Years of planning and construction finally came to fruition on Sunday the 2nd of December 2018 as the Don Bosco Camp and Centre in Safety Beach, south of the city of Melbourne, on Port Philip Bay, celebrated the grand opening of its new buildings. These new buildings will be instrumental in allowing the camp and centre to evolve its mission further; adding a range of new services to its repertoire, such as catering for a full school year level, or more niche interests such as band or sports camps.
Bunurong Elder Uncle Shane Clarke officially opened the day’s events at 10:30am with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony, explaining that the three different types of leaf used represented mothers, current mob and children respectively. “When they are fused together through smoke, it is very significant” he said; past present and future are brought together as one. Incidentally, it was also a very apt description of the group gathered; around 200 people of all ages attended the day, some who had been to the camp 30 years ago, some who still frequently came to the campsite and still more who are yet to reach the age old enough for camp!
Afterwards, the group made its way into the shiny, unscuffed gymnasium, which had been set up to host the Mass, led by the Provincial, Fr Will Matthews. In his homily, he spoke fondly of his own experiences as a young brother still learning English and had been reluctantly sent to the beach-side camp during a cold and wet winter, only to come to understand just how special the place is. “When I came down I was a bit depressed and didn’t know what to expect…but while I was down here, when I was here for camp I had the best time of my life. I made so many new friends, and I learnt so much from my new friends.”
The Mass was a beautiful expression of thanksgiving; the acoustics of the new room greatly amplified the already stunning beauty that Bronwyn Dean and her extended band had brought into the mix. As the ceremony ended, Fr Will and Fr Bernie Graham (Chair of the Camp and Centre Board) both expressed their thanks to a range of stakeholders. They then blessed the buildings, with branches that had been broken from a local tree.
With the formalities completed, the festivities begun in earnest with lunch in the form of a barbeque feast put on by camp chef Suzie Burns, Assistant manager Dom Stephens, Ellen Hogbin and camp handyman Tom Steele. Unfortunately, the previous manager, Steph Wood, could not make it to the day, however her presence was certainly felt; she had put in a massive effort to begin, plan and oversee the beginning phases of construction.
The day then took on the feel of a festival as live-music, games, jumping castles, arts and craft, face painting and dancing were on offer for all participants as they wished. These were run and organised by the camp’s Youth Leaders. Tours of the new buildings were available all day, showing off the spectacular new gymnasium, chapel, multi-purpose hall, conference room and offices. In true Don Bosco spirit, not even sudden rain could dampen the spirits, as the fun, joy and laughter echoed around the camp grounds.
Current Manager Paul Poutney was very impressed with how the day’s proceedings had gone. “This was an amazing opportunity for everyone who feels a real connection to the camp to be present and enjoy each other’s company one more time; life-long bonds have been made on these grounds.” He also reiterated what Fr Will and Fr Bernie had said, thanking “the current full-time staff and its wonderful volunteers who so often give so much of their time for the betterment of other people; and most significantly, young people.”