Meerilinga Young Children’s Foundation has flung open the doors to its brand-new Hilton Children and Family Centre! Officially opened on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, the new initiative has been welcomed by the local community as a vital hub for community services in the City of Fremantle.
The official opening was attended by numerous VIPs and community representatives, including the Hon. Minister Simone McGurk MLA, State Member for Fremantle and Minister for Child Protection, Women’s Interests, Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Community Services; Andrew Sullivan, City of Fremantle Deputy Mayor; Frank Mofflin, City of Fremantle Councillor, and Bruno Camarri AM, President of the Meerilinga Board. Local neighbours including the PCYC, local Aboriginal Elders, the Hilton Precinct, and the Fremantle Women’s Health Centre also came together to celebrate the opening.
Made possible by a Lotterywest grant for $371,855 presented by Ms McGurk in 2019, Meerilinga has restored the unused 1955-built Kulunga Aboriginal Kindergarten at 85 Rennie Crescent in Hilton to create a brand-new community facility. In collaboration with the City of Fremantle, local organisations and businesses, and in consultation with local Elders and families, Meerilinga has created a modern, welcoming environment.
The Meerilinga Children and Family Centre in Hilton intends to offer playgroup sessions, early learning services, parenting support, and an inclusive space for City of Fremantle locals to use. The facility will also be utilised to train up to 30 new early educators per year, across both the CHC30113 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care and the CHC50113 Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care.
“The City of Fremantle is pleased to be partnering with Meerilinga Children’s Foundation to offer this facility to the community,” said Cr Sullivan at the opening. “The refurbishment has taken a little over two-and-a-half years, and it’s been a great effort. The refurbishment ensures that families in the community will have access to a very safe and very inviting space, and I think that’s really important for the Hilton community.”
Ms McGurk underscored the vital need for children and family centres such as this in the Perth community. “This centre really embodies the opportunity we have in communities to provide a welcoming, positive environment for people to come forward and get supports,” she said. “In our modern community, we don’t have these opportunities all the time, we live in our little boxes, we live in our little homes and we have very structured lives. We’ve got to find places where people feel that they can come forward and ask for support, meet people at a playgroup or just have a cuppa and a chat. That’s what this centre is all about.”
She also acknowledged the work Meerilinga carries out in promoting positive childhoods for WA families. “I thank Meerilinga, an organisation that goes back to 1911, and has a very rich history of working with families; understanding the challenges, but also the potential and the opportunities if the right supports are put in place for people,” said Ms McGurk. “Understanding the break-neck speed at which development happens in the early years, and the opportunities we have to nurture young people – and those people who are caring for young people and their core supports – is very crucial. From everything I have seen, Meerilinga not only believes in that to its core, but is committed to doing that work out there in the community.
“We had a very difficult 2020, and here we are with the building refurbished. With the [neighbouring] PCYC and the Child Health Centre, the Hilton Harvest Community Garden and Hilton Primary School, it’s the perfect precinct here. It’s a great honour to be here to officially open this new centre, and I’m looking forward to coming to meet some families here and having a cuppa.”
Cr Sullivan also used the occasion to highlight the notable transformation that the suburb of Hilton has undergone in recent years, and its burgeoning resurgence in 2021 as a popular, vibrant hub for young families in Perth. “The building that we stand in today was built in 1955 and was offered as a pre-school program for children in the Hilton area. Back then, Hilton was a brand-new State Housing Commission suburb. Most of the houses arrived in the early 1950s, and it had gone from bushland to a suburb almost overnight post-war. Then in the 1990s, most of the post-war suburbs in Perth were starting to decline, many of the families had outgrown their houses, or their children had moved on, and the suburb [of Hilton] had become in that sort of transitional state.
“Now when we look at Hilton, after all the work from the council and the government and the community, we’re starting to see a transformation. The families are back here, and the children are back here, and it has a completely different vibe than it had.”
Cr Sullivan paid tribute to the hardworking, passionate organisations and City of Fremantle community groups and local residents who have fought for improved facilities and services in the area in recent years. “Anyone that’s had any familiarity with Hilton will attest to the fact that this whole precinct now has been completely revitalised. I think anyone who lives in Hilton will be very proud of their suburb because of that. It really shows the care, both from the government and the council, but also from within the community, to demand and to work hard to create facilities like this. The City is looking forward to seeing the continued development of the programs to be offered here and the services to be provided for our community.”
Meerilinga CEO Lesley Moreschi said: “We are excited with the opportunities this remodelled facility can bring to Hilton families and children once again. We aim to extend our range of services to Hilton over the coming year, and work in collaboration with residents and others to support community goals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lotterywest for their grant support, and the City of Fremantle for generously allowing us to lease this building with its rich history.”
Want more information about the Hilton Children and Family Centre? You can find details here. Want to find out about studying your CHC30113 Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care or the CHC50113 Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care? Click here.