News & Events

Rushall Park’s new woman of words

December 16, 2018

Valerie Aristar first discovered the quaint village of Rushall Park when she was a child. It was another 60 years before she ‘found’ her way back. Valerie has called Rushall Park home for almost 11 years and this year took over as librarian after the retirement of her friend, Joan Hutton.

“I came to one of the old Coppin cottages with my friend when I was very young to visit her grandmother. Then when I had a life threatening illness in 2000 another friend suggested I think about Rushall Park,” Valerie said. An accident in 2006, causing major damage to her arm and shoulder, forced her to rethink the retirement plan she had mapped out and instead she moved into Rushall Park in 2007.

“I still wonder about my good luck in landing a spot here,” she said. Valerie has certainly made the most of that good fortune since she joined the village community in North Fitzroy. From the very beginning she got involved in activities and is excited to be now focusing on the library.

Like many people, Valerie, 81, took a while to settle into her new home, but threw herself into the Residents’ Committee and served as its chair during the planning, development and building of the SEK Hulme Community Centre. She stayed on the committee for six years, but retired to enjoy some of the village’s many other groups and activities, including the Music Appreciation Group and weekly tai chi exercise classes.

Apart from building a new life in the village, Valerie has also developed networks and friendships through her long career and then as a volunteer with Vision Australia, the Genealogical Society and City of Melbourne. She has had to cut back some of her activities in recent years but still does a regular stint at the City of Melbourne’s information booth in Melbourne’s Bourke St Mall.

“I love it because you meet people from all around the world who like to stop and have a chat. They want to find something out but they often share something about where they live and what they are doing in Melbourne,” Valerie said. It’s a bit like that at Rushall Park.

“I just love living here, I really do. I have the strong sense of belonging to a community, but I can also enjoy my privacy when I want to be by myself. And there is a great sense of kindness among people here and that makes it a lovely place to live.”

When Valerie’s not volunteering or participating in village activities she’s at home immersed in her great passion – reading. She enjoys reading histories, biographies and mystery novels and has even developed her book ‘bucket’ list, which she is quickly reading her way through.

Taking over as librarian is a labour of love for Valerie, who spent 20 years working in the book trade. Joan was a great mentor and a wonderful team of library helpers also supports her. She has a few plans for the library including broadening the collection of books about Indigenous Australians, and the local area around Merri Creek and the Yarra River.

And like every good librarian Valerie has a tip for summer reading. For those who like a good mystery, she recommends Ian Rankin’s latest one, In A House of Lies.  This book is available at all good book shops and of course at the Joan Hutton Library.

"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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