For my last post for 2023, let’s look back on the year that was… in Ashburton.
Council abandons heritage overlay on Ashburton’s High Street
In 2021, Boroondara Council’s planning committee came up with the idea of placing a heritage overlay on the High Street Commercial Precinct. A report from heritage consultants revealed that unbeknown to anyone else, the buildings possessed elements of Arts and Craft and Egyptian Revival architectural themes.
Led by the Ashburton Traders Association, a strong community backlash against the idea arose. Unlike the rest of Boroondara, heritage protection is not usually a source of conflict in Ashburton. Very much a 20th century suburb, nobody thinks the buildings are old enough or of sufficient quality to bother protecting like in Hawthorn or Kew.
The primary argument against the heritage overlay was that it would damage the commercial development potential and affect traders’ bottom-lines. Unfortunately, this was not a sufficient claim under the Heritage Act.
In the end, the Council abandoned the idea because, unlike Maling Road or Auburn Road, nobody comes to Ashburton to see the buildings.
Ashburton Park’s long-awaited upgrade
Late in 2022, persistent heavy rain turned Ashburton Park into a swampy mess yet again. Always notorious for poor drainage and terrible grass, in October, Boroondara Council began a ‘much-needed’ upgrade, helped along by a $30,000 grant from Cricket Australia. The works currently underway include:
the installation of underground drainage and irrigation
replacement of existing poor-quality soil
reconstruction of the centre turf cricket wicket
construction of an onsite storage area for soccer goals.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that the pavilion will be replaced anytime soon. But at least the Council finally conceded that soccer is played in Boroondara!
Community events make a big comeback
This year saw the post-Covid return of three major community events: the Ashburton Community Festival, the Solway Primary School Fair and the Ashburton Primary Grand Fair.
The Ashburton Community turned out in full force to support all three events, with even Melbourne’s notoriously fickle weather cooperating for once.
Smaller, quarterly community events supporting our artists and creators, including the popular Ashburton-a-Fair and the Ashburton Artisan Market, continue to draw in the crowds too. Now that I've tasted the CWA Ashburton's chutney, I'll be there every time.
Ashburton wins a small portion of Community Strengthening Grants
Ashburton-based community groups received around 7 per cent of Boroondara Council’s nearly $400,000 worth of community grants. This is $28,423.68 so it's ... not much. Next year, get your projects sorted and grant applications in. There is money!
The successful grants went to:
Alamein Neighbourhood and Learning: $6,930 for Ashy News
Ashburton United Soccer Club: $4,554,54 for Let’s here it for the girls
Craig Family Centre: $3,785.00 for Project Bright Brains
Alamein Football Club: $2,000 for Online membership management
Highgate Early Learning Centre: $3,592.14 for Collaborative Art Painting with Glenn Loughrey
Pied Piper Toy Library: $6,000 for Access to toys for supporting important skills through play
Ashburton’s branch of the Country Women’s Association: $1,562 for Equipment purchase/consumables to make more of their delicious chutneys
New Art for Ashburton
Two artworks appeared on the High Street bridge over the railway line this year. Painted by Chilean artist Ana Millas (who also did the painting on the side of Lickt up near Warrigal Road) these striking artworks really showed up how there is little public art to speak of around the suburb.
A new mural commissioned by the Ashburton Traders Association of the ‘Ashy Dasher’ and sponsored by the Community Bank is scheduled to appear at some point near the Op Shop. I understand it will be some kind of metal rendered thing so should be interesting!
Although the Facebook community group reported some petty crime, overall, it was a quiet year for serious crime in the neighbourhood. The notable exception was the stabbing of a 16-year-old high school student at Ashburton station in February. The incident involved nine boys aged 14 to 16 and became a statistic in a startling amount of youth-on-youth violent crime seen across Melbourne’s suburbs over the year.
Police charged seven of the offenders with armed robbery, affray, intent to cause injury and recklessly causing injury. An eighth boy (14) handed himself into police.
Fortunately, the young man’s injuries were not life-threatening but I’ve no doubt the psychological impact will be ongoing. My thoughts are with you.
News from Ashburton’s Sports Clubs
Without a local paper, we must turn to Facebook to find out what happened this year in local sport.
Alamein Football Club
2023 proved a strong contender for the all-time best in Australian women’s sport, especially the amazing success of the Diamonds in Netball and the Matildas World Cup triumph.
Boroondara may finally be coming to supporting women's soccer with a $1 million funding boost for the Dorothy Laver West Reserve, the home ground of the Alamein Football Club. We hope to see the talented women of Alamein out on the global stage soon!
Ashy Redbacks Junior Football Club
U11 player Will Slevison successfully qualified the Redbacks to win $10,000 from the ALFW Richmond’s sponsor, NIB Health. Enter four of Ashburton’s fastest runners (from left): Zac Goodwin, Jake Dickson, Sebastian Goodwin and Noah Brancatisano. The boys successfully beat out three other clubs in a sprint relay to win the cash! The money will go towards funding new jerseys in time for the 2024 season. Great effort boys!
Ashburton Willows Cricket Club
Earlier in the year, the U12A team proved the Club’s shining light by taking home the only premiership. The three junior indoor cricket teams also triumphed during the winter season.
During the year, the Club appointed Muditha Fernando as coach. The Sri Lankan-born wicketkeeper has his work cut out for him turning the adult competition around.
Ashburton United Soccer Club
The Club’s junior sides led the way this year with the U12 boys, U15C girls and U18B boys all making finals. The Club now enjoys 997 playing members.
In November, Marcel Lee, a specialist female coach, accepted an appointment as the Senior Women’s Head Coach.
‘Ashy women have always stood out in terms of their attitude and application, so when the opportunity knocked, I jumped at the chance,’ he said.
Ashburton Lawn Bowls Club
In August, Peggy and Janet played a wonderful finals game. Peggy managed to accumulate more than two shots on three ends while Janet won nine of the sixteen ends but was restricted to ten shots overall. Well done Peggy.
I don’t know what any of that means, I just copied it from their website but it sounds pretty impressive so congratulations ladies!
Congratulations also go out to Grant Pickering for winning back-to-back championships in the Indoor Bias Bowls Mens Finals.
I can’t tell much of what’s going on at the Solway Basketball Club or Ashy Lightning from Facebook but with the volume of kids I see in basketball gear every Saturday, it seems both clubs are still going strong.
Notable accomplishments from residents this year included:
Neighbourhood stalwart and President of the Ashburton Traders’ Association, Bob Stensholt won Mainstreet Australia’s Champion of the Year 2023. Bob’s tireless advocacy for everything Ashburton also saw him awarded the inaugural Higgins Community Spirit Award too. Congratulations Bob!
Local environmentalist Moira Tobin won a hard-fought victory with Council to reduce the use of glyphosate in Boroondara. Goats moved into some reserves to help keep the weeds down instead of spraying chemicals. It was a fitting tribute to Moira’s refusal to back down and her astrological sign: Capricorn.
Ida Johnson turned 105 in August. Even though Ashburton’s residents are renowned for the longevity, Ida is not even close to being the oldest resident in Boroondara. This privilege belongs to Hawthorn’s Marija Ruljancich at the grand age of 110. Not that it’s a competition but go for it Ida!
Former Ashburton resident James Gabriel Keogh, known professionally as Vance Joy, enjoyed an unexpected resurgence of success for his 2013 hit Riptide this year. According to his representative, there’s no explanation for its sudden surge to the top of the ARIA charts beyond its consistent popularity on TikTok.
Comedian Nazeem Hussain, who was last seen drawing the raffle at the recent APS Grand Fair, released his second book this year, Hy-Larious Hyena Get Lost! I haven’t read it myself but according to an Amazon review, ‘Daughter read it in 2 days and laughed non-stop.’ High praise indeed!
Late last year saw the sad loss of Peter Woodgate, Life Member of the Ashburton Willows and Florizel Street resident. Rather unusually, he never played cricket. He became involved in the Ashburton Cricket Club (as it was back then) when his son showed considerable promise. Despite not knowing much about the sport, he was asked to coach the juniors. Highly accomplished and distinguished in his professional career, Peter applied his considerable intellect to the task of learning the sport of cricket over a single weekend and went on to become an effective junior coach.
I had the privilege of meeting Peter and holding long conversations with him about Ashburton and his plans for preparing a history of 150 years of cricket in Ashburton. Peter was a true gentleman; kind and generous with his time. He is sorely missed. Peter is survived by his wife, son and daughter.
Some of you may remember Allan Gyngell, who attended Ashburton Primary School in the 1950s and lived with his brother Kim and their grandparents in Celia Street. Mr Gyngell went on to become one of Australia's top diplomats and a thought-leader in the country's foreign policy development for decades. He helped found the Lowy Institute and became the Director-General of the Office of National Assessments (2009-13); a statutory intelligence agency reporting directly to the Prime Minister. Mr Gyngell died in May a few weeks after a cancer diagnosis.
Update on me
That’s it from me for another year! I set myself the goal of making my Ashburton writing and research work more widely read this year and I was pleased to have my article on Ashburton published in The Age and another two in the Spring issue of Burwood Bulletin.
Next year, I’m taking over as Coordinator of the Boroondara Writers Group. I will also be continuing to run my Life Stories Writers Workshops at the Ashburton Community Centre. I’ve also had such a great time working and researching this blog that I have pulled Ashburton’s history into a book. It is currently being assessed by an editor and will be coming to you in 2024. I haven't got a cover yet but here is a little sneak peak of the map of Ashburton I commissioned!
Next week, I set off for the summer in a campervan with my family driving across to Perth and back. I’ve started a blog I’ve aptly titled Trapped in a Campervan . If you’re interested in following our adventures/whether we (or they) survive, check it out!
Thank you for reading and supporting my work. All the best for the festive season. See you next year!