Docklands community groups join forces
Melbourne Community Toy Library has come together with Docklands Neighbourhood House and Docklands Representative Group (DRG) for a special toy-focused repair cafe.
The partnered community event took place on Sunday, August 28 at the The Hub on Harbour Esplanade, following the repair cafe’s relaunch last month.
Hoping to help use the events as a way to raise the profile of other community groups in the area, Neighbourhood House community development officer Jason Butcher said he was “really excited” to partner with the Docklands toy library.
“The repair cafes will continue to work pretty much the same as most, but what was different in the collaboration with the Melbourne Community Toy Library was the special focus we had on toys and fixing some of the toy library’s toys that needed a little bit of tuning up,” Mr Butcher said.
“At our repair cafes people can still come and bring anything though, as it is about just having a good family day.”
While repair cafes heavily focus on the importance of sustainability and diverting waste from landfill, the days are also about community togetherness.
On the day The Hub had a community sausage sizzle and play sessions to help boost further engagement within the community of Docklands, and donations for the toy library were received.
Following the event, Mr Butcher said the Neighbourhood House was also looking for more ways of working with the Melbourne Community Toy Library through some pop-up play sessions at the Neighbourhood House.
It’s an idea that Melbourne Community Toy Library staff member and Docklands’ Toy Librarian Ruth Fox said was “really exciting” for building community connections.
The Docklands’ branch has been open since March 2021, but following a series of lockdowns it is now that they are really coming into their own and noticing the difference the library is having in the area.
Open on Thursdays and Saturdays, the Docklands’ Melbourne Community Toy Library has now become a space for intergenerational play.
“We had a lot of new immigrant families who have joined, and because they often live in family groups with children, parents and grandparents, a lot of the members bring along the grandparents,” Ms Fox said.
“First it was just the mum with the child and grandparent, but now the grandparents are bringing the child and it has been fantastic to see them all sitting together and chatting in their own languages and building those connections.”
“We have one grandad who comes in on his own and picks out the toys he wants – it’s really wonderful to see them feeling more connected to the community they are living in and having Docklands feel more like home.”
While the library was initially for babies, toddlers and younger primary school kids, the addition of STEM toys and board games to the collection has made the library of more interest to older kids in primary, parents and grandparents.
The positive of having a wide collection also means families are being able to collaborate with one another and teach the younger children problem solving skills through the more advanced toys.
“Families want a space where they can come and where dads can also play with the kids and explore new toys with their children,” Ms Fox said.
“There is so much to benefit from the Melbourne Community Toy Library, and it is really making a big impact.”
To become a member of the Docklands’ Melbourne Community Toy Library, along with its other two locations at Carlton and North Melbourne, a small members fee is required to help fund the paid staff who coordinate the sessions and to maintain the collection.
While people are invited to come along and play in a session for free, the membership means you have access to borrowing toys to take home. Alternatively, adults can also opt to volunteer within a couple of the sessions while their child plays, which will then equate to a free membership for a certain period of time.
Despite their community’s support through memberships and donations of toys, the Docklands Melbourne Community Toy Library is in need of additional support to continue to thrive.
They are currently underfunded and Melbourne Community Toy Library president Emily Corcoran said they were working with the City of Melbourne to try and find a permanent solution.
“The Melbourne Community Toy Library and the City of Melbourne acknowledge that it is really important to have services for young families in Docklands and that there is currently a gap,” Ms Corcoran said.
“We are really keen to help fill that gap and to ensure families have somewhere to play for years to come.” •