SDN Melanie Alexander: Beginnings and endings

SDN Melanie Alexander: Beginnings and endings


SDN Melanie Alexander: Beginnings and endings

Melanie Alexander Nursery School was built as a demonstration centre with money provided by an anonymous benefactor. It opened on 18 September 1957 in the grounds of the Nursery School Teachers College (NSTC) in Newtown.  As we saw in our last history article, it was named after Melanie Alexander who was a tireless fundraiser and President of Newtown Day Nursery (today SDN Linthorpe Street).

The idea for a demonstration school at NSTC came from none other than Joan Fry, the NSTC Principal at the time. According to historian Leone Huntsman Fry’s “ambition was to create a model Nursery School that would develop and demonstrate ‘best practice’ and greater flexibility in Nursery School/childcare organisation and teaching”.

Students would visit Melanie Alexander to observe lessons and ‘free play’ which they were required to report on in their assignments. Apparently, the students would visit Melanie Alexander quite frequently. One of the most famous SDN photos (and a favourite of the author) was taken at a student observational session in around 1965 (see below).

From 1970-1972 the NSTC was temporarily located in St Keiren's Convent in Golden Grove St, Chippendale whilst the old college was being demolished but the Melanie Alexander Nursery School remained in Burren St Newtown. In 1975, the College was taken over by the Commonwealth Government and in 1982 it was amalgamated with the Sydney Kindergarten Teachers’ College becoming the Institute of Early Childhood (IEC).

SDN was managing Melanie Alexander on behalf of Sydney University, in a set-up similar to SDN's current arrangement with UNSW now except SDN managed Melanie Alexander only.  There were three other centres for the children of Sydney University staff and students.

Melanie Alexander nearly  closed in the 1990s when Sydney University moved the centre after selling the Burren St premises. SDN General Secretary Rosa Joseph noted in the 1992 annual report that “the management of Melanie Alexander Nursery School is in the balance … [Sydney University] have indicated that they have a commitment to upgrade the building and enter into a new lease with the Association [SDN], however neither of these has happened yet. It is hoped that it will be resolved in the near future”.


It was happily resolved with SDN continuing to administer Melanie Alexander out of 62 Watkin St, Newtown. This situation continued until 2006 when it was closed permanently. SDN CEO Ginie Udy’s letter to the NSW Department of Community Services of 6 March 2007 reveals the reason for the closure.

Ginie writes, “the centre located at 62 Watkin Street, Newtown has now closed permanently. The centre initially ceased operating on 31 March 2006 when environmental testing indicated above average levels of mould in the centre due to rising damp. SDN considered the health risks to be sufficient to warrant closing the centre pending action from the building owners, the University of Sydney”.

Interestingly, SDN Forest Lodge which had operated since 1908 over two locations was also permanently closed in 2007 for similar environmental reasons.






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