Dubbo Photo News & Dubbo Weekender

Lorna Brennan: In profile

Lorna Brennan. Photo: Wendy Merrick Lorna Brennan. Photo: Wendy Merrick

I’m the local facilitator of the Buninyong School as Community Centre. I’ve been here for the last 13 years. Before that I did lots of supported playgroups around the region. I was based at Nyngan for a few years and travelled out as far as Byrock and Cobar, and down to Glen Alice before we moved to Dubbo.

I was working with a lot of families trying to get them engaged in early learning opportunities through the supported playgroups. I can be much more focused here with just Dubbo and because I’ve now got a centre, we can offer many different services and programs.

We’ve got a baby health clinic and a preschool. It’s like a little early childhood hub here at Buninyong School that has evolved since I started it. When I first walked in here it was just an empty building, there was nothing in it – not even a telephone.

You also offer support for multicultural families? Yes, I’ve been so involved with the multi-cultural families in Dubbo. They are here from all points of the globe – without any family – and they don’t have any support because they are temporary residents who don’t qualify for any help. Some of the mums were coming to playgroup and I noticed there were more and more every time, so I asked a few of them if they would like to learn Conversational English, as that was what they were struggling with. So we started that group two years ago. I got some funding from the Council to start it off. Last year we involved TAFE and they were doing proper Conversational English. I’ve had so much fun with these girls, we have done so many things and I’m so lucky to have the bus so that I can pick them up.

How do they find out about the centre? A lot of it is word of mouth. When we started, it was a little group of about five or six mums and about four children who played quietly in the corner while we sat and chatted, then it got to the point one day I found myself with a megaphone telling everybody to go outside because it was just so loud. Last year I worked with 68 migrant families here in Dubbo and that’s growing every week.

I was actually a Surveyor originally in Scotland. My background is Early Childhood. I did a second degree in early childhood.

I’ve been in Australia for 30 years. We lived out near Brewarrina on a station at The Marra. My first introduction to an early childhood service was when the mobile playgroup would come and visit us once a month. It was my first opportunity to meet with other families out that way as I didn’t know anyone.

I came to Australia on a working holiday and just loved it. I loved the freedom, the space, the wide open land, so we decided to emigrate. We put an ad in The Land newspaper offering a “Go anywhere, do anything, Scottish family”. One guy (Phil) rang us from The Marra Station, so we drove all the way from Gympie with all our worldly goods packed in a station wagon. We headed out on a dirt road and just started driving through a paddock. I was breastfeeding our daughter thinking, “If my mother could see me now.” We got to a fence and Phil said, “I thought there was a gate here, oh well...” and he got out and cut the fence. When we got to the little cottage it only took me half an hour to unpack all of our belongings. We were there for five years and it was great.

The kids thanked us for having such a great childhood, they really loved it there. My son is an Ecologist now because of his background having lived out bush. My mother-in-law said years later “all those photos of the kids you sent, I could never show them to my friends because the children never had any clothes on”. It was too hot and dirty, and if it rained they would be dripping with red mud.