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The Melbourne Bushies

- Fifty years along the track (1940-90)

Chapter 11 - The Family Walking Group

Rex and Sue Filson

When Tim, our second child, arrived in 1969 we found that we could no longer carry two children as well as tents, sleeping bags and all the other gear needed for weekend walking. The Club day walks were far too hard for young children so in December 1969 we developed an idea of running a family walk concurrently with the day walk. These walks, first programmed summer 1969-70, were in the same area as the Club day walk, so we travelled to and from the walk on the van. We knew of several families with children who wanted to get out into the bush and we invited them along. For some time we had been travelling on the van with our elder son, Matthew, and we had no trouble but as soon as there were several children riding on the van we ran up against all sorts of opposition. In March 1975 the Family Walking Group, as it was then called, decided that with the growing opposition from Club members, they would organise their activities around private transport. However they still considered that they should be under the umbrella of the Melbourne Bushwalkers. A proposal was drawn up and put to a general meeting of the Club in August 1975.

The proposal was that the Club should expand its programme to encompass a mid-week walking group, for those - usually retired - who wished to walk during the week, and a family walking group for children. The family walking group would be run separately: they would have their own walks secretary and programme and would organise their own transport to and from walks. All members of the group would be financial members of the Melbourne Bushwalkers. This proposal was defeated hands down at the meeting. Prominent members spoke strongly against it, saying that they did not want 'crying kids' on the van, and that it would add to the running expenses of the Club: more newsletters, etc. It was ironical that it was these very members, when they later had children of their own, who became strong supporters of the Family Walking Group.

Reluctantly we decided that the Family Walking Group should go a separate way. The Melbourne Bushwalkers who were among the foundation members were: Sue and Graham Errey with Jane and David, Dorothy and Ivor Davies with Wendy, Bruce and June Muir with Maggie, Robert and Julie, Margaret Thompson with Barbara, Graham and Marijke Mascas with Monique, Kim and Gavin, As more Club members married and had children they joined the group. Herb and Joan Palmer, who walked with the Club in the 1940s, also joined in with their two children. They had been enjoying skiing as a family and welcomed the opportunity to go bushwalking again.

The walks attempted were graded in a similar manner to the Club walks. There were easy strolls to accommodate very young children. Children as young as two years walked part of the distance. As the children became stronger we programmed harder walks. On a walk along the Razorback to Feathertop the children beat the adults to the summit by one and a half hours. From Feathertop this walk continued down the Diamantina Spur to Blairs Hut and then along the Kiewa to Dibbins Hut and up Swindlers Spur to Mt Loch - not a had walk for children all under 12 years! Another trip was along the Crosscut Saw to Mt Speculation and back. On all trips the children walked marvellously; rarely were there any complaints.

The group flourished for about ten years, sadly going into recession in 1981 to be revitalised in the mid-eighties when the next group of youngsters was ready to walk. The Family Walking Group is still programming trips into the mountains for children and parents who love and appreciate the bush.