Constance (Henrietta Constance) Coleman (1903 – 1990) commenced teaching at the Lilydale Higher Elementary School from at least 1954.
She inherited and built upon a small property at Launching Place she named ‘Wanderslore’, adding small blocks from her teacher’s salary until she created ten hectares of natural bush.
Just prior to her death she gifted Wanderslore to the Trust for Nature as a sanctuary reserve for the conservation of flora and fauna. Wanderslore has a Committee of Management and a working Friends group.
Constance was an artist and poet, and her art agent Jim Alexander says that ‘Constance … loved her teaching’. On her retirement from Lilydale High, she began painting full-time.
In her farewell from the Senior Mistress position at Lilydale High School in 1965, Miss Coleman describes teaching as ‘… a long adventure story … [with] a crowding of characters (but what characters!), too many unfinished incidents, too many loose threads in the weave of the plot – actually no plot. But it kept me reading well into the night, and it will stay in my memory until I go to sleep.’
She goes on to say, ‘I do not know what part I played in this story; I suspect it was insignificant: but I know that sometimes I felt it was important to help the underdog. Not only the underprivileged individual in our social system, but also the submerged two-thirds in the education trio of hands, brain and soul. … Give then, time and thought to your hands, your soul: the State will take care of your mind.’
Members of the Friends of Wanderslore Sanctuary are applying for Local History grant from the Public Records Office of Victoria to create a formal Significance Assessment of Constance Coleman’s work and life to ensure she is remembered as she deserves.
She purchased the prefabricated 1800s Victorian Railways Fettler’s hut being used as the Launching Place Railway Station office to be her work studio. The Studio is heritage listed by the Shire of Yarra Ranges, and has been restored by Trust For Nature. Her works have been accepted by the National Gallery and the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum.
If you have any information on Constance Coleman please contact the Lilydale & District Historical Society who will pass the information to the Friends of Wanderslore at [email protected].
Article by Paula Herlihy, from information supplied by Gwyn Davies and members of the Friends of Wanderslore Sanctuary.