News & Events

Digging into Leith Park’s past

June 21, 2017

Diane and Geoff Blair have made a bit of OCAV history themselves in the past couple of decades. But their work, delving into the organisation’s archives, will unearth a lot about the people and buildings that came before them.

The couple is part of a larger team of volunteers researching OCAV in preparation for the 150th celebrations. The 150th history working group is gathering information, anecdotes and historical facts to share with people during the sesquicentenary celebrations of the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria that kick off in 2019.

The Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria was formed in 1869 by a group of prominent Melbourne leaders including George Selth Coppin to care for Victorian-based retired and poor actors before it became the place for ‘aged persons and deserving poor’.  The Leith Park village at St Helena came much later with the first units built around 1963.

Diane first came to Leith Park in 1995 to work as a personal care attendant in Liscombe House, OCAV’s aged care facility. She talked so fondly of the place and the people there, that her parents decided to move into a unit when they got older. Diane’s mother eventually had to move into Liscombe House for care where she died in 2013.

Thirteen years ago they moved into a two-bedroom unit as staff – Geoff working as head maintenance person and Diane continuing at Liscombe House, but also working on call over the weekend and at night.

“If someone called I would go and sit with them, sometimes waiting for an ambulance or family to arrive,” she said.

The Blairs had sold their nearby Greensborough house so after retiring a few years ago they stayed on at Leith Park, and they couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. They love the community and work hard to include others in the many activities they help organize.

“We are very happy here and I think it is a welcoming place for new people,” Diane said.

Geoff is president of the activities committee, initiating new events and outings and helping run regular gatherings such as the six weekly Sunday lunch in the hall, the now annual cabaret night in the hall and trips to places around Victoria. Diane is secretary of the resident’s committee and is kept on her toes with issues raised at meetings.

“Over the years I have got to know a lot of people really well because I have been with them through some difficult times when I worked on call or at Liscombe House. It makes you feel very much part of the life here,” Diane said.

Diane has seen a lot of changes in the past 22 years and she and Geoff are hoping the 150th celebrations will create a greater sense of awareness of the rich community that has developed at Leith Park.

Already, one long term resident has come forward with photos taken over many years. Other people have stories about different buildings and how the village developed. Together, the story of Leith Park is coming to life.

“One of the best things that will come from our work is that Leith Park’s history is up to date and it will be here ready for someone to build on,” Diane said.

“Everyone who lives here is part of this organisation’s history. We make up the story of the place and that’s what we want people to feel when they see what we eventually come up with.”

"I love the fact that Rushall Park residents and volunteers are so active – contributing to life in the village. The sense of the community is strong which is why I put my name on the waiting list" - Maggie Birkett.

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