Kyabram Free Press
Future of Portsea trip in doubt
A treasured tradition for three quarters of a century, the annual trip to the Portsea Camp now finds itself on its last legs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Girgarre local Avis Weller it comes as a major blow, having been involved with the event for 43 years, giving children across the Kyabram area a chance to experience what the camp has to offer.
Having decided to retire from her role with the camp, she is urging the local community to continue supporting the cause and is hoping to find someone to replace her.
Ms Weller described what the Portsea Camp was all about.
“It was a camp donated to the children of Victoria by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne at the end of the Second World War and for the first couple of years it was at Frankston before it moved down to Portsea,” she said.
Beginning her journey with the camp as a small child, she explained what drew her to becoming involved as a volunteer.
“I went down as a kid when I was 10 and then returned as a leader when I was 18, my two older girls then went a few years after and when it came time to send my younger two to the camp I was told they weren’t sending kids down from this area,” she said.
“So then I decided to take it on myself to find some kids to send down and went to the shire with that idea and they agreed, so I managed to get the Portsea camp back up and running for our local children — and that was 43 years ago.”
Having experienced first-hand what the camp had to offer, Ms Weller said there was a wide range of benefits that made it vitally important in the development of children.
“The idea is for disadvantaged children to get an opportunity to go down and enjoy it and for some kids that is the only time they have ever seen the beach,” she said.
“I have had instances where I have taken local kids down and they have come back and their families have said to me ‘What did you do to our kids? Their rooms are immaculate and they are being so polite.’
“I just think it is a social thing and it is the fact that they have gone away and done something that is different — you do certainly see the effect it has on them.”
Raising the funds to send local children to the Portsea Camp is no mean feat, and Ms Weller relied heavily on the support of various community groups to keep the tradition alive for 43 years.
“The local community has been fantastic throughout my time, the Stanhope Lions were my best form of support when I started — I never wrote a letter asking for funds and they have been supporting me for just on 40 years,” she said.
“I then ended up becoming president of the Stanhope Lions so I ended up writing to all the other Lions clubs around this area and they started to help out and then eventually I also got the support of the Girgarre RSL and fire brigade, so I am really appreciative of all the support I have got over the years.”
Ms Weller said it was important to keep the tradition going by finding a new local representative.
“I am happy to still do the legwork in organising the funds and the kids to send down, it is just the fact that I need someone on the bus to travel down and accompany them,” she said.
“For people in the local community who want to help out there is also a Gofundme being set up to bring vital funds to the camp, which will allow this great tradition to continue into the future.”