Once upon a time…
The early to mid 1940s saw the start of Estrella Preschool. It was run by a woman called Mrs Searle. The Preschool was held in a house on Dunlop Street, Ashburton in conjunction with the Church of Christ. Mrs Searle was the Director of the Preschool with a Mrs Gibbons as her assistant. Sometime in the mid 50s the Preschool moved to the Church Hall (now the Korean Church of Christ) in St Georges Crescent, Ashburton and rented an area from Pastor Doug Sanders to teach young children the kinder way. There were no luxuries such as outdoor play equipment, children’s toilets or wash basins. They had to make do with what they had. Around 1958 Mrs Searle, who was a qualified teacher but not a qualified kindergarten teacher, was told by the Department of Health that as she was not qualified to teach kinder, she could no longer teach the children.
A group of local parents approached the then councillor, Mr Eric Raven, of the City of Camberwell (now Boroondara Council) to see if they could help with land for a new preschool. The Council kindly donated the corner block of Watson Park for the building of a preschool. Mr Reg Padey, who lived in Albion Road, was a member of the Church of Christ and an architect. He drew up the plans and permits were issued for the building of Estrella. The Department of Health offered the local parents working on the project a grant. For every £2000 the group raised with local fundraising the Department of Health would give an additional £1000. Around £16 000 was raised in total to build Estrella. Quite a mean feat. Bob Shields, who was a prominent builder in the area kindly offered to build the Preschool at a very reasonable rate (to fit the grant money raised) and so the building began. The name ‘Estrella’ was chosen by Mrs Ryall, also a member of the Church of Christ, and it means ‘Star of the East’. Estrella was officially opened in October 1958 by the Honourable Mr Dick Hamer who was the Health Minister at that time.
The first teacher at the new Preschool was Kay Hirst. Kay worked at the Church Hall in St Georges Crescent for a short period and then transferred over to the new Preschool when it opened its doors to children in 1959. Kay worked with Pat Remington as her assistant. Pat continued to work at the kinder for some years while Kay left on 18 December 1960 to give birth. The first Preschool Mothercraft Nurse in the area was trained at Estrella by Kay. Back in the 60s to be a Preschool Nurse you had to do a placement in a kindergarten. This was supervised by the Department of Health.
After the opening of Estrella, all the parents were asked to bring some plant cuttings from their own gardens to beautify the gardens of the Preschool. There may be some trees or plants still living from way back in 1959! As Estrella was funded by the Department of Health back then, underprivileged children from the commission areas of Jordanville, Ashwood and Ashburton, whose parents would normally be able to send their children to a kindergarten, were accepted at Estrella with discounted fees.
Estrella has seen over 4000 students pass through its doors in almost half a century and is still going strong.