The opening of the playground at Yarra Bank Reserve Hawthorn on November 21st  was a fitting climax to more than two years of planning and implementation work for the multi-club team coordinating the project. Initiated and led by the Rotary Club of Glenferrie, in partnership with the City of Boroondara, together with the Rotary clubs of Camberwell, Hawthorn and Canterbury, the project celebrated the 100th anniversary in 2021 of the establishment of Rotary in Australia. The clubs were joined for the opening celebration by the Rotary clubs of North Balwyn and Balwyn, and Melbourne Water.
Bathed in sparkling sunshine, the historic and beautiful park at Yarra Bank Reserve was opened at a Family Fun Day on November 21st, bringing to fruition a project that will long be remembered as a signature achievement for the club and for Rotary in Boroondara.
From left to right, declaring the playground officially open, District Governor Dale Hoy, Past President RC Camberwell Murray Anderson, Mayor of Boroondara Garry Thompson, and President of the Rotary Club of Glenferrie, Dr Mark Ellis AM
Funded with the assistance of a $9,000 grant from The Rotary Foundation, the project was originally conceived by the club board in 2019 as a suitable project to celebrate the Rotary Down Under Centenary. The CEO of the City of Boroondara, Phillip Storer, when attending the club as Guest Speaker in September 2019, was asked for advice on opportunities within the City of Boroondara for a joint project to mark our Centenary. Rotary sought a project that would leave a lasting legacy with the local community, provide opportunities for community collaboration, open up potential for future projects, and facilitate widespread publicity for Rotary, raising the profile of Rotary locally and motivating the recruitment of new members. The idea of collaborating on a playground, already on the club's agenda thanks to preliminary work by Past President Don Moore, was born.
The concept of collaboration was extended to unite a number of Boroondara Rotary clubs. Camberwell, Hawthorn and Canterbury Rotary clubs joined the project, contributing both significant funding and project committee members. 
At the suggestion of officers at the City of Boroondara, the playground at Yarra Bank Reserve Hawthorn was selected as the site for the project. A peaceful park set amongst beautiful surroundings, the Reserve was the site of the original Palmer's Punt that joined the City of Richmond with the Parish of Boroondara  until the construction of the first Hawthorn Bridge in the mid-19th Century.
Sir James Frederick Palmer (1803-1871), medical practitioner and politician, was born on 7 June 1803 at Great Torrington, Devon, England and emigrated to Melbourne with his wife Isabella in 1840. He soon established Palmer's Punt at the Yarra crossing, making a steady living from the woodcutters of the Boroondara District. He built a grand house, 'Burwood', just near the site of the current bridge in Hawthorn. (Contrary to apocryphal legend, the suburb Glenferrie does not get its name from the punt. The name Glenferrie probably came from a property on the south side of Gardiners Creek in Malvern, purchased in 1840 by solicitor Peter Ferrie, which he called Glen Ferrie).
The Reserve has an even more ancient history. The tribal land of the traditional owners, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, the Reserve is the site of an ancient scar tree. A scar tree or scarred tree, also known as a canoe tree and shield tree, is a tree which has had bark removed by Aboriginal Australians for the creation of bark canoes, shelters, weapons such as shields, tools, traps, containers or other artefacts. The Wurundjeri lived along the banks of the Yarra River, which they called Birrarung, fishing from canoes made from the bark of riverside trees. The scarred tree at Yarra Bank Reserve is a link with an ancient people and a reminder of the timelessness of the history of this location.
From late 2019 the Rotary project team, led by past presidents of the Rotary Club of Glenferrie Don Moore, Thelma Hutchison and Richard Blakeman, and comprising Teresa Molella from the Rotary Club of Camberwell, Denbigh Richards (Hawthorn), Bob Lambert (Canterbury), later joined by PP Greg Cribbes (North Balwyn) and Ed Frost (Balwyn) worked to complete the project in time for the Rotary Centenary. Benjamin Gilbert of Agency of Sculpture in Yackandandah, renowned creators of novel playground equipment, was commissioned to design and build a unique interactive play sculpture that would be the centrepiece of the new playground. The concept that emerged was that of the Sky Canoe, referencing the ancient history of the site, and the modern sport of rowing, popular at the site to this day. The boatsheds of the Hawthorn Rowing Club are located nearby.
The more people who operate the Sky Canoe simultaneously, the more active it becomes, embracing the spirit of collaboration inherent in the project. In the word of Benjamin Gilbert: "The play sculpture is meant to demonstrate that when people work together they can create something magnificent". 

The Playground Opening on Sunday November 21st was a Triumph for Rotary

The new playground at Yarra Bank Reserve, featuring the unique interactive Rotary branded 'Sky Canoe', was officially opened by the Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Garry Thompson, and Rotary District Governor Dale Hoy at a joyous day of celebrations bringing together local residents and families, and the families of Rotarians and friends. Despite the weather warnings, the entire event was held in glorious sunshine adding enormously to the sense of celebration and a strong family 'vibe'.
For children there was the magic of Tim Credible, who thrilled children and delighted adults with the totally unexpected. Hayley Hoopla's skill with hoops had children dancing and twirling and parents bopping to the music. Face painter Andra Budaie's wonderful skills were in strong demand all day, with every delighted young patron walking away with a unique, and truly exceptional, design.
The Bees Waggle Dance, led by the amazing wagglers from the Rotary Club of Canterbury, was hugely popular with the children, bringing a special message of the importance of bees in maintaining the health of the environment.
Adults gravitated towards Pookie May's coffee van, enjoyed their coffee with a superb cake or two from The Kitchen Corner, or demolished one of the magnificent sausages in bread prepared by the Sausage Sizzle Squad from the Rotary Club of North Balwyn.  Some epicurean devotees indulged all three. Towards the end of the afternoon, the crowd was entertained with the sublime saxophone skills of King Casey, rounding off a wonderful afternoon.
We were joined at the event by representatives from Melbourne Water, promoting careers in engineering and public works to the young people attending. Three young women attended representing Melbourne Water, reflecting a special emphasis on attracting young women to these traditionally male dominated occupations.
Huge thanks to the army of volunteers, too many to name individually, who helped make the whole event such a success. From letterboxing the neighbourhood, setting up the displays at the Reserve, acting as Site Stewards for the day, to advocating for and promoting the day and coming along with family and friends. After two postponements due to Covid, everything went very smoothly on the day, which only goes to show that: "When people work together, they can create something magnificent".
Well done Rotary, well done Rotarians and friends. A wonderfully successful project to mark the Centenary of Rotary Down Under. Great job!
The playground was officially opened by the Mayor of Boroondara Cr. Garry Thompson
District Governor Dale Hoy was introduced by PP Rotary Club of Camberwell Murray Anderson
Club President Dr Mark Ellis AM thanked those who made the day possible and introduced the Mayor.
The Bees Waggle Dance was a hit with everyone, young and old. Waggle, waggle, waggle, waggle.
Now you see it. Now you don't! Tim Credible delights the kids.
Sculptor and engineer Benjamin Gilbert explains the meaning of the unique Sky Canoe interactive play sculpture
Hayley Hoopla was simply magnificent!
And enthralled us all, especially these little ones
There was something for everyone in every corner of the park
The world famous Rotary Club of North Balwyn hit a snag when they ran out of sausages - at the end of the day, mind!
Past President Murray Anderson, RC Camberwell, kicks off the official proceedings with a big welcome to everyone, and an acknowledgment of country
The crew at 'The Kitchen Corner' had some magnificent cakes! They are regulars at the Hawthorn Makers Market
On duty at Gate 1, Kay Widmer, Helena Wimpole, Michael Hills, PP Charles Tran and Lawrence Reddaway (Rotary Hawthorn)
The plaque affixed to the Sky Canoe celebrates the strong bonds that unite us
Preparing for the big day. Emergency facilities being delivered, supervised by PP Thelma.
They're a happy team at Hawthorn! Current and past presidents and people of note from our project partners
On duty Gate 2, David Troon (Camberwell) Ian Macfarlane and Pam Crockett (Hawthorn), and a little princess of the park
Waggle, waggle, waggle, waggle!
To see the complete set of photos from the club's Rotary 100 project click on this link.
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