Giant Melaleucas stand sentinel in a special place at the bottom of the Rufous Street cul-de-sac in Peregian Beach, sometimes silent, sometimes a boisterous, musical cauldron of children playing, learning and finding their place in the world.
For 40 years the Peregian Beach Community Kindergarten has been one of the keys to the ‘soul’ of Peregian Beach, a constant in a village that’s grown around it and is now trying to cope with those growing pains.
Each year a new Management Committee of parents takes over, but the ethos of the Kindergarten remains unchanged.
This place is a “celebration of childhood” and the children themselves are encouraged “to have a strong voice.”
Carmel Desjardins. Peregian Beach Community Kindergarten Director
As much a part of this place as the melaleucas, Carmel Desjardins has been Teacher/Director for 34 of its 40 years. She proudly proclaims “I now have five ‘grand students’; her term for the children of Kindy children she has taught.
Carmel says the children quickly understand the importance of things like environment and the local indigenous culture. “This isn’t an exercise in ticking boxes, it means something to the teachers and children.”
This month some 400 people arrived to celebrate the 40-year milestone and to remember those early days, beginning with a meeting of parents in 1976 that formed a tiny playgroup that was to become the kindy.
A lot of fundraising took place and with a bank loan applied for and approved, with personal guarantees signed for by several families, the building was constructed and officially opened 40 years ago with a loan of $7000 to be paid off.
Rod & Diane McRae – Kindy patrons
Bill Deans was the Kindy’s first director in the early 80’s, and travelled here from Goondiwindi for the occasion last weekend.
In 1988 Carmel Desjardins arrived as Director and remains at the heart of the place today.
“This is truly a community” she says, “every morning our staff greet every parent by name.”
“At the core of what we do is helping children to find their passion. Then we share that with the parents.”
Both of my children Charles and Natalie have fond memories of PBCK, first of all with Bill and Sue then with Carmel and Sue. Natalie is a Senior Lecturer in Production Design at AFTRS and her best, kindy friend Amber Scott became the prima ballerina for the Australian ballet. Charles is a senior scientist in Qld health working in immunology. The Kindy formed a great platform for their future education.Greg Beak
Perhaps inevitably in four decades, the Kindy has seen some near misses. Developers of the old caravan park next door at one stage tried to open up a thoroughfare for trucks – and perhaps longer term traffic – through this peaceful cul-de-sac until the community, PBCA and then Council stepped in. This stone circle now stands defiantly as the place the community demanded safety for the Kindy, veggie village and others in this cul-de-sac.
And, for a short time during the Peregian Beach fire of 2019, rumours suggested that the Kindy had been burnt to the ground. As it was, the fire came perilously close, scorching trees on the edge of the nearby oval.
Fortunately for the village of Peregian Beach, the Kindy and its melaleucas still stand, and a new generation of three-and-a-half to four-and-a half year old children will carry this place and its memories into their own future, wherever it leads them.
A final word of advice. If you want your kids to share in this special experience you need to plan ahead. It’s harder to get one of the 50-places a year here than it is to score a park on Hastings Street.