Making a difference through volunteering

At just 23, Cire Reconnect client and FICE volunteer Bella O’Hara has a list of community involvements that would take most people a lifetime to achieve, plus the unwavering passion to match.

Her biggest motivator is her determination to advocate for people with a disability and those with mental health issues, especially men and young people.

“I have been so supported by so many people, I just want to give back as much as I can,’ said Bella, who needs extra learning support, a disability she once loathed but has now embraced so she can be her best self.

Bella’s community work was recently acknowledged in the 2022 Maroondah Youth Awards. She was part of the FReeZA Bassline Productions crew, who were honoured with the Team Award for their contributions to the art, music and cultural event management program.

The award nomination read: Bassline Productions met weekly in 2021 to design, plan and run live music and cultural events in their community. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, the group was forced to continually innovate and persevere, resulting in some of the most creative event ideas in recent years. The group showed teamwork, collaborating to bring these events to life, while also supporting each other in the process. Character strengths demonstrated were creativity, perseverance, and social intelligence.

“It was so exciting to receive the award,” Bella said, adding that she loved meeting and working with others in the team to bring joy and happiness into the lives of others, particularly after the harsh Covid lockdowns and restrictions.

With such an inspiring approach to life and service to the community, it is little wonder that Cire is privileged to have such an inspiring young woman as part of its Reconnect program and helping out at First Impressions Clothing Exchange, unwittingly showing leadership through her service to others, contributing to community and advocacy.

Already a confident young woman with a belief in herself when she “discovered” Cire, Bella said programs like Reconnect and FICE had helped put her on a positive pathway to employment and relevant skills.

“I feel much more confident about what the future holds,” said Bella, who has shared her Cire experience in the following interview with her Reconnect case worker Sarah Kilgour as well as with FICE co-ordinator Renee Cooke in the most recent FICE newsletter.

A young woman who has the courage to create her own opportunities, Bella would love to work in disability or retail and, through whatever she does, tell the story about having a disability.

“If you have a disability, live life in the moment and don’t ever give up… I don’t look like I have a disability, I am a very slow learner and need extra support, but  I am very independent…I used to dislike my disability, but I now embrace it, not fight it. It is so important to find the right support and a good support agency and to believe in yourself”.

Click here for further information about Cire’s Volunteer Program.


Digging Deep for National Tree Day Debut

Cire Community School enthusiastically dug deep for its first National Tree Planting Day on July 29, pitching in for the environment and helping beautify outdoor spaces at the Mount Evelyn and Lilydale campuses.

Thanks to the driving force of project lead and Cire teacher Jennie Ralph, the school secured broad community support through donated seedlings and equipment with students, staff and volunteers happily working side by side to plant more than 50 natives across two campuses.

Digging Deep for National Tree Day Debut

Cire Community School’s Logan Bridgewater puts some muscle into digging, ahead of Logan Newton (red shirt) and Ben Droscher.

Established in 1996 and with Toyota as a major sponsor, National Tree Day has grown into Australia’s largest community tree planting and nature care event. The program is a call to action for all Australians to get their hands dirty and give back to their community.

Since 1996 26 million trees have been planted by five million volunteers donating 10 hours of their time.

For the Community School, this year’s event was a timely initiation, given Cire’s organisation-wide theme for 2022 is Sustainability.

Jennie Ralph said it was an amazing and beneficial experience for all involved and facilitated broader community connection through the support and donations from Yarra Valley Toyota and Croydon Toyota, Yarra Ranges Council, Candlebark Community Nursery at Mooroolbark, Karwarra Australian Plant Garden and Nursery at Kalorama, and Bunnings Bayswater and Lilydale.

The day was such a success that plans are already underway for 2023. Also, follow-up student activities will continue to enrich the school’s biodiversity through projects such as making bird feeders, revamping the composting system, and keeping important issues around Sustainability and the Indigenous perspective at the front.

“It was tremendous to see the sharing of expertise and skills at all levels by volunteers, staff, or green-thumbed students – everyone was able to shine by coaching others and/or taking the lead,” 

“It was so good to see the joy of our students experiencing success and contributing.” said Jennie

The benefits of the day were many and varied:

  • Everyone involved felt valued, contributing in some way, working as a team, whether digging, planting, assembling the plant protectors, watering or feeding.
  • Gardening skills were developed
  • Sense of being part of a team
  • Learning skills to easily employ at home
  • The anticipated long-term impact includes enhancing the biodiversity of the school
  • Related/ integrated learning as students continue to think about their impact on the school; some are making bird feeders for the area to attract more wildlife, and others are looking at revamping the school’s composting system.
  • Learning, respecting and appreciating the Indigenous perspective more in terms of edible and non-edible plants.
  • Being quoted in the local paper and being in the school Blog!
  • And, of course, planning for the event in 2023!

“I was able to help people dig and show them how to remove the plants safely from their pots”. Loges, student


“It was fun. I got to dig and plant trees”. Moth, student

Planet Ark research, sponsored by Toyota, shows how time in nature enhances and grows the key areas Australians consider the most important for a fulfilling life – health, happiness, learning, relaxation and relationships.

L-R: Emily (Bunnings Lilydale), Me! (Jennie Ralph), Moth De Silva, Brad Turner (AP), Logan Newton (rear), Riley Ker (front), Kaz (Bunnings Bayswater).

The report found that nature helps make people happier, healthier, brighter, calmer and closer. With people spending more and more time tethered to screens and devices, there’s never been a greater need to add nature to our lives.

The report titled Adding Trees – A Prescription for Health, Happiness and Fulfilment found:

  • Just 10 minutes of relaxing outside are enough to reduce blood pressure significantly.
  • Time in nature reduces a person’s chance of developing a range of diseases, including diabetes by 43%, cardiovascular disease and stroke by 37% and depression by 25%.
  • Nature induces positive feelings through several physiological mechanisms, including activating the brain’s dopamine reward system.
  • Students participating in outdoor learning programs perform better in reading, writing, maths and science, with 77% of teachers reporting student improvement in standardised tests.
  • A strong connection to nature makes people more likely to feel passionate about relationships with their friends and family.

Click here for further information on Cire’s Community School educational programs.

FICE perfect fit for volunteer Trisha

Volunteering at Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange at Yarra Junction has proven to be a perfect fit for Trisha Rowe.
It has given her an unexpected and most welcome new “lease of life” – so much so that she is keen to share her experience and encourage others to consider using their spare time to contribute to their community.

People like Trisha make it possible for Cire Services to reach out to those who need assistance throughout the Yarra Ranges and beyond. They contribute thousands of volunteer hours each year to support Cire programs and services, particularly FICE at Yarra Junction and Mooroolbark and Cire Community Hubs at Yarra Junction and Chirnside Park.
In the following interview, Trisha from Yarra Junction shares her FICE journey to date.

How did you first become involved with Cire and (FICE) First Impressions clothing exchange?
After retiring, I gradually lost motivation; I knew it would be too late if I didn’t do something soon. I needed to do something for myself; my general health and mental health were starting to suffer. I saw the volunteer board out the front of Cire, so I popped into the hub and was greeted by the bubbly and very friendly Nicole; she told me all about FICE. I also wanted to brush up on my knowledge of computers and technology. I later met Renee, and before long, I was on my way.
What makes this program special?

When I first walked in the door, Nicole, the Yarra Junction Community Hub customer service officer, told me about Cire and FICE. I was hesitant and thought I would come back later, but thought – no, I’m going to do this! Everybody I have met through the hub and FICE has given me something, just talking to people, interacting and laughing; when I walk out of FICE and the hub, I feel really good.

How has the program supported you with your personal goals?
I have some health issues, and some days I struggle to get out of bed and the house, but volunteering at FICE, attending tech hub classes and now becoming a part of the craft group, I now have a purpose. This has allowed me to challenge and push myself within my own personal boundaries and feel supported and encouraged along the way.

How important was this additional support in your success?
Everyone at FICE and Yarra Junction Community Hub has been so supportive. Nicole is just this bubbly warm person who genuinely cares. Raymond is gorgeous, and Cohen in Tech Hub is so helpful too. The hugs you get if you’re not feeling the best, well, they are the best. The team at Cire really listen and value your opinion. I’m taken for who and what I am.

Any last words on the FICE program?
Just do it; you’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve gained more myself personally from coming here weekly. The ladies that come here to shop, we talk and laugh. It’s the best thing as everyone is so lovely and friendly. FICE and Cire fill the void that was there.

Click here to learn more about volunteering at FICE.

Cire named key Victorian charity partner

Leading Australian not-for-profit, Good360 has named Cire as one of its key Victorian charity partners.Cire named key Victorian charity partner

The honour highlights the strong relationship the two organisations have developed since Cire joined the Good360 network in October 2019.

Good360 is a matchmaker, helping Australian companies and manufacturers to channel their surplus new products to charities who can assist with grassroots distribution to those most in need.

Rather than add to landfill, Good360 aims to help repurpose $1 billion of brand new goods to Australians in need by 2025. Good360’s approach aligns directly with Cire’s core values including our 2022 theme of Sustainability.

Good360’s partnership manager for Victoria and Tasmania, Liz Henderson, said Cire is recognised as one of Good360’s key Victorian charity partners because of its agile and strategic approach in supporting its diverse range of services, and the people of all ages within their reach in the Yarra Ranges and beyond.

“Cire maximises Good360’s product opportunities despite varying levels of logistical challenges such as storage and physical distribution in order to ensure those most in need benefit,” said Liz.

“It is an absolute pleasure working with a partner like Cire who has such a responsive approach and professional attitude for the greater good.”

Cire named key Victorian charity partnerIn fortuitous timing, Cire joined Good360 just before the Covid pandemic emerged. Since October 2019, Cire has been able to distribute surplus new goods valued at RRP $100,000s ranging from educational toys and equipment, Lego and nappies to cosmetics, clothing to hand sanitiser, face masks and antibacterial products, and even a truckload of toilet paper during pandemic panic buying. Unable to have stalls for Mother’s/Father’s/Special Person’s days and other special occasions, Cire Early Learning has been able to help children make up gift packs of Good360 items to give to the special people in their lives.

In July 2020, Cire was thrilled to be named Good360s Member of the Month.

Since it was launched in 2015, Good360 has received goods valued at RRP$222.3m from Australian companies with 26,903,782 items distributed through a network of 3086 not-for-profits and schools throughout Australia and collected numerous sector awards along the way.

FICE launched at Yarra Junction

Cire’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) has opened its doors at Yarra Junction to support local women, and ultimately their families and communities.

Located at Cire’s Community Hub, FICE aims to empower women to work towards brighter futures by helping them achieve their personal and employment goals.

FICE is a retail training space that offers much more than a traditional shop, by mentoring and preparing women for pathways such as personal development, study and employment, as well as a trusted support network.

YJ FICE also offers quality and affordable women’s clothing suitable for everyday wear, interviews, or more formal occasions.

Our team focuses on reconnecting women with the community, building pathways that are tailored to individual needs like future independence and goal setting, identifying transferable skills to new industries, interview preparation and job readiness, and empowerment and confidence building.

FICE is thrilled to be supporting women in the outer reaches of the Yarra Valley and has already been generously welcomed and supported by the local community with donations being dropped off before we even opened our doors. There has been a lot of interest with people stopping by to peer through our window at our gorgeous range of clothing and accessories. Comments like, “I can’t believe how many nice things you have.”, “Beautiful quality.“, and “Are these really second hand?” is a testament to the wonderful items so generously donated by the community.

Integral to FICE opening its doors was a wonderful and very generous donation of shop fittings, mannequins, clothing and accessories from former shop owner Penny Gravias from Dekoda boutique in Eltham. After many successful years in retail Penny decided it was time to close the doors of her women’s clothing boutique. Fortunately, she had heard about FICE through Cire’s Chief Executive Officer, Gus Seremetis, and kindly offered to help fit out our new space. FICE coordinator Renee Cooke met Penny at her shop and loaded up the items that she no longer needed but didn’t want to end up in land-fill. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and aligns perfectly with FICE’s ethos of recycling fashion and sustainability.

The FICE space at Yarra Junction has truly come alive as an inviting place to shop, browse, pick up a bargain, have a friendly chat with staff and volunteers and even learn more about the Community Hub and other Cire services throughout the region. A sincere thank you to Penny and her act of generosity in helping make the dream of a YJ FICE become a reality.

YJ FICE is open Monday to Friday from 9 to 5pm, simply enter through the pink door.

Work experience and volunteer opportunities are now available at both FICE locations at Yarra Junction and Mooroolbark

Donations of good quality women’s clothing are accepted at FICE Yarra Junction, and Mooroolbark, Chirnside Park Community Hub and Cire’s Lilydale office. Please leave donations during office hours so Cire can thank you personally.

Finds us:

@firstimpresssionsclothingexchange on Facebook

@firstimpressionsclothes on Instagram




Lilydale Toastmasters welcome Cire recruits

Lilydale Toastmasters is the latest example of how Cire loves connecting with groups and organisations to help people be their best selves and contribute to building stronger communities.

In an unusual twist, our Toastmaster collaboration is achieving exciting outcomes for our own teams which will indeed benefit the wider community we endeavour to empower and support.

Lilydale Toastmasters recently offered memberships to Cire Services, thanks to a generous sponsor.  There was great interest across Cire’s teams resulting in Maddie Lowrie, Director of Cire Early Learning (formerly Cire Children’s Services) Mount Evelyn and Naomi Taylor, Business Development Officer with Cire Training enthusiastically accepting the invitation.

The opportunity was made possible by Harriet Shing, Labor Member for Eastern Victoria Region, who provided the sponsorships to introduce new members to the Lilydale Toastmasters.  As a former member of the group, Harriet fully appreciates the value of Toastmasters for participants. Harriet’s commitment to encouraging others to consider joining will contribute to the ongoing longevity of the organisation, and the broader contribution it makes to our community.  Members often work with other groups to share their knowledge and experience.  One example of this is a representative joining Cire’s Small Business Hub for a session in the coming weeks.

The introduction on its Facebook page describes Lilydale Toastmasters as

“A diverse group of people with the common aim of becoming better communicators and leaders”.

Working on the premise that people learn in moments of enjoyment, Lilydale Toastmasters has gained a reputation as vibrant and successful.

This has certainly been the experience of Maddie and Naomi.  While their motives for joining are based on further developing communication and leadership skills, both have noted their increased confidence.

In reflecting on her experiences in joining Lilydale Toastmasters, Naomi says:

“Joining a new group, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone, can be challenging at the best of times, but then adding public speaking makes it so much more daunting.  This has been a great experience though and, as Maddie agrees, the members have been extremely welcoming.  Everyone has made an effort to help me feel comfortable and confident to join in, at whatever level I’m keen to do so.”

With the club celebrating its 40th year, members enjoy the long-standing friendships and network connections they have made.  One sign of respect is the group’s “Patrick Owl” Award in honour of a highly regarded member.

Current president Joy Harte, comments:

“We are a friendly bunch keen to share our knowledge. We try to make our meetings educational, but enjoyable. Every time you attend a meeting we hope you leave feeling empowered and more in control of those nerves that can make public speaking a challenge.”

This sentiment is echoed by Naomi, who agrees “if you’re keen to gain confidence in public speaking then Lilydale Toastmasters is the place to do it”.

If you’d like to learn more, head to the group’s website.

Cire student a highlight of Rotary year

A presentation by Cire Community School student Elise, a Rotary scholarship recipient, was a timely and inspirational morale booster for the Rotary Club of Wandin in 2020, according to immediate past president, Paul Martin.

In reflecting on his term in office, Paul described Elise’s presentation via Zoom as a highlight of the year – COVID shutdowns and restrictions had brought the club’s community service to an abrupt halt and while members felt they were kicking few goals, they were inspired by Elise’s maturity and willingness to share her story and aspirations for the future.

Paul’s report was delivered at the club’s recent annual changeover function where Ben Vallence was inducted as the incoming president. Cire is one of the first organisational members of the club.

Paul said: “It is so rewarding to meet those who benefit from Rotary initiatives, “It gives true meaning to what we aspire to do, to make a positive difference to the lives of others.”

Elise and Wellbeing Coordinator Stephen Duke were special guests at a club Zoom meeting during a COVID lockdown in 2020, to acknowledge the awarding of a $2000 scholarship. Elise, was one of four students from the Community School to each receive $500 from the fund awarded by the club in conjunction with the overarching District 9810 which covers a large portion of Melbourne’s south east extending from Templestowe to Upper Yarra, to Chelsea to Beaumaris.

Stephen explained to the Rotary meeting that Cire Community School focuses on each student as an individual with unique needs; it’s a school of choice for young people who need a positive alternative to mainstream education.

Elise, who has missed many years of formal schooling, explained that Cire understood that challenging behaviour is a reflection of a student’s mental health and wellbeing rather than a desire to ‘act out’.

Elise impressed Rotarians with her maturity and candour and the way she articulated her story, and her determination to pursue a career in social work, drawing on her lived-experience and the challenges she has overcome at such an early age.

In his address at the recent annual changeover function, newly inducted president Ben Vallence emphasised the importance of contributing and giving back to community.

“Giving of yourself is the ultimate gift you can make to another and it’s only through volunteer organisations like Rotary where your giving can have such life changing impact.”

The father of two, he hoped that he and his wife Bridget MP, State Member for Evelyn, were leading by example for their sons with their community involvements:

“To my two beautiful boys, Rory and Emanuel. I know that Rotary might not be the coolest thing in the world for you two, but I want to thank you for your love and support of me undertaking this role. Boys, I know you may not appreciate it now, but I think you know how much your Mum and Dad have tried to set an example of giving back to your community and helping those who most need it.”

In his address, Ben commended Paul Martin, supported by his wife Trish, on his leadership during such a challenging and unprecedented term as president.

“This year’s Rotary message is to ‘Serve to Change Lives’. This message personifies the spirit of our club. Even with all the restrictions and lockdowns that the pandemic brought, our club stayed strong in helping so many in the community,” Ben said.

In 2020, the club:

  • provided more than $3,000 worth of meals as part of a Second Bite program at Wandin for those in need. Warratina Lavender Farm, owned by Rotarian Peter Manders and his wife Annemarie, donated $1500.
  • donated $2,000 to a family whose Wandin home was razed by fire.
  • funded local children to attend Rotary’s Camp Awakenings, and a further six to attend their own school camps and may have otherwise missed out because their families were experiencing financial hardship.
  • provided three children from Woori Yallock with new scooters, to help them get to school and also provide some much needed respite from COVID lockdown and restrictions.
  • delivered books to more than local 400 students as part of the Books in School program.
  • delivered 1,000 bags of apples to local students, donated by Old Oak Orchards, owned by Rotarian Gavan Corbett’s family.
  • Awarded a $2000 scholarship shared by four students at Cire Community School.

Ben said delivering the apples were a highlight for him: “My son Emanuel came running to the car with an apple in one hand yelling, ‘Dad look what Rotary gave us’.

Wandin Rotary welcomes new members. Anyone interested in club membership are invited to contact club president Ben Vallence at

Pictured: Newly inducted president of Wandin Rotary, Ben Vallence, and his wife Bridget and their sons Rory, 13 and Emanuel, 10.

Click here for further information on Cire Community School and education programs.


FICE goes mobile

Cire Training’s First Impressions Clothing Exchange (FICE) has gone mobile with the launch of a pop-up roadshow to connect with even more women in the region who would benefit from the FICE experience.

FICE goes mobileThanks to a Yarra Ranges Council 2021 Community Grant, FICE is reaching out to women who may otherwise find it a challenge to visit the Mooroolbark shop to access affordable quality clothing and, equally important, a range of support services and the opportunity to connect with others.

Cire’s Yarra Junction Community Hub hosted the first pop up event on Wednesday 28 April with others to follow at the Healesville Living and Learning Centre on Wednesday 12 May, Selby Community House on Wednesday 26 May and Warburton Redwood Centre on Tuesday 8 June.

The Yarra Junction event created much interest with its high visibility set up on the pavement outside the hub. Quite a few customers bought clothing and also received on-the-spot assistance through services such as resume writing.

FICE trainer Renee Cook (pictured) said it was great to see so much interest in FICE and to answer questions about the social enterprise which has gone from strength to strength since opening its shop front at Mooroolbark in mid-2019.

She also said there is now a permanent rack of FICE clothing for purchase at the Yarra Junction Hub. It will be refreshed regularly so spread the word. Donations can also be dropped off at the hub.

FICE emerged from Cire Training’s successful Women’s Warehouse program, BY long-term unemployed women in the Yarra Ranges region FOR local women experiencing financial disadvantage.

FICE is unique to our region with its innovative and bold approach to empowering women and fostering meaningful community engagement.

The initiative provides women with affordable quality clothing suitable for job interviews or other important occasions. However, the benefits go much deeper. Through volunteering in the shop, women gain a huge boost to their confidence and self-esteem, a sense of purpose and pride as well as a raft of skills sought by employees, particularly in the retail sector. The experience also provides pathways to other support services and referrals, training and potential employment opportunities.

The broader community has enthusiastically embraced the project as volunteer mentors to assist the women on their journeys as well as donations. First Impressions participants have been touched by the random acts of kindness and help from strangers, seldom experienced before.

First Impressions is a real-life training space, mentoring women to stand tall by preparing them for employment. Experienced trainers provide ongoing support to instil confidence and develop the skills necessary in the paid workforce, and transferable between jobs, as well as overall support. Some of the tangible benefits include project management/store management/retail skills/merchandising, sewing, design, and customer service/communication.

Of significance, Cire is looking forward to renewing its work-for-the dole partnership with local job provider, Employment Plus, in the not too distant future. Volunteers gain recognition for their hands-on work experience as well as access to lifelong employability skills, assisting the transition toward sustainable employment.

FICE supporters include Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Voices of Women (VoW), a not-for-profit organisation based in the Yarra Valley that provides advocacy for women in the region, the Australian Women Donors Network, Good360 and L’Oreal and the Commonwealth Bank.

Charlie digs deep for community pantry

Donating cash to help stock the community food pantry at Cire’s Yarra Junction Community Hub was a perfect fit for Warburton’s Charlie Pizarro-Gaultier

Charlie digs deep for community pantryCharlie, who owns vintage clothes shops in Warburton and Healesville and is the driving force behind the Warburton Community Opportunity Shop, is always striving to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

When he found himself with surplus vintage stock earlier in the year, and not needed by the op shop, he decided to have a $1 “fire sale” and donate the proceeds to a worthy cause. Aware of the many people doing it tough in the Upper Yarra particularly, he felt donating to the food pantry was a great way to provide support. Not only did the $490 donation directly benefit those in need but it supported Cire, whose values align with Charlie’s. The “fire sale” also helped reduce even more items going into landfill unnecessarily.

“It was a win-win all round’ said Charlie who has a background in social work and lives his life with a broad humanitarian brush through his sharply focused social justice lens.

Charlie digs deep for community pantryHumble about his giving and reluctant to be profiled, Charlie hoped that his donation might help encourage and inspire others. He believes everyone has a responsibility to do their bit and help others where they can, and that businesses have an obligation to contribute in some way.

While his Charley Horse Vintage shops at Warburton and Healesville are doing well, equally important to him is the Warby Community Op Shop. Sales through the shop help support the needs of vulnerable women and others needing a hand up, the local CFA and Upper Yarra Wildlife Refuge.

 “The level of socio-economic disadvantages experienced by many people in the Upper Yarra and the constant risk of homelessness often falls under the radar. It doesn’t take much for people’s circumstances to change dramatically,’” Charlie added.

Charlie hopes to develop the op shop into a hub of support and referral where people have a sense of belonging and connection and can access support and referrals in a welcoming and safe environment. Currently, its main focus is clothing, with any quality donations welcome, with the hope of also expanding to include furniture.

For anyone interested in donating quality clothing, The Warby Community Op Shop, at 3459A Warburton Highway.  Is open Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays.

Cire’s Community Hub at Yarra Junction also welcomes donations of non-perishable food which can be left at the hub or at reception at our Lilydale office.

Pictured: Cire’s Karina Stone and placement student Jenaya re-stock the pantry at the Yarra Junction Community Hub Karina; Charlie (inset).

Anzac biscuit cook up for Rotary

Cire Community School students have responded to a call out from Wandin Rotary for Anzac biscuits for the club’s community Anzac Day Service.

They eagerly bunkered down in the school’s Hospitality Training Centre at Yarra Junction to bake dozens of Anzac biscuits to serve up at morning tea, following the club’s Anzac Day Service at Wandin.

The students were delighted to support the club which has been hosting the community remembrance for about 20 years. Not only did some of them taste test Anzac biscuits for the first time but the initiative also sparked their interest in Anzac Day and its significance and to share their own family’s connections.

The cook up ticked some additional boxes for students studying for their Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL), satisfying one of the learning outcomes required for their course. One of the VCAL strands is Professional Development Skills (PDS) which aims to develop student knowledge, skills and attributes that lead to self-development and community engagement through family, social, community and environmental responsibilities; resilience, self-esteem and efficacy; and health and wellbeing. This partly involves responding to a need in the community. Their Anzac biscuits were of huge benefit to Wandin Rotary who hosted the morning tea assisted by Wandin CWA and much enjoyed by those who attended, as well as being rewarding for the students.

Cire Community School

(pictured above from left to right; Cire Community School Students Rd, Callum, Tiarna and Bella)

VCAL students commented:

  • It makes me feel great to help out on Anzac Day because my Great Grandmother was a nurse in WW2. I feel like I’m giving something back. It is so great to have our new kitchen (completed in 2020), with the new equipment we have we can improve our skills and do events like this for the community quickly.. Bella (pictured)
  • These opportunities make me feel good knowing that I’m helping in the community. We only come to this campus once a week specifically for this subject, we love the amount of new foods we can explore in this fantastic new space. Tiarna (pictured)
  • My Great Pop was in WW2. By helping bake Anzac biscuits and supporting Wandin Rotary and it being Anzac Day gives me a sense of pride. Ella

One of the baking sessions was timely for a Middle Years mixed class of Years 7 to 9 students. It provided a real life context to a Maths class earlier in the day as they had to work out how many times they had to multiply the recipe to bake the required number of biscuits, as well as work out ingredient quantities.

“The biscuits taste different but still yummy, said Callum (pictured) who was in charge of weighing the butter.

“They taste great. I hope they (Anzac Day attendees) like them,” added classmate “RD” (pictured)

While the history of Anzac biscuits varies, the following is one of the more popular accounts.

During World War I the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned for the nutritional value of food being supplied to the troops.

Food was transported across the sea at a maximum speed of ten knots, or 18.5 kph, by ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these ships did not contain refrigerated facilities, so food had to remain edible for at least two months. That is when the Anzac biscuit was “invented”, based on the Scottish recipe using rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. The ingredients did not readily spoil and were easily maintained. Some soldiers also used crushed biscuits to make porridge.

The biscuits initially were called ”soldiers biscuits” but were dubbed Anzac biscuits after the landing on Gallipoli in 1915.

As the war continued, many groups like the Country Women’s Association, churches, schools and other women’s committees made Anzac biscuits to send to the troops.

Cire Services Inc. is one of the first organisational members of Wandin Rotary Club.