last meeting:
    • Part of the grassed area adjacent to 60 Main Street will not be mown so as to encourage regeneration of the indigenous grasses present.  Because a fire-break still needs to be mown, the area to be mown and for mower access was agreed.
    • The location of a new seat in the same area was decided.
    • Some of the dead prunus and cherry-apple woody weed trees will be removed further along between Laurel Grove and Main Street.

Where do we get our plants from ?

  • A couple of Friends and passers-by have asked: where do you get our plants from?
  • So far this year, we have planted about 1,200 plants at Working Bees.  The short answer is: we buy most of our plants from the local Bungalook and Greenlink nurseries. 
  • For the last ten years or so, Council has contributed an annual grant of $870 for all our expenses including plants, Post Office box rental, weeding tools, meeting room hire and so forth.  Given tube-stock costs $1-3 each, the amount left over for plants doesn’t go far – however, for the last two years, we’ve spent more than $3,000 pa on plants.  Happily, Council is currently reviewing our annual grant – hopefully, the situation will improve next financial year.
  • Where does the money come from? – The lion’s share of our funding for plants has come from project based grants we have to win – such as:
    • the Melbourne Water grant (which expired on 30/6) covering the work adjacent 60 Main Street and at the Billabong.
    • the Communities for Nature grant which is covering the work on rehabilitating the Northern and Southern Corridors (grant expires in December).
  • Occasionally, Council donates plants from its own nursery – for example, covering the Joey Scouts’ Working Bee described above.
  • Finally, a relatively small number come from our team who propagate their own plants as a hobby – Alan is famous for his Eucalypts, Blackwoods and Coprosmas while Mary contributes quite a lot of Dianella tasmanica and some Kangaroo Apples.

The Way We Were – the “Open-air School”

  • With its wonderful treed environment, Blackburn was recognized as a very healthy environment long, long ago.  So much so, and, given the Railway was close by, a special school called the “Open-air School” was set up in 1915 alongside the northern boundary of Furness Park.
  • In the early 20th century, reformers believed children brought up in industrial inner-city suburbs risked physical and moral health.  The “open-air” response was international – the idea being to give sickly children the benefit of a healthy diet and environment in which to recuperate.

open air school map

  • From donations specifically for the purpose of setting up an Open-air school in Melbourne, the Education Department initially purchased lots, 17, 18, 19, 36, 37 and 38 (highlighted in the map above)  for the school but later swapped lots 33, 34 and 35 for the first three.  [It’s also interesting to note how the course of the creek has changed from this sub-divisional plan].
  • This montage of (completely unposed!) pictures was published in the Weekly Times of the 11th December, 1915:

open-air school for web

  • At top left is the modest school building – the back end was a large open verandah.  At top right, the students are displaying their lunch-time bowl of soup in their laps – don’t they look pleased?  The bottom left photo shows the students resting on their deck-chairs after lunch.  At bottom right, is the light-filled classroom.
  • This article, reviewing the school’s activities in The Argus  of 3rd January, 1928 explains it all:
    Classes at Blackburn.
     Situated among the gum trees of Black-
     burn may be seen a school unique in the
     educational system of the State. It is the
     Blackburn open-air school, attended by
     girls and boys whose instruction has been
     interrupted owing to delicate health.
     About 24 pupils are in regular attendance.
     These have been submitted to medical
     examination by the doctors on the Educa-
     tion department's staff and, while they re-
     main at the school, the pupils are medically
     examined by the same officers at regular
     intervals. As soon as a pupil is considered
     in a fit state to take his place in an ele-
     mentary school he is accordingly transferred
     to make room for another child similarly
     retarded. The majority of those in at-
     tendance travel by rail from Burnley, Rich-
     mond and Collingwood, arriving at Black-
     burn about 9 o'clock in the morning, leav-
     ing in the afternoon about 4 o'clock. On
     reaching the school, which is half a mile
     from the railway station, each pupil is
     supplied with some light refreshment as
     a preparation for the day's instruction. At
     midday a meal of soup, meat, bread, and
     fruit is supplied; and, for an hour, the
     children enjoy a rest in deck chairs prior
     to the lessons to be taken during the after-
     noon. A cup of milk is drunk by each
     child before returning to the railway sta-
  • The Education Department closed down the project in 1964.  A Psychology and Guidance/Speech Therapy Centre was then set-up on the same site.  The latter was shut down in the early 1990s with the land being sold off for housing.  You may have noticed the last 6 houses in Gardenia Street on the Main Street side are all comparatively new.

Corridor News

corridor - waltham

  • 2 Walsham Road, Blackburn – a subdivision proposal with 150 trees to go – is now with VCAT, hearing to be 11/11.
  • Ian Rutherfurd talk Urban Streams – how we impact local River Health, will be presented by the Below the Lake Friends on 20th August at the Blackburn Lake Sanctuary Visitor Centre at 7:30PM.
  • McCubbin Park – is the name chosen by nearby residents for the 1 Lake Road park. Council (Dion Scott) will accept written expressions of support or objection until 31/7.

Plant of the Month

  • Now that some wattles have begun flowering to help us shake off our winter blues, Plant of the Month is the Myrtle Wattle (Acacia myrtifolia).   Here’s an example from Furness Park:

myrtle wattle

  • This is a medium sized shrub (up to 3m x 3m) you might care to consider for your garden – it is quite dense with medium to large oval leaves and those wonderful large bright yellow flowers in winter.

Weed of the Month


  • Weed of the Month is Kikuyu (grass) (Pennisetum clandestinum).   It is a tropical grass species native to East Africa (Kenya).  It has thick rhizomes and a strong network of roots, which send up new shoots easily – it also spreads via creeping stems.
  • It is often used on grassed areas such as parks and lawns because it is cheap, tough and stays green over summer – being quite drought-tolerant. On the other hand, it doesn’t tolerate frost so well (being a tropical grass) – so there’s plenty of yellowing Kikuyu in the park at the moment –suffering somewhat.  Good!!
  • Its main problem in the Creeklands is that it is invasive from mown areas and can climb over good plants, smothering them and insidiously producing herbicidal toxins that attack competing plants.


  • Truth is “sightings” weren’t recorded at our last Committee meeting for lack of time – the annual AGM having preceded the normal meeting.  To compensate, the photo below shows a pair of those elegant White-faced Herons (one is obscured) currently building a nest near the park:


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