ACT News


Prime Minister opens the Lodge for Hands Across Canberra's educational children's event

The lawns of the Lodge were alive on Saturday with children running and playing in dappled shade before settling down to hear prominent Canberran Rhys Muldoon read a story.

The Turnbulls, while unable to attend, had invited the Hands Across Canberra charity to host the educational event. It was aimed at bringing together disadvantaged children and the organisations that support them, in an effort to draw attention to the less fortunate in the nation's capital.

Six famous Canberrans, including renowned actor, children's book writer and former Playschool personality Rhys Muldoon, along with authors Tania McCartney, Stephanie Owen Reeder and Jack Heath, illustrator Tony Flowers and entertainer Mollie Bee, donated their time to host workshops at the event.

Mr Muldoon said introducing a child to reading was giving them power, and there was no better place to bring attention to the importance of that than at the home of the powerful.

The afternoon began about 2.30pm as about 60 children, their parents and carers began to fill the Lodge's backyard with life and laughter.

Children singled out a colourful cushion each, while parents took a seat on plastic chairs in the sun. Mr Muldoon was reserved an ornate timber chair on the lawn at the front of the crowd.


I'm Australian Too, a book by Mem Fox, was the topical order of the day. The book celebrates Australia's multicultural heritage. The children would end up going home with a copy of another of Mem Fox's classics, Possum Magic, signed by the Prime Minister himself.

Mother of two and Catholic Care deputy chief executive Lisa Higginson said she was impressed by Mr Muldoon's ability to engage the audience.

"He was brilliant. He had me laughing, so not only was he engaging for the children, he was engaging for the adults. He did an amazing job," Ms Higginson said.

"I think it's really good to see the support of high profile people and authors showing their enthusiasm for an event like this."

Ms Higginson said her five-year-old daughter Isla had been talking about visiting the Prime Minister's house all week.

"I think it's a really good opportunity to do something wonderful, to give children an experience like this that not many people can say they've had the opportunity to do," Ms Higginson said.

Hands Across Canberra chief executive Peter Gordon was thrilled to be hosting the event at the Lodge to help give more prominence to the organisation.

"It's a demonstration that people are starting to understand that Canberra is only a privileged city for some people, not for everybody," Mr Gordon said.

Hands Across Canberra began seven years ago to put more spotlight on charitable organisations in Canberra.

"We were created to allow the organisations to become more visible and to raise the whole profile of encouraging Canberrans to be generous at home," Mr Gordon said.

"It's hard to convince people in our privileged city that there are people that need help in one form or other."

Mr Gordon said the Prime Minister's department approached him after the Turnbulls insisted their public homes be used for charitable purposes.

Discussions were had as to what event could take place, and the educational storytelling event was founded.

"One thing we were drawn to was that at Easter in America each year the president holds an easter egg roll on the lawns of the White House, with 35,000.

"They [Prime Minister and Cabinet] didn't think 35,000 children was quite feasible, so they started off with this," Mr Gordon smiled.

"We hope it will become something established here every year."

Canberrans can donate to, or help out Hands Across Canberra in any way they can. Canberra's Biggest Garage Sale is the charity's next big event, find out more here.