Mrs Katy Watson was the founding member of the Munster Playgroup, which became The Play Factory and these are some of her memories of the earliest stages of the playgroup.
Katy tried to get into a Playgroup in the Munster area and with nothing available, several mothers banded together. The Clinic Sister, Sister Williams suggested to Katy that she start up her own Playgroup. A small group including Julie Earle, H Anderson, J Thornton, L Forsythe, Julie Mann, Dianne Goodchild, Pam Glaskin and Helen Herrick (some of whom were referred through the Clinic) formed the initial group.
Katy approached the City of Cockburn and initially received little support from Councillors who felt that the idea of dealing with women and providing facilities for young mothers and very young children was very revolutionary in the mid 1980’s. (The Women’s movement has certainly progressed a lot in the last decade!)
Initially they advised that there were not premises available, however Katy had noticed that the sporting clubs change rooms at Santich Park were not used during the week, and asked the Council if it could be utilised during the week. They were most uneasy initially because they felt that the sporting clubs might be interfered with and that the premises might not be furnished very well.
On the 26th June 1985, Council agreed to the use of the Changeroom Facilities on a temporary basis at a fee of $5.00 per group per session. It was suggested that whilst using the facility the playgroup should be enquiring as to alternative venues should it be necessary to allocate the premises to another group.
The storeroom was not to be utilised however a cupboard could. This meant that a lot of the equipment had to be transported backwards and forwards each week. There was no power in the building, however this was not advised to the Playgroup – they learned the hard way!
The first meeting of the newly formed Munster Playgroup was held on 15th July 1985, and the first session on Wednesday 24th July 1985. Fees were set at $5.00 per family per term and weekly contributions of $1.00 per family.
On the very first day the members arrived to discover that he place had been vandalised and was covered with broken glass. The first session began with cleaning up broken glass and discussions on how to make the facilities adequate.
One mum donated old milk crates, which she brought along the next week. Another mum brought an old door which they placed on top of the milk crates to form the first activity table. Katy was able to obtain rolls of paper from her husband’s printing business and another person provided an old carpet square.
After about 6 weeks the Council relaxed their stance a little and allowed access to the storeroom and installed power. Vandalism continued to be an ongoing problem as long as the changerooms were occupied, as was hygiene, as the sporting groups did not maintain the standard of cleanliness desired, particularly the urinal and shower area.
In August 1987, the Playgroup was blamed for the poor condition of the rooms, and after a very prompt and vehement response, the Council gradually became more and more aware of what good tenants the Playgroup were.
Very quickly the group grew to include Dianne Price, Jo Drinan, Trish Temmen, Lorraine English, Chrissie Ward, Michelle Muco, Linda Stewart, Heather and Tracey Elliott. Play dough was one of the best activities and a little bit of a structure and a roster was introduced with everyone bringing along toys and blocks and kitchen utensils. The group started to purchase things like paint and brushes. Things became a little more organised and the activities begun. As is often the case, the mums found they enjoyed the activities as much as the children. One of the most memorable activities for Katy was footprint painting, where the paper was rolled out along the floor and the children stepped in the paint and proceeded to walk across the paper. Unfortunately the surface of the paper and the wet feet turned the paper into a skating rink and the children slipped and slid all over the place covering the paper and themselves in a myriad of colours and creating absolute chaos as they fell.
Icing cakes and decorating them was another much loved activity which the children never tired of. Very quickly within the year, a second group was started on Tuesdays. Funds built up quite well with everyone donating $1.00 per session and this enabled the group to start making “big” investments.
Katy’s father-in-law, Harold Watson, designed and made many items of equipment for the Playgroup, including the red trestle tables and 12 chairs, the painting easles, kitchenettes and cradles. Husband Neil painted them. These items were all provided at materials cost only. All the parents of the families were helping to provide equipment. AN old mattress was donated for the babies, and it was covered with quite expensive orange vinyl – one of the more expensive and most practical, effective and best used pieces the Playgroup acquired. People from the neighbourhood who were not associated with the Playgroup in any way, but heard of the playgroup or saw activities at the changerooms started to donate toys and other articles, so very quickly a good supply of equipment was obtained. (This explains why, in the years to come when an inventory was being prepared, receipts could not be found for much of the equipment.)
By then the Council realised that the facilities were being well used and the Playgroup were good tenants. There was no outside equipment and no outside area. Council was approached for a sandpit and they put in the sandpit on the northern side of the Santich Park Changerooms and surprised the Playgroup by including the spring toys and the cubby. Council also fitted out the changerooms with indoor-outdoor carpet which was a real turning point and proved that the council was right behind the struggling playgroup.
Fruit and water were provided for the children from the start. Cordial was introduced as a request from new mums joining.
By the beginning of 1987 the Playgroup had split into two groups which they tried to limit to 10 families each, but this figure always seemed to be exceeded. Very soon, at the end of 1987, there were three groups – membership doubled during the year.
In December 1987, Katy learned about the advertisement from the Dept for Community Services (WA Government) for a Capital Grant of $25,000 for Children’s facilities, to be matched $1 by $1 by the local government, and the members started lobbying councillors and working towards obtaining their own premises.
The original members had always resisted the idea of Committees and too much structure, however it now became apparent that major organisational changes would be necessary, and on 5th October 1988, the first Committee was elected, and their first Committee Meeting held. From then on, it was full on for the committee with grants, organising the building, selecting interior décor, and most of all, continual fund-raising. By June 1989, the membership now consisting of 50 raised $5,000 towards the cost of the building with dinners, fashion parades, cake stalls, raffles and many other fund-raising activities.
Whilst lobbying to get the premises underway, in yet another ploy to obtain community support and apply pressure to the Council, Katy contacted the Fremantle Herald who ran a story highlighting what the Playgroup was trying to achieve with the grant. Eileen Ryan (now Eileen Barrett) read the article. She had just obtained permission from the Council to use the changerooms at South Coogee Oval for a playgroup and their group decided to join forces rather than try for the grant on their own. Thus, Thursday group was formed.
On 29th February 1988, Council confirmed that they would be wiling to match the $25,000 Grant from the Department of Community Services, and the Grant was approved. The Grant was paid to the Council in July 1988 and the matching council funds were to be approved on the 1988/90 budget. In August 1988, J Jacob from the Council’s Engineering Department contacted Playgroup to discuss the design of the centre.
In October 1988, J Jacob advised that there was a serious shortfall in funds and it would be probably be cancelled. The building contained several features which had not been requested by the Playgroup. Playgroup then advised that they were prepared to do “whatever fundraising necessary to assist Council make up shortfall in funds”.
On 2nd November 1988, Council wrote to Playgroup advising that it would erect the Play Centre with a contribution from the Munster Playgroup of up to $5,000.00.
On the 9th November 1989 the City of Cockburn User Management Agreement was entered into and rental set at $500.00 per annum.
On 21st February 1989 Playgroup received a $2,000 equipment grant from the WA Family Foundation. On 24th April 1989, Playgroup applied to the Lotteries Commission for funding to provide outdoor play equipment ($4,000) and floor coverings ($2,700). By June 1989 Playgroup had successfully raised its contribution of $5,000.
In January 1990 the fees were set at $10.00 per family per term, which stayed until early 1995.
It became necessary for a Constitution to be drawn up. This task was undertaken by Boz (Bozenka) Farcich with assistance from the Playgroup Associated and Mrs Leal from the Greenwood United Playgroup. Mrs Leal was a great help and also assisted Boz to produce the first members information handbook.
On 22nd February 1990 the Constitution was incorporated, and the Munster Playgroup became officially known as The Play Factory Incorporated. The logo of the factory with smoke coming from its chimney and the balloons was designed by Gary Young.
Gary Young designed and painted the original sign which was hung on the Western wall of the building. The Name “The Play Factory” was chosen by Peter Broad, who, with this wife Fran, also contributed greatly towards the Play Factory. Even after Peter’s children had passed through the centre, he continued to assist in his capacity as a draftsman.
On 25h February 1990, The Play Factory had it’s official opening of the new building and fees were set at 410 per family per term. The Raffle of 50c per session was abandoned – fundraising could be eased.
Then, when everything finally seemed to have been completed, Council advised the Playgroup that the building would now become a “multi-function” area and was to be used by other community groups including the Little Athletics. This explained the “additional features” (including the roller door to allow equipment to be easily moved in and out) which had been included by the Council and resulted in the increased costing.
Once again Katy went in to bat for the Playgroup and the City of Cockburn and proposed that “Council may lease the demised premises to other compatible community groups (excluding sporting groups and junior sporting organizations) subject to prior consultation with the Management Committee, when the demised premises are not in use by the Playgroup”.
She suggested that compatible groups could include evenings – aerobics, weight watchers, craft groups, pensioner groups and day time – brownies, scouts, kindergarten, out of school care for children, dancing classes. Katy requested a full refund of Playgroup funds injected into the building if Little Athletics were allowed to use the facilities, and the Council was forced to back down.
By this time, after 5 years of continual battle, and the birth of her third child, Katy reached “burn out” and decided to hand the reins over to Cora Herrington, who became the new President in 1990 as The Play Factory started its new era occupying its own premises known as The Santich Park Playgroup Facility.
All members of the Munster Playgroup and The Play Factory owe Katy Watson, her family and the other members who supported her an enormous debt of gratitude.
Thank you Katy.
In April 1990 Ragamuffins Play Group from Hilton joined The Play Factory, becoming the Friday session with a total of 16 families, however they wished to remain autonomous. Very quickly it became apparent that this would not work and the group was absorbed into The Play Factory.
Many many families worked very hard in these early years to provide the excellent facility and there are just too many people to mention and thank all of them. I apologise to anyone who is disappointed not to have been recognised here but rest assured that your contribution is appreciated.
Cora Herrington and Fiona Sweenie were two who contributed greatly, Jackie Tuia assumed the role of Caretaker at a very early stage and did a wonderful job looking after the rubbish bins, hiring of premises, checking on security and making sure that the cupboards were always well stocked. She even used to run home and cook scones so members could enjoy fresh, piping hot scones. What a treat they were!
In January 1991 plans were approved for the erection of a steel pergola over the sandpit area. Once again, the fundraising and donation-seeking began and a wonderful pergola was erected over the sandpit with a shade cloth roof. The names of those who helped with its erection are on the plaque on the wall, however special merit must go to Heidi and Mario Galipo. The vandals quickly destroyed the shade cloth, and this was subsequently replaced with Sun-tuff sheeting. The children have a wonderful sheltered outdoor play area and sandpit.
In November 1992, the Play Factory Committee sponsored a child through World Vision. His name is Reynold Caber from the Philippines. All members can feel very proud that we are helping this child and his family to a better future.
In 1992 members of the Play Factory Committee became acutely aware of the urgent need for facilities for 4-year olds and a group of members, led by Mrs Boz Farcich started the long and hard road towards starting a Kindergarten.
Boz applied for funding for the new kindergarten in October of 1992, however confirmation of funding was not received until January 1993 which made it very difficult to organise the pupils in time for the start of the new school year. Many of those on the waiting list had already accepted positions at other kindys.
When the funding finally came through, Boz handed the responsibility of the Play Factory Kindy over to the first President, Tess McDonagh, who with able assistance from Anne Hardy, its first treasurer and an enormous amount of support from Penny Sandover and the Department of Community Development, the Kindy was established and up and running very efficiently.
The Kindergarten began in February 1993 and by then, Tess and Philippa Rotondella had worked hard to select the two teaching staff, Leonie Kriwopischin as teacher, and Pina Martino as aide, and finding their pupils. They proudly began the year with two full groups of 20 children each.
The Kindy began with no equipment of their own utilising the Playgroup’s equipment. Fundraising began in earnest and the small group of 40 families raised a tremendous amount of money, almost $2,000 and very quickly had the Kindy running smoothly.
The sharing of facilities by the two groups proved to be very harmonious (although cramped for storage space) with Playgroup in the mornings and Kindergarten Tuesday – Friday afternoons. Afternoon sessions were tried by Playgroup on several occasions, but with pre-schoolers sleep schedules, always seemed to revert back to morning sessions.
An outdoor shed was erected late in 1993 as a temporary measure to cope with some of the overload and enable the kindergarten to obtain additional outdoor play equipment suitable for 4 year olds.
In November 1994, the water trough was completed. This might not seem like a point of historical interest, however it is included because the water trough was on the agenda from May 1991. It is hoped that no other Agenda item will beat this record!
Early in December 1994, the Kindergarten and Play Group jointly purchased the photocopier, and in December 1994, the craft cupboard, custom built by Joe’s Cabinets and installed at a cost of $1, 568.00.
It became apparent to the Committee that with 5 playgroup sessions (with Saturday also about to start) and the Kindergarten sharing the premises, communications and organization had to be improved. New files were set up for group leaders and a “Committtee Orientation/Work File” compiled so that policies, procedures and guidelines could be laid down to assist all those working in an administrative capacity. They were introduced in the hope that future Committees could add to and improve them for those who follow.
Since 1995 the Playfactory has continued to grow and now offers a fantastic array of facilities for only $70 a semester, per family.