Hume council’s February Resident of the Month, Edith Collins, a 79-year-old mother of five and now a Sunbury resident of 15 years, has been a volunteer for 58 years. She talks to Alexandra Laskie.
Can you tell me about your earlier life?
My father is Danish, he was born in Copenhagen. I was born in Fremantle in 1937 and moved to Melbourne as an 18-year-old, when I had my first child. The chap I married was in the army; I met him through my brother. When we first moved to Melbourne we moved in with my aunt in Yarraville, before moving to Edithvale and then Broadmeadows.
I helped start the Broadmeadows Public Tenants Association (BPTA) in 1980 when we were living in ministry housing in Smiley Road, Broadmeadows. It was ministry housing for soldiers; It used to be called the “concrete jungle”.
What motivated you to set up the BPTA?
A public tenant needs all the help they can get. Every time you got an increase in your pension, your rent went up; it was a struggle. Our main concerns were maintenance of the housing and managing the waiting list. We fought for everything we could; we used to raise funds to keep cooking classes going; we set up a youth group.
You also volunteer for the Northern Metropolitan Multicultural Senior Club Network. Can you tell me about it?
We meet once a month and we get the Africans, Italians, Maltese and the Greeks together, and we discuss what’s on for the year. I also started the Sunbury Chinese Australian Community Group. I think it’s important to keep cultures together and mix with other people. I also volunteer with Frank McGuire; anyone that wants help, I’ll help them as much as I can.
Why is it that you cherish Broadmeadows, a suburb so many write off as an area of poverty and disadvantage?
It’s a very special area because of the people. I could go and sit in the shopping centre and look at all the different cultures coming through. My aunt married Aboriginal and we were brought up to respect our elders, past and present. I watched Frank [McGuire] grow up. His dad used to take those children on his pushbike to work with him; he worked for the Board of Works. They worked hard for their scholarships. His father taught Scottish dancing and his mother Irish dancing. It just goes to show that people in Broadmeadows can be successful.
There’s no need for other people to have such a negative attitude towards Broadmeadows. It’s people coming in from other suburbs causing the trouble.
What would you change about the suburb?
The rubbish. In another 40 years Hume will be a very diverse lot of cultures. I’d like to see the Broadmeadows town hall made into a hub, and I’d like to see the station made beautiful. We need to bring Hume into the 21st century.
Where do you go to unwind?
I like to sit in Broadmeadows shopping centre and watch the world go by.