As COVID-19 first hit in March 2020, the community service-based learning undertaken by Year 11 students at Elwood College hit a snag. In earlier years, the students would’ve had an option to clean up local beaches as part of a ‘beach patrol’ or help with programs at the Elwood St Kilda Neighbourhood Learning Centre (ESNLC), but with lockdown and restrictions impacting both the students and programs run by ESNLC, the community service-based learning was put on hold.
Through talks between the school and ESNLC, the idea of a program that continued to link the two groups, but could exist remotely if need be, was discussed and it was these conversations that led to “We Live Here: Sea, Sky, Suburb”, a collaboration between Year 11 Elwood College students and Roomers, the creative writing group based out of ESNLC, made up of current and former rooming house residents.
The project started earlier this year, with each group working on the same writing prompts, but remaining separate, with a view to meet further down the track to share their work and meet their counterparts.
Carl Costello, the Year 11 Learning Leader from Elwood College said he was pleased to see the students respond well to the small group writing environment.
“While some of our students have joined the writing group with their friends, there have been others who have come along without necessarily knowing or being close to other students. By sharing their work and the different experiences some of them have had growing up, our students have gained incredible insight into each other and I’ve been really proud of their willingness to be vulnerable.”
When Emma first heard of the We Live Here project, she was immediately interested. As a long-term resident of St Kilda and a lifelong writer, the idea of joining forces with young creatives from Elwood College and writing about what it’s like to live in Port Phillip was a fresh challenge.
“I’ve been a member of Roomers for almost two years,” Emma said.
“Although I’ve always been a writer, the group has almost taught me how to write again, even on the days I don’t feel like it. The idea of collaborating with young writers is really exciting and I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with, as well as sharing our work with them.”
“Port Phillip is such a great place to live – I often find myself walking around Albert Park, and I love the Foreshore and Elwood Channel. We have such unique architecture and every neighbourhood is different; we’re so lucky, especially when our movement is restricted.”
While for now, the two groups will continue to work remotely and separately, there is equal enthusiasm from each side to one day meet and exchange ideas.
The Roomers Group meet weekly for creative writing workshops and publish a magazine twice yearly.
Anyone interested in being involved should contact Roomers Facilitator Maryanne Lynch via email@example.com or by calling the Elwood & St Kilda Neighbourhood Learning Centre on (03) 9531 1954 and leaving a message for Maryanne.