60th Birthday Celebrations - October 2010

The 60th Birthday of Save the Dandenongs League Inc. was held in October, 2010, at Karwarra Australian Plant Garden, Kalorama. About 40 people attended on a fairly cold day including two of our Yarra Ranges councillors, Cr Samantha Dunn and Cr Noel Cliff, whose Wards cover most of the Dandenong Ranges.  Betty Marsden, as President, welcomed those in attendance including Shire Councillors and also read a list of Apologies. She indicated that a number of former committee members would give some reminiscences of the League in earlier times.

Betty noted a number of groups represented: Dandenong Ranges Branch of the National Trust, Friends of Sherbrooke Forest, Lyrebird Survey Group, Monbulk Historical Society, Southern Sherbrooke Historical Society, Friends of Kalorama Park, UYDEC, etc.

The League had been instrumental in the purchase of the Jeeves property (Kalorama Park) more than 40 years ago and we were pleased to see the Friends Group present. They have been enormously successful in the restoration of the picnic area and Remnant Jeeves Garden under Parks Victoria supervision. It is now a delightful place to visit.

Betty gave some highlights of the League’s history over 60 years paying tribute to our Founders May Moon MBE, Professor John Turner OBE and Cr Eric Leane (Ferntree Gully Shire) for their determination and foresight. She also recognised the role of past and present Office Bearers and committees over all these years, without whose loyalty, commitment and persistence we would not have achieved as much as we have.

Betty invited some of our Former Committee Members to speak and outline some of their memories from their years on the committee. Starting from the furthest back in time and working forward, we heard from Gordon Mitchell, Michael Willis, John Lloyd, Cheryl Martin, Shirley Leembruggen and Rodger Elliot AM.

* Gordon Mitchell and Michael Willis brought us memories of the early years and of May Moon and Prof. Turner.

* Michael Willis also spoke of the various early planning issues.

* John Lloyd spoke of Forest Commission Days * Cheryl Martin spoke of battles with SEC, bushfires, and Fire Clearance.

* Shirley Leembruggen, as Secretary for many years, with the endless correspondence and working with Betty as a duo, attending meetings and functions,

* And lastly Rodger Elliot AM, spoke about the early days of Karwarra Garden and the Dandenong Horticultural Society, the plans for the Garden, the plants and its development and May Moon who was also involved from the beginning.

Betty spoke again about our lobbying for purchase of various tracts of land – in the Puffing Billy Corridor at Menzies Creek, the acquisition of Birdsland by the Shire of Sherbrooke (1981/92) for which we had lobbied passionately, the State Government’s acquisition of the ‘link-up’ land between Birsdsland and Lysterfield Lake Park (about 1990).

The League had put up a determined fight against the Council Amalgamations in 1994, making presentations and speaking at Rallies, and the carving up of the Dandenongs between three new Shires. Unfortunately, we lost and most of us became part of the new super-shire of Yarra Ranges. It was a time of turmoil and change and in many aspects of Council Policies, particularly environmental, we had to begin again. However, 16 years on much has improved and the setting up of a well resourced Environment Dept, has been an important milestone.

Over these 16 years, a number of environmentally friendly councillors have made an enormous difference to various outcomes and we thank them sincerely for that. We continue to monitor the operations of both Yarra Ranges Council and Parkes Victoria, and comment when necessary. Betty invited Cr. Samantha Dunn to speak on behalf of the Council. Cr. Dunn warmly congratulated the League and expressed amazement at the breadth of the League’s activities over the years. For anyone who could not go back very many years, it was a history lesson to hear what people had to say.

Betty expressed thanks to all concerned and closed the meeting, inviting people to partake of the very plentiful afternoon tea and the cutting of the delicious Birthday Cake.

It was a very joyous and friendly occasion, held in a wonderful setting, and people were in no hurry to leave. Our Founding Members would have been proud.