Story and photos by Carmel Liddell
In 1970 the not-for-profit, independent, Hills Community Aid organisation began providing
family, finance and transport services to residents in the Hills and Western Sydney. Then,
recognising the physical and mental health benefits of social interaction, it introduced a
leisure learning programme: Learning in the Hills.
Thirty five years on, Learning in the Hills continues to hold a range of social and tutored
groups in the Turner Buildings (4 & 5) Balcombe Heights Estate, at Baulkham Hills. Run over four terms, six days per week, classes are held in Arts and Crafts, Painting, Home
Furnishings, Cake Decorating and Social Games. Also available is the Health and Lifestyle
option, yoga. Popular in Australia since the 1950’s, this mind-body practice of meditation and relaxation is renowned for relieving stress. However today’s pundits proclaim that social interaction is the ‘new yoga’, and in this area members of two groups, have found their niche.
On Saturdays, the Turner buildings are a hive of activity. Machines hum in the Sewing and
Dressmaking class, and needles clack in the Knitting for Charity group. Activity is suspended for lunch or coffee – but the conversation never stops.
Sarah Shreeve is the youngest member of the weekly, tutored, Sewing and Dressmaking
class. Brimful of enthusiasm, she uses her own machine (a course requirement), and is keen to study pattern making. Sarah glows in the company of experienced dressmakers. The puddle of purple fabric on her machine, a circle skirt in the making, hints at her sense of style. Machines hum; members chat; they relax…
Next door, the Knitting for Charity social circle meets on the first Saturday of the month.
Sharing a leading role in the group is Robin Slattery, Ruth Petersen and Bev Coe,
representing the Red Cross. Here members knit and crochet items for distribution to
Knitting for Angel Babies, the ambulance service, Red Cross, local hospitals and Wires –
rescued animals love a woollen embrace! Needles clack; members chat; they relax…
So, get with the programme, people! On trend for stress relief is ‘the new yoga’: old
fashioned, social interaction. Where can you get it? The welcome mat is out, and courses
available, at Learning in the Hills.