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  • Writer's pictureSerena O'Meley

Former Ruthven Primary School - Diary 2016-2023

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

This diary is composed of links to newspaper articles, questions to Darebin Council and my Facebook posts about the former Ruthven Primary School site. To ensure that the new reserve continues to be protected and enhanced will require ongoing vigilance by the community. The site has recently been renamed 'Wat Ganbo Park'.

24 July 2023 - Question to Darebin Council - Serena O'Meley


"In April this year, Friends of Wat Ganbo Park met with representatives of Darebin Council to discuss the installation of new wetlands in the park. The design is significantly different to what was proposed in the Master Plan, so we were invited to ask questions and were promised a written response from officers and/or an external consultant. Those questions were emailed to Darebin Council on 26 April 2023 and, despite follow up contact, there has not been a response. We are concerned that works may proceed before consultation takes place. When can we expect a response to our questions?"


"Thank you for your question, Serena. I am sorry that you haven’t had a response yet. The project team is working on that, and I expect them to respond shortly. In the meantime, the Manager Capital & Major Projects is available to discuss, if you’d like to. The thing I can say is for 2023-24, the scheduled work is finalisation of design for the wetlands, and proceeding to construction would be considered in future years. So, there is certainly time for engagement and we’re planning engagement through the year ahead."

It's official! The former Ruthven Primary School site has been renamed in the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung language. So now we can officially rename the former consultative committee 'Friends of Wat Ganbo Park'.

One of our members just sent me the picture with the following message: "Hope you’re well. Just went past the park and noticed that it’s named and signed. Wat Ganbo - we are one.

Feels like a solidification of all the work. Looking forward to wetlands and extensive plantings!"

The official ribbon cutting at the new children's playground at the former Ruthven Primary School site. Pictured are Darebin Mayor, Cr Lina Messina, Environment Minister, Hon. Lily D'Ambrosio and new Labor candidate for Preston, Nathan Lambert. Thanks to everyone for coming out on a freezing cold day!

A special shout out to the current Member for Preston, Hon. Robin Scott MP, who wasn't able to make it today but who was instrumental in helping us to save the parkland from development and gain State Government funding for the playground.

Darebin City Council has been successful in applying for State Government funds for a hydrology study which is needed before the planned ephemeral wetland can be constructed. It will go in the area currently covered by asphalt behind the playground. The study will help determine how flooding may be mitigated for low-lying houses in Glasgow Avenue.

There's just a few more days for you to vote for your preferred Woi Wurrung name for the site. Cr Susan Rennie has gone out of her way to help with the naming process by getting a sound file added to the voting page so that people can hear the names. She has also had officers add an 'objection' button in case people want to object to one or more of the names. You can also email any objections separately.

The Friends group has been asked our preference from the list of names. While it is more difficult to say than the other choices we believe that the name Nganga Nyinguwa Park (see & do) has the most resonance with the site as a place of ongoing learning. It has a nice ring to it which you can hear on the sound file.

You can vote for your favourite name here until Sunday, 3 July 2022.

21 April 2022 - Facebook Post

Something my photos of the new playground don't capture is just how amazing the space feels after all the landscaping. It's reenergised. If you get a chance, do go for a walk and have a look for yourself - Cnr Glasgow Avenue and Wilson Blvd, Reservoir.

The climbing ropes are on the poles and the small kids' slide has been installed. The magpies love all the vantage points within the playground; see the one on the platform behind the slide.

The renaming process in Woiwurrung is finally underway and will go out to public consultation soon.

A large number of indigenous plants from the planting guide, developed by former members of the Darebin Nature Trust, are getting established and seem happy with all the rain. You may be able to make them out on the darker coloured mulch in the photos.

There's still no word on when the park will be officially opened but it would be good if the plants could have at least few more weeks to get established before there's a risk of them being trampled.

Our Friends group is trying to convince Darebin Council to do a proper opening with an educational component but due to an artificial deadline in the funding agreement this may not be possible. Unfortunately, it may end up being just a photo op during a weekday.

(Update: Mayor Lina Messina is trying to get the opening shifted to a weekend.

2 April 2022 - Facebook Post

Sad to see that this lemon scented gum will need to be removed at Ruthven. It’s close to the new path and a danger for splitting.

14 March 2022 - Progress report - Facebook Post

I cycled up to Ruthven this afternoon to check the progress of the park. A lot has happened in a couple of days. The stone base has gone in for the curving granitic pathways around the play equipment.

Half of the old and broken asphalt path has been ripped out and a new subtly curved path has been routed onto the south side of the tall stand of trees to the exit at Wilson's Boulevard; it is waiting to be filled in with its rock base.

The Friends group was really happy to have been consulted about the location of these paths. It took us about two hours of discussions and walking around to finalise them.

The shade trees have been planted: Red Box and Dwarf Spotted Gum (native to Victoria but not local). These trees were chosen because they would provide a good canopy cover and would be safe in the play area. No tube stock was available for these ones so we gave the go ahead for more mature trees.

Future planting of other species should be tube stock except in exceptional circumstances. Council has agreed to contact nurseries to order ahead for any missing species on the planting list so that they can be grown prior to next year's planting season.

I also had a lovely chat with a local resident who is thrilled with the progress of the park. His little kids are itching to try it out. He said that without Ruthven they all would have gone out of their minds during the pandemic lockdowns over the past two years.

He also endorsed the dog-on-lead policy for the park; he was attacked a few weeks earlier by a large dog and was grateful that he didn't have his kids with him. It would be good to get the dog-on-lead signage in place ahead of the playground opening and explain to residents why it is now needed.

It really lifted my spirits to talk with an 'end user' of the park. It really does make it all worthwhile.

9 March 2022 - Progress report - Facebook Post

This is a progress report on the playground installation at the former Ruthven Primary School. The tall poles will be part of the senior rope climbing apparatus, and the smaller poles will be used for rope climbing for smaller kids and this space integrates a cubby house arrangement.

The Friends group found out too late that the concept plan was not drawn to scale which contributed to the odd positioning of the swing set instead of being in it's own zone on a better angle. We tried to get it relocated but to no avail. Once something is concreted in it's all over.

There are lots of rocks and logs to add interest to the playground and the nature play area. The play area will also support the large amounts of indigenous planting that will be in garden beds around the playground. Chris Clarke (formerly with DNT) put together a planting list of 47 indigenous species together with Darebin Council's Bush Team. There are 16 species on the list that are unavailable for the first round of planting. Members of the Friends group are keep to ensure that the full vision of the planting plan is realised for the sake of maximising biodiversity. We'll need to talk with the right people about how this gap can be filled.

After the disappointment with the swing set we've been well-consulted regarding the location of the new granitic paths that will be put around and through the playground. The paths will have rock in the substratum and 4% concrete. Minor paths elsewhere will be made from compacted earth. This is a major improvement on the original MasterPlan which was dominated by concrete paths despite the objections of our group.

Darebin Council has applied for a $50,000 grant from DWELP, which they will match, so that they can do a proper hydrology study in preparation for the installation of the ephemeral wetland. We'll know if the application has been successful very soon. The wetland will not only support wildlife, it will also filter water going into Edgars Creek, and a senior bureaucrat in Darebin Council is promoting it as a method for slowing water flow into Glasgow Avenue which is frequently affected by flash floods.

It will be a big win for everyone if this work is brought forward, rather than pushed off for 20 years as originally planned. It's going to be a costly but very rewarding project. We are hoping that there will be a further funding announcement by mid-year after additional lobbying by the Friends group and Darebin Council.

Thanks Mayor Lina Messina for your site visit and intervention last week regarding continued consultation.

Pic one - facing East. Pic two - facing West.

13 March 2022 - Planting plan frustrations - Facebook Post

In the endless frustration column for the Ruthven playground project I'm sorry to report for at least the 3rd time in a year that they still haven't fixed the planting plan. As of last week it still had three European herbs and two Western Australian trees on it.

Worse still, several of them have been placed on order. After I emailed Council on 31 January 2022, the Friends group was given a cast iron guarantee that they would be removed from the planting list. The need to keep raising this issue when a major concept for the park is to be a showcase for species of local provenance is really stressful.

If they end up getting planted despite my last terse email about it on 11 March 2022, I'm happy to declare here and now that I will be coordinating removal of the weeds.

Why does this keep happening?

There will be few other parks that are being monitored as closely as this one so I am concerned about what this repeated lack of diligence says about how other projects are being managed in Darebin.

Update - 15 March 2022

I spoke with an officer from Council and as of 1pm today they had cancelled the errant species off the list, and the nursery order. It does mean that they are now short 5 species will need to be made up in the May planting. He was very apologetic but had no explanation for why this slipped through yet again. I'll be cross-checking Chris Clarke's list with the amended list tonight to make sure that nothing has been missed.

18 February 2022 - Damage to trees - Facebook Post

It shouldn’t be this hard….but it is….continually. This morning I received a distressed phone call from the arborist in our Friends of Ruthven Park group. Contractors went in with a bobcat and scraped inches off the soil at the Glasgow Avenue end of the park, damaging the roots of trees. He was assured at a meeting a week ago that precisely this situation wouldn’t happen during the cleanup. He tried and I tried to reach someone from Darebin Council but no one was around. #Ruthven#Darebin

7 February 2022 - Initial stages of landscaping works for the new playground

31 January 2022 - Questions about naming of the site - Darebin Council meeting

• Serena O'Meley of Reservoir

On 4 September 2019, Terry Mason represented the Ruthven Community Reference Group (CRG) in a meeting with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee (DAAC) to discuss recommendations for naming the park at the site of the former Ruthven Primary School. On 29 October 2019 members of the CRG met with Darebin's Aboriginal Contact Officer, and representatives from the Wurundjeri Land Council for a site tour and to further discuss the naming in the Woiwurrung language.

On 24 May 2021, I asked at a meeting of Darebin Council that naming of the site be treated with some urgency to overcome confusion with W.R. Ruthven V.C. Reserve, both in terms of emergency services which may be called to the site, and in relation to securing government grants for the improvement of the park. I was told in response that the naming was in progress. Since that time, a bridge and a sports stadium have been named but not the former Ruthven Primary School site.

On 28 January 2022, a Council Officer emailed me as follows, "Renaming of Ruthven Park – preliminary works have commenced with internal staff to start this process in the new financial year, subject to adoption of the budget."

Because the site does not have an existing name there are far less hoops to jump through in terms of the Geographic Place Names Committee; if the name is unique it should be quickly accepted. Therefore, this further indefinite delay is unacceptable

Can you explain if/why the process for naming the former Ruthven Primary School site is apparently being started from scratch and why the Council Officer believes that there are budget implications attached to the naming, what expense is likely to be involved and if there is an expense why it is not already budgeted? What steps will Darebin Council take to hasten the naming process so that it can take effect in this financial year?

Question 1 Can you explain if/why the process for naming the former Ruthven Primary School site is apparently being started from scratch and why the Council Officer believes there are budget implications attached to the naming?

Response The Parks and Open Space unit is following the renaming process as determined by the Wurundjeri Woi- Wurrung Heritage Corporation. The process to rename the former Ruthven Primary School in the Woi Wurrung language recognises the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung as the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters in this area.

This process has commenced, and Officers are optimistic that the complete naming process will be finalised by late 2022, however this may be earlier.

Following the statutory process for renaming sites, the shortlisted names will go through a community consultation process. Following determination of the selected name by Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, we will make application to Geographic Names Victoria (GNV). GNV is currently in the process of releasing it’s the Naming Rules for Places which is expected in February 2022.

Question 2: What expense is likely to be involved and if there is an expense why it is not already budgeted?

Response The cost associated with the application to Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Heritage Corporation for names and the ongoing licence is approximately $3,000. There are no budget implications that will affect this process.

Question 3: What steps will Darebin Council take to hasten the naming process so that it can take effect in this financial year?

Response Darebin City Council is following the statutory process applicable to this matter and is unable to influence the timeline, however as stated above we are keen to complete the process promptly.

25 January 2022- Continued consultation issues - Facebook Post

Belated lunchtime 'consultation' on the new playground at the former #Ruthven PS. They've had the designs since July last year but hadn't shown them to us!

Grumbles aside, Anthony, who's an early childhood educator, was happy with them from the point of view of being sufficiently challenging for kids, the materials are as natural as possible and the indigenous planting plan is said to be intact. The contractors are aiming to get it done in five weeks

22 November 2021 - Extract from 2020/2021 Darebin Council Report

"Big Action 6: Create a new park, playground, oval and children’s hub on the site

of the old Ruthven Primary School in Reservoir

Based on community feedback, Council decided to develop this site as a nature-based park and not to proceed with a children’s hub. A master plan to create a nature-based and biodiverse park at the former Ruthven Primary School was adopted by Council on 29 June 2020. Concept plans for a new playspace and nature play area were shared with the community in February 2021 and endorsed by Council on the 24th May 2021. Consultation on the playspace was delayed because of the 2020 lockdowns and this also delayed construction. Construction is set for the second half of 2021, and the playspace is scheduled to open by late 2021. A draft planting plan has been created to guide rewilding at Ruthven Park and, in conjunction with Darebin Nature Trust and the former Ruthven Community Reference Group, a planting list has been established for this park."

14 November 2021 - Things are looking up - Facebook Post

Friends of Ruthven Park met with members of the Darebin Council Bush Team early on Friday morning.

These are some of the taller trees on the site and they are a magnet for birds flying between the creeks. We had to stand under them because of a heavy mist; the noise of the birds in the flowering gums was overwhelming. The most important thing to note is that the Bush Team now have carriage of the park after a recent restructure and they share our vision for the park which will be the first of its kind in Darebin.

Further to my last post about neglect of the park, things are looking up:

1. The Bush Team will be initiating immediate work to give the park a facelift including dealing with broken pathways, dumped rubbish and other planting and maintenance. They are talking about bringing in a big crew of people to deal with weed issues as part of an intensive working bee.

However, they are unlikely to plant the shrubs and flowers at this point because they don't have sufficient resources for upkeep. A lot will need to be invested to get the weeds under control (e.g. highly invasive Chilean needle grass). In the interim we have asked them to start planting more trees because they are easier to maintain, take the longest to grow and will be the most impactful on the site. They are also going to fix the avenue of trees which have been inappropriately planted in a line by contractors, contrary to the Master Plan.

2. They expect the ephemeral wetland to be brought forward in next year's budget; partly as a measure for pollution control into Edgars Creek and on to Edwardes Park Lake, and also because it will be a significant feature on the site and it makes sense to establish it now rather than later. This is something that our group and DNT have been calling for since it was adopted in the Master Plan, rather than waiting for 20 years.

There's been a lot of confusing things said by various people over the past few years about using the wetlands for flood remediation but there's no consensus on whether this is possible. The Bush Team didn't mention flooding issues so it's something I'm still trying to find out more about.

3. Friends of Ruthven Park will be properly consulted in relation to the new playground as per a Council Resolution from 24 May 2021. They're setting up a meeting between us and the contractors who will be responsible for the playground. Interestingly, this element of the park is also no longer in the hands of City Futures which is an important improvement given the difficulties we've had with that department.

4. We'll also be invited to a consultation with all local "Friends" groups to establish parameters for how we work together.

5. Naming of the park in Woiwurrung is still stalled and not something they have much influence over. We pointed out that the recently opened bridge over the Merri Creek was named very quickly by comparison which fuels the perception of the 'North-South' divide in resource allocation in Darebin. (Congrats to the Merri Creek Bridge Group for their success, of course.)

Our group has full confidence in the Bush Team, providing they are properly resourced by Darebin Council to do the work. They have an established track record for getting things done, and done well. For example, they have made some incredible progress with rewilding work in the north of Darebin using indigenous plants and logs. It's worth walking or cycling along Darebin Creek from Dunne Avenue, Reservoir, through Clements Reserve and towards Thomastown to see what they've achieved.

Photo taken Saturday afternoon 13/11/21.

31 October 2021 - Facebook Post

So this is what #DarebinCouncil thinks of residents in North West Reservoir.

The nature reserve on former #Ruthven Primary School with trees half dead and falling over, planting areas infested with weeds, no plantings of flowers and native grasses as promised (now getting too late in the season to plant).

They have had time to slap in a new *avenue* of semi mature trees despite promising us that tube stock would be used from now on and that plantings would look *natural* and wouldn't be in straight lines.

They still haven't renamed the park in Woiwurrung which is a problem if emergency services are called to the park because there are too many places in Reservoir bearing Ruthven's name.

In relation to the play equipment: "Request for quotation has been completed. Delays in the supply of materials will result in construction works beginning in early 2022." Members of the former CRG have not been consulted about the selection of the equipment (as directed by elected councillors).

If they can't rewild a suburban park why would anyone trust them to rewild the Northcote Golf Course?

Sad and disgusted.

1 July 2021

Due to an internal restructure in Darebin Council all open space matters will now be managed by the very competent Parks & Open Space Team. This should give the community some confidence that the planting side of the project will be done properly. The playground design will still be managed by City Design.

24 May 2021

Darebin Council has confirmed that the Wurrundjeri Woi Wurrung Corporation, Darebin Nature Trust and Friends of Ruthven Park will be further consulted about the detailed design of the park. Officers also claim to be progressing the renaming of the Park in the Woiwurrung language. See my Darebin Public Question Time & Submissions Diary for further details:

Does anyone know how we could fact check these two wildly different costing for an ephemeral wetland at Ruthven Park?

A member of DNT has estimated that the design and establishment of a small ephemeral wetland would cost $65,000.

This is what council officers say it would cost and why:

"The Water Management Team had reviewed the requirements for wetland, as was highlighted at our meeting a few weeks ago area surrounding the site is liable to flooding, so it would be strongly recommended to include flood mitigation as one of the wetland’s benefits. It would also be of great benefit to harvest the water and use for irrigation of the site.

A project of this nature would require a feasibility study, geotechnical report, soil contamination classification, flood mapping, MUSIC modelling and design work which is outlined in the adopted master plan. Therefore, the estimate still is $50k design & $500k construction.

Investing anything less than this amount would compromise desired outcomes for water management and biodiversity of the site. I know this is different what had been estimated by the group and I can arrange to catch with up David to discuss his views and estimate, as well as noting a recent email from David to meet and discuss a number of topics and concerns with the Masterplan including this one."

Win at Ruthven Park - indigenous plants to be used, scooter track scrapped

Yesterday a group of us met at Ruthven Park with the Acting Manager City Design and other council officers. The purpose was to address the issues we have with the divergence from the Master Plan in relation to planting.

There were representatives from the former Community Reference Group (CRG) and from Darebin Nature Trust (DNT). We impressed upon those present that our key vision for the site is one where it showcases Darebin's local plants - a bushland version of a botanical garden.

I pointed out that this was the second time council officers had tried to force interstate plants onto the site - diverging both from its own tree planting policies in general and the Ruthven Master Plan in particular. It's immensely stressful to keep having to have the same fight. We need to get to the bottom of why this keeps going wrong. I suspect a difference of philosophy between landscape designers versus bush regenerators.

While we were talking we were drowned out at times by the noise of rainbow lorikeets that feed and play in the existing taller trees. It implicitly made the point that this park/reserve is part of a wildlife corridor between Strathallan and Darebin Creeks to the East and Edgar's Creek to the West.

The key outcomes from the meeting are:

  • No exotic herbs, interstate trees, or cultivars will be planted at the site.

  • The indigenous planting guide provided by Chris Clarke from DNT (Vegetation Working Group) will be the starting point for planting around the play space and BBQ area.

  • Any changes to the guide, and for the broader site, will be consulted on between Chris and an officer from Darebin's Bush Team. She enthusiastically embraced the suggestions in the guide and described his group's work as a 'pleasure to read'.

  • All future planting will use tube stock rather than partly matured trees.

  • The shabby asphalt next to Wilson's Boulevard will not be marked up for a second-rate scooter track - the area will be retained for the ephemeral wetland.

Both the former CRG and DNT are calling for the ephemeral wetland to be brought forward in the plan. I have provided the Acting Manager with information about some pending state government environmental grants that we want council to apply for before the closing date on 1 April. DNT estimates that design and implementation will come to around $65,000. We do not understand the resistance to getting it underway.

There had been a study of remnant grasses which we had expected to be revived. However, these grasses were poisoned and mulched over in the initial roll out of plants. They said that the remnants were not viable because of weed invasion - a different message than we were originally given. The Acting Manager put it down to another example of poor communication.

DNT took the opportunity to point out that they regularly raise issues in writing following their meetings and that they do not get a response to their concerns and feedback from council officers. DNT is an incredible asset to council and they deserve better.

I'm still waiting for a written response to the rest of my questions to council about the mistakes that have been made and have also asked that the partial response I received on the night of the last meeting be corrected as it has an error. Again I note that the plant list that council worked from for the initial roll out of trees was only intended for the windy north west corner of the site, and it is disappointing that in a moment of rush and expediency it was used over half the site.

What both groups emphatically asked for was a forward budget plan for the site so that the Master Plan isn't rolled out in such a piecemeal manner. This was refused because of some unintelligible (to us) way in which the budget process works in council. We're looking into this further.

Officers claim there is no money for shade for the playground despite public demand. They will rely upon fast growing trees instead. They say that a built shade structure will be at the BBQ area but we don't expect this to happen in the short term.

It's very clear that if the community vision for the park/reserve is going to be realised that it will need to be constantly championed for years to come.

The picture on the left is degraded asphalt which a council officer would like to mark up into a temporary scooter track for the new Ruthven Park playground (see last picture from consultation documents). The picture on the right is the undulating concrete circuit, under the shade of tall gum trees at Norris Bank Reserve which inspired it. They are chalk and cheese - it's laughable.

THIS is just another example of how the narrative about the North-South divide is able to be fed. Always doing things on the cheap up our end of town. Can anyone imagine this being proposed in Fairfield even as a temporary measure? Yes, this is a class issue.

My long experience as a community activist tells me that once the 'temporary' track is installed it will be very difficult to replace. This proposal was never in the Master Plan and (properly designed) is more suited to a large regional park not a reflective bushland space.

Note also that council spent around $80,000 last year removing concrete and asphalt on the site.

This is also the exact location of the proposed ephemeral wetland, which has been pushed off for decades into the future allegedly because of 'cost'. Yet the wetland is something that can be discretely funded through a state government grant - providing we don't keep running up against roadblocks. It is something which has the full backing of the Darebin Nature Trust and the original Ruthven Community Reference Group. DNT estimates it could cost around $65,000 to design and install.

A rough word cloud drawn from the Brain Stormer feedback on the Ruthven Park playground. Key issues: shade, seating and water play.

I've written up three questions for tomorrow's Darebin council meeting regarding Ruthven Park.

  1. on failure to consult the community reference group (as directed by council) *before* commencing planting,

  2. on failure to answer questions and provide minutes from the belated consultation meeting last year as promised.

  3. on the inappropriate inclusion of interstate species in the draft planting palette, contrary to the Ruthven Master Plan (“Blueprint for Biodiversity: A biodiverse, indigenous landscape will be showcased, enriching Reservoir West’s urban ecosystem”) and the Natural Heritage Strategy (2015-2025) (“Continue to use indigenous species of local provenance in all landscaping along waterways or habitat corridors”.)

We already won the argument on use of species of local provenance in the Master Plan. Why do we have to keep on fighting for it over and over?

What do I say in response to a council officer who wants to plant interstate species as part of the landscaping around the new Ruthven Park playgrounds because they are "hardier" and will "withstand being trampled by children"?

The community vision for the park is to showcase species of local provenance. Apparently, this hasn't sunk in and yet again a case will need to be made. I'm exhausted by the endless fight and need help from those of you who know stuff about indigenous plants and what would be safe for kids.

This is what happens when you bring in contractors and don't prepare the area properly - weed invasion and dead trees. Tell me again why tube stock wasn't used when we pleaded for it?

Wow. They didn't even bother to tell the community members of the former Ruthven CRG (reforming as Friends of Ruthven Park) before commencing public consultation.

This is on top of them failing to consult us despite being directed to do so by a resolution of council regarding the first lot of tree planting. Naturally they buggered it up - it looks more like a plantation than a natural bushland. They don't even have a guide to what species they have planted in each location.

Tell me again why anyone should waste time engaging when the officers just do whatever they please?

"Council has been working with the community to design a new playspace in the heart of the new park at the former Ruthven Primary School site, in Tracey Street and Glasgow Avenue, Reservoir."

Actually, this is a lie. The latest concept plan had NO community input before it was released.

After almost two hours of meeting we still couldn't get Council officers to commit to developing a detailed planting plan for the Ruthven site. Why is this important? At a bare minimum you need to know exactly what type of tree you've planted where so that you know what will survive underneath it. You need to know the relative heights of the trees to understand if/how they will provide windbreaks...and so on. In addition, if there is going to be an ephemeral wetland why would you wait 20 years to establish it? How can we have a long term plan if everything is done in a piecemeal fashion? Lots of solidarity from Darebin Nature Trust on all of these points and more. Overall the process is still exhausting.

Darebin Coucil has managed to turn something that should be positive into yet another fight.

It really is galling when 1) council officers in city planning fail to consult with the community reference group and/or Darebin Nature Trust before commissioning major planting on the site; 2) use a planting list that was a discussion draft intended only for a windy corner of the site, not the whole park; 3) fail to plant according to any explicit planting plan; 4) despite repeated representations, fail to use tube stock but instead used outrageously expensive mature trees; 5) have no detailed plan and costings for how planting and other works on the site will progress over the next five - ten years.

The planting list has been partially rescued at the last minute but it's not good enough. The project should be placed in the hands of Darebin's parks people before the whole vision of the park is ruined by expediency. (PS. Photos taken yesterday).

29 June 2020

The Masterplan for Ruthven Park was adopted at tonight's Darebin Council meeting (29/6/20).

The Mayor read out my submission on the agenda item as follows: “Community members of the CRG advise Darebin Council that we are forming a Friends of Ruthven Park to continue to be available for consultation on the implementation of the Ruthven Park Masterplan and to help realise the community’s vision for the space.” Cr McCarthy kindly amended the motion to include reference to the group.

The park (and the group) will eventually be renamed in the Woiwurrung language.

Darebin Council has removed around 2/3rds of the old concrete and asphalt from the footprint of the former Ruthven Primary School. This place will become a new nature-based, reflective park. The removal poses a risk of weed invasion so the site will need to be actively managed. There’s been some mulching at one end of the site. It will be interesting to see to how this unfolds.

Some of the early feedback from today’s consultation on the new #Ruthven Park. What’s great about it is that the feedback is mostly consistent with what we’ve planned.

“I the new vision of the park.” ... “Love the park! Make it happen quickly!” ... “Great idea the wetland/water catchment area.”

I just stopped off at Ruthven to eat a picnic dinner and contemplate the draft Master Plan. It really is a very restful spot. Come along to the public consultation about the vision for the park this Saturday 9th November 10am - 12pm. Members from the Ruthven CRG will be there. Darebin Council will also be giving away free native plants.

Big plans in store for park (Preston Leader, 29 October 2019)

’Botanic showcase’ excites community

Jack Paynter

A master plan has been unveiled for Reservoir’s newest park that will turn the space into a bushland sanctuary for both play and quiet retreat.

Darebin Council has released the draft Reimagining Ruthven master plan and invited feedback on the proposal for the former Ruthven Primary School site.

It follows a six-year campaign to keep the 3ha site in public hands after a council action plan revealed it could be home to a children’s hub.

The council purchased the Reservoir West land in 2016 using funds from its Open Space Reserve – four years after the school was closed.

In 2018 the council agreed to use the entire site for open space.

The master plan includes wild bushland areas, a sheltered barbecue with seating, a public toilet, new play spaces, an open lawn area and recognition of Darebin’s Aboriginal history and Reservoir’s migrant past. All indigenous trees and shrubs will also be retained and more are expected to be planted.

Ruthven Community Reference Group member Serena O’Meley said it would be a natural meeting place where people could feel welcome and relaxed.

“The park will be a botanic showcase that will encourage people to love and appreciate the wide variety of plants and wildlife which are indigenous to the area,” she said.

Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie said it was a really exciting project.

“The Ruthven master plan will simultaneously create a haven for wildlife by becoming a stepping stone for local habitat along the Edgars Creek corridor, while also adding high-quality open space for our community to enjoy with friends and family,” she said.

Community consultation closes on November 16.

Here's the draft Master Plan for the new #Ruthven Park in North West Reservoir in what was part of the old Merrilands Estate. It is a really different vision of a park which we are trying to get off the ground - a deliberate attempt to rewild a corner of Darebin. If it is successful it could become a model for future parks in Darebin and its surrounds. The park will be renamed in the Woiwurrung language.

There are two public feedback sessions on 30 October and 9 November (details in link) and consultation closes on 16 November 2019.

On Sunday I visited Michael Brennan, the former deputy principal of the old #Ruthven Primary School, to give him an update on the Master Planning process for the new park.

When the school was newly established (circa 1968) he said they would have to ring a bell so that the children would run indoors when there was blasting of the volcanic rock in the area.

The blasting took place so the sewerage system for the new estate could be installed. This rock is something that will need to be thought about in relation to water and sewerage for the park.

He then told me that the kids would be sent out at playtime with magnets to collect metal out of the cricket pitch. He said they made a few hundred dollars from the collection. Metal?!

It turns out that the area was landscaped using foundry sand - a foot or two deep, with a few inches of top soil from the Merri Creek spread on top. This is the first I've heard of it, and I doubt that Darebin Council has done any soil testing, so this will have to go into my submission on the draft Master Plan. There may be low level contaminants to consider and also the salt content of the sand.

17 October 2019 - Darebin Council Media Release Reimagining Ruthven Master Plan unveiled

The Darebin community is invited to provide their feedback on the draft Reimagining Ruthven Master Plan which will guide the future of Darebin’s newest park at the former Ruthven Primary School site.

The draft plan outlines how the site will be transformed by creating a bushland sanctuary, a natural place of welcome, and a space for both play and quiet retreat, right in the heart of Reservoir West. “This is a really exciting project for everyone in Darebin. The Ruthven master plan will simultaneously create a haven for wildlife by becoming a stepping-stone for local habitat along the Edgars Creek corridor, while also adding high quality open space for our community to enjoy with friends and family,” Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie said. The Reimagining Ruthven Master Plan outlines Council’s long-term vision for the park. The master plan is the culmination of two years of site analysis, design, and investigative work (including community input from the Ruthven Community Reference Group) to inform the transformation of the site. The creation of this draft has been underpinned by enhancing the site’s existing landscape character and biodiversity, and the community’s desires for a nature-based space. Its creation will also be informed by the newly endorsed Darebin open space strategy, Breathing Space. Ruthven Community Reference Group member Serena O’Meley welcomed the release of the plan for consultation. “It’ll be a natural meeting place where people can feel welcome and relaxed, while increasing their sense of well-being and connectedness. The park will be a botanic showcase that will encourage people to love and appreciate the wide variety of plants and wildlife which are indigenous to the area,” Ms O’Meley said. Some of the key actions outlined in the master plan include retaining all indigenous trees and shrubs and the planting of many more, the creation of wild bushland areas, a sheltered barbecue with seating and a public toilet, new play spaces, the retention of an open lawn area, and recognition of Darebin’s Aboriginal history and Reservoir’s migrant past. Looking towards the long-term future of the site, the master plan also notes the park could be also used to create a small section of ephemeral wetland to further increase the park’s biodiversity. The three-hectare parcel of land is bordered by Hurley Street, Tracey Street, Glasgow Avenue and Wilson Boulevard, and was purchased by Council in 2016 after the former primary school site was declared surplus by the State Government. “I encourage everyone to provide their feedback on the Reimagining Ruthven Master Plan, so they can have their say on the creation of this fantastic new space which will delight Darebin residents for generations to come,” Cr Rennie said. Consultation on the master plan will close on 16 November. There will also be two drop-in sessions for community members to learn more:

  • Wednesday 30 October, 10am-12pm at the Reservoir Library, 23 Edwardes Street, Reservoir.

  • Saturday 9 November, 10am-12pm at the former Ruthven Primary School, 74-76 Glasgow Avenue, Reservoir.

To view the Reimagining Ruthven Masterplan and provide feedback, please visit

Media release: 17 October 2019

The Ruthven park draft master plan goes up to Darebin Council on Monday night before it is released for public consultation.

The proposed planting palette includes Corymbia maculata (Spotted Gum), presumably because it would manage in the windy north west corner of the site. Spotted gum is not part of the Plains Grassy Woodland (EVC 55_61) which is an issue because we are aiming to use species of local provenance for reasons of enhancing biodiversity, or where that is not possible due to climate considerations, species of regional provenance.

George Paras, can you give some feedback on why you thought Eucalyptus leucoxylon connata (Yellow Gum) would be a preferable substitute? I recollect that it is from Plenty Gorge and is a species of regional rather than local provenance, which can grow in hostile environments.

There are three other plants in the pallette that fall outside the EVC: Acacia dealbata (Silver Wattle), Allocasuarina verticillata (Drooping sheoak), which appears in a higher rainfall EVC, and Carex breviculmis (Short-stem sedge). Do you or David Redfearn have any thoughts about these?

We wanted to get a few quick wins at the emerging Ruthven Park so a water fountain was installed by council. It was graffitied within a few days of installation. Some habitat logs were recently brought in and one of our committee members had to confront someone with a chainsaw who had started cutting them up for firewood! A relocated full sized picnic table was stolen. At one point last year the fence was damaged. I suppose it’s not that surprising given that the former school site was neglected, treated like a rubbish dump, vandalised, burnt, and finally razed to the ground by the Liberals. If our vision for the new park is going to be realised we are going to have to work hard to defend it while the park is being established.

Tonight members of the Ruthven Park community reference group (CRG) met with the Darebin Nature Trust (DNT) to talk about the biodiversity plan and master planning process for the new park on the former primary school site.

DNT appears to be in broad agreement with the community members' vision for the site, and the park will benefit from their expertise in terms of recommended plant selection, landscaping and wetlands. The CRG is keen to have the site planted out with species of local provenance or, where there are issues with wind and/or exposure, at least regional provenance. We want the park to showcase local plant diversity as much as possible. DNT are going to make a site visit soon and provide specific feedback to the CRG.

At this stage the draft masterplan is anticipated to go up to Darebin Council in September for pre-endorsement before it is released to the community for further consultation. This important interim step appears to come about because of the recent controversy over the parking strategy.

Once the draft plan has been released to the community the works to remove the old concrete and asphalt will commence. Darebin Council 2018/2019 budget includes $87,000 for this work plus an additional $55,000 for new planting and upgrades to the park (total $142,000). Our local MP, Minister Robin Scott, has secured $150,000 in the State budget to go towards play equipment and revegetation works.

Council has made contact with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation to start the consultation process for renaming the park in the Woiwurrung language.

Thank you Robin Scott MP for your continued support for a park at the former Ruthven Primary School. The community reference group is meeting tonight and will be so happy to hear your election pledge of $150,000 towards a new BBQ area, play equipment and landscaping.

Thanks also to Darebin Mayor Kim Le Cerf and councillors for hearing our representations and ensuring that the whole 3.056ha area will be included in a park of natural character.

Just checked out the former #Ruthven Primary School land. #Darebin Council has done a fantastic job giving it a mini facelift. The dumped rubbish is gone, the trees and gardens are mulched, lines mark out the paths and dangerous limbs on trees have been lopped. Hope to see lots of people at the family fun day next Saturday.

Time to venture out to the northern limits of Darebin for a family fun day in our newly created park at the former Ruthven Primary School.

Saturday 21st October 10am-1:30pm. 74-76 Glasgow Avenue, Reservoir.

I'm making a submission to Darebin Council's budget process tonight regarding three of Darebin's special spaces: Strathallan Open Space, the former Ruthven Primary School and the former Lakeside Secondary College. My presentation is first up at 7pm.

The rules of engagement are below and include an opportunity for councillors to question me (or as some of them would prefer - to grill me). Should be fun. Let's see if I can get through all three issues in 5 minutes.

Thanks again to Hon. Robin Scott, MP for meeting with Terry and me several times and with Friends of Merri Creek, for speaking at the public meeting and for his own lobbying of Darebin Council and relevant Ministers to save the Ruthven and Lakeside sites. This is also the most courteous letter I've seen written to a community by a politician.

Darebin Council to bid $7m for two vacant school sites

8 September 2016 - Preston Leader - Harrison Tippet

DAREBIN Council will put in a $7 million bid to buy two vacant school sites and turn them into public open space.

Read the full story here:

At Monday's Darebin Council meeting I asked for the issue of the Ruthven and Lakeside sites to be brought forward on the agenda and to be discussed and debated in public, rather than in camera, as foreshadowed in the agenda.

The agenda I read from was numbered differently from the one held by councillors. Although the intent of my question was clearly known, the Mayor dealt with it in such a rude manner that his attitude drew audible responses from the gallery. It is fair to say that he shouted me down. People were shocked.

After writing to the council yesterday I received an apology from one of the governance officers and the following note was included in the 5 September 2015 minutes:

"NOTE: Council acknowledges that there was an oversight in the agenda inadvertently published on the website which Ms O’Meley was referring to in her public question."

My purpose for being at council on Monday night was to represent a broad community interest. In such circumstances when a person in a position of power attacks someone acting in a community representative role it is not only an attempt to silence them, but it also indirectly silences others who may otherwise become active participants in their community.

This is not acceptable behaviour and does not accord with council's Good Governance Charter.

You can watch the exchange here at 5'29". [NB: Link is broken]

TM and I went to church today - to hand out leaflets - then door knocked in the afternoon. Ran into Rosie Z fliers in hand talking with neighbours as well. Should be a good number of locals in the Darebin Council gallery on Monday despite the short notice. Come along if you can. It's time council made a decision to purchase the Ruthven and Lakeside (Merri Creek) land for public open space.

Darebin Council negotiating to buy Ruthven Primary School and Lakeside Secondary College sites

28 August 2016 - Preston Leader - Harrison Tippet

THE future of two vacant school sites in Melbourne’s north is expected to be known next week as Darebin Council tries to stop them being rezoned and sold.

Read the full story here:

7 June 2016

Breaking news Darebin, Lakeside SC (Merri Creek) and Ruthven sites a step closer to being saved

"In front of a packed gallery of local residents, Darebin Council resolved to put money towards the purchase of both 1.8ha of land adjoining the Merri Creek at the former Lakeside Secondary College, Radford Road, and the former Ruthven Primary School site on Glasgow Street. The purchase is subject to the discount promised by the State Government and a fairly negotiated price." Read More

6 June 2016

Breakthrough in the campaign to save parkland at the former Ruthven Primary School

"More than 150 local residents turned out to the St Joseph the Worker Church Hall, Reservoir, on Sunday 5 June 2016, for the campaign to stop the rezoning, sale and development of public open space at the former Ruthven Primary School. It was another feisty public meeting with members of the community immediately on the offensive and demanding answers from elected representatives about retaining the site as public open space." Read More

3 June 2016

Darebin Council Budget Submission 2016/2017 - Ruthven & Merri Creek sites

"Noting from Council minutes that there is a “strategic gap in open space provision in the north western quadrant of Reservoir” where the former Ruthven Primary School is located and that the land alongside Merri Creek is “required for municipal purposes” given its “significant biodiversity values”, this budget submission recommends that Darebin Council purchases both parcels of land from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD)." Read More

25 May 2016

Packed meeting of Darebin residents to save public open space at the former Ruthven Primary School and land adjoining the Merri Creek. It's barely started and it is getting very heated with residents calling out their questions from the floor.

15 May 2016

Darebin Council’s failed lobbying strategy jeopardises public open space at former Ruthven Primary School site

"The former Ruthven Primary School site is located in an area of Darebin which the Council describes as having a deficit of public open space. When, in 2013, the Education Department decided that the land was surplus to requirements Darebin Council was given the opportunity to purchase it. So began a long and convoluted saga stretching over three years to try and secure part, or all, of the 3ha site for public use." Read More

A little bit of history about the Ruthven site which is going to be zoned as residential land and flogged off. Darebin Council put in $370,000 worth of improvements to make it into parkland over a decade. They wanted to hold on to the property estimated in the newspaper at about $3millon (though this looks to be an incorrect estimate as the minutes estimate it at $10million for the whole site). So how did it come to pass that they failed to respond to the State government's letter of 2 September 2015 offering them the right to purchase?

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