News & Events

Faith in Rushall Park

April 19, 2017

Faith brought Fred Wandmaker to Rushall Park years ago to celebrate monthly ecumenical services for residents in the village’s community centre. After the service he would routinely stick his head into the office to remind staff he was still interested in a cottage.


Fred and his wife, Helen Austin, moved in almost four years ago to what was once the Residential care. It’s a lovely renovated and spacious two-bedroom cottage that they have turned into a home.  Fred has retired and while a visiting priest now celebrates a monthly ecumenical service, he ‘keeps his hand in’ by running occasional bible study groups. It’s a chance for reflection and vibrant and challenging conversation – the sort Fred and Helen enjoy. And the pair, who married almost 18 years ago, have created ample opportunity for discussion around their home.


Along the side of their cottage is Fred’s workbench, which houses his sharpening tools and woodturning and whittling equipment. It’s a social enterprise that provides practical support to residents, a community hub and a fundraiser for asylum seekers. He sharpens knives and scissors in return for a donation towards welcome packs for Syrian refugees – a project coordinated by Margaret Finlayson, a neighbour, friend and fellow parishioner from St Philip’s Anglican Church in nearby Collingwood.


“This hobby is important as a creative outlet and as a way of connecting with people who see me working here; and for the enjoyment of the properties of Huon pine timber,” Fred said.


Fred also enjoys making small ‘holding crosses’ from beautiful recycled wood, using the German steel knives he was given in 1961. Another talking piece is the walking stick he made from a large branch he cut from a Cecile Brunner rose bush in Helen’s garden years ago.


Not long after moving into the village, Helen, who retired after decades as a palliative care physician, became president of the Residents’ Committee, throwing herself into the life and occasional troubles of the community.  She also took up painting and now goes to weekly art classes with some other artistic friends from the village.  She also joined forces with some neighbours and together they established a now flourishing vegetable garden, which has also become a bit of a hub.


“We grow the vegetables and others around us are welcome to take what they need. Gardens are wonderful because people are drawn to things that are growing, so they gravitate around the garden and it’s a great opportunity to socialize,” Helen said.


“I love the sense of community that is very tangible in the village.”



Helen’s foray into art followed a professional life immersed in health, medicine and science. Already she is producing some beautiful work and her surroundings, the stunning gardens of Rushall Park, are an inspiration.


“One of the joys of retirement is to be able to do things you have always wanted to do,” Helen said.


Their cottage life is a far cry from the life Fred had as an Anglican Priest working in some of Australia’s most remote areas, mostly in Aboriginal communities and isolated towns like Bourke in western NSW. He has thrown himself into village life with the same enthusiasm and passion he has approached most other stages in his life.


The couple volunteers in the dining room some weekends to ensure the service is available to those in the assisted living apartments. While they love village life, their activities ‘outside’ have been maintained. Helen’s 30-year long book club is still going strong and they are both active members of the St Philip’s community.


Helen and Margaret Finlayson organise fundraising dinners at the SEK Hulme Community Centre to raise money for various needs, including Syrian refugees and a new tree for the village. The dinners are also an important opportunity for villagers to get to know one another.






The apartments are beautiful, with lovely, open and bright rooms, and a balcony for growing plants in pots. I am starting to make my apartment into a home.

– Catherine, Leith Park

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