Vandals destroy Guides camp

Girl Guides volunteers Janet Withers, Helen Smith, and Mandy Batten at Kooronga's gutted, vandalised shed. 283376_16 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A Girl Guides campsite rendered unusable by vandals is one of several sites that could benefit from the $5.5 million upgrade of Police Paddocks Reserve.

The Kooronga Campsite has traditionally hosted up to 50 Guides and leaders in the reserve’s secluded bushland in Endeavour Hills for the past 60 years, until it was trashed during Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

In acts of “extensive vandalism”, the electrical switchboard and toilet block were destroyed, Parks Victoria area chief ranger Darren Mitchell said.

Cisterns were pulled from the wall and even the toilet bowls smashed, he said.

“The large and small roller doors at the main building were damaged as a result of forced entry, inside crockery was smashed and walls within the building were defaced.”

Girl Guides Victoria southern regional manager Janet Withers said the group’s fridges and microwave were also destroyed.

The campsite remains inoperable until basic amenities are repaired and the shed and toilet block secured, she said.

“It was heart-breaking because over the years, we’ve had so many volunteers put in so much into Kooronga.

As part of the $5.5 million State funding for the reserve’s masterplan, $1 million has been allocated for early works.

The “priority areas” for the initial works had not been yet decided, Mr Mitchell said.

The early works include such as upgrading picnic areas and toilets, and deterring graffiti, vandalism, rubbish dumping and anti-social behaviour.

Ms Withers said the Guides were reluctant to pay for repairs on Parks Victoria-owned buildings, without the security of a long-term lease.

Girl Guides’ licence with Parks Victoria for the site has expired. Negotiations are ongoing over a new lease or licence.

“We just want to get Kooronga up and running again as soon as possible.”