Docklander - March 2017
28 Feb 2017
By Sunny Liu
Co-founding the City Schools 4 City Kids campaign is just the beginning of Denise Fung-Henderson’s long journey to make Docklands a better place for families.
Raising two young children in Docklands has not been easy for Ms Fung-Henderson and her husband because there is no local school for their children.
“Children from my apartment building go to seven or eight different schools and it is impossible to get to know other parents because our children do not go to the same school,” she said.
One of Ms Fung-Henderson’s major tasks in the morning is walking her children to their South Melbourne primary school, a trip that takes 30 minutes. And they sometimes have to opt for Uber when in a hurry.
“It’s ridiculous that children have to travel out of the city to go to school. Children from Docklands are just taken to whatever school they could fit in,” she said.
Apart from the long daily commute, Ms Fung-Henderson also finds her children and herself in an awkward position, trapped between living in Docklands and having to form a social circle in South Melbourne.
“There is not an opportunity to build a community bond in Docklands because the children go to different schools and don’t get to socialise with each other,” she said.
“My kids are like outsiders at their school because they are not from the same area with the other kids. We will never be able to call that school ‘our school’ because we are not from that area.”
With the support from other local parents, the City Schoosl 4 City Kids campaign has successfully caught the State Government’s attention.
In October, Victorian Education Minister James Merlino announced a primary school would be built in Docklands and the government was looking for potential sites.
But Ms Fung-Henderson says she would not stop campaigning “until the kids walk into the school and take classes”.
Though she has come a long way to make Docklands more family-friendly, Ms Fung-Henderson says she has always enjoyed the city life.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, she has long been used to living in compact apartments. She and her Aussie husband moved to Docklands in 2007 shortly after they got married. Before then they lived in Southbank.
After the birth of their first child, Ms Fung-Henderson and husband moved out to the suburbs. Originally they wanted a family retreat but soon got tired of the house maintenance and the commute.
They eventually decided to return to Docklands after their suburban house was broken into.
“Living in an apartment building feels more secure. We kept coming back to the city because that’s where the action is,” she said.
“There are times when you wish you had more space but we’ve tried that. And I found we didn’t use the study or the formal dining room. Big houses are not as efficient as apartments.”
Ms Fung-Henderson says she was happy to see an increased focus on Docklands being a family residential area, with the library, parks and festivities. It seems the only thing Docklands is lacking is a school.
“We really appreciate how close we are to everything. But it would be nice to slowly build up all the facilities families would need,” she said.
“Living in Docklands is not a phase. We are here to stay.”
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