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Lyell Iffla Reserve

Lyell Iffla Reserve – an award winning small park

Hiding behind a hedge/fence at the low end of Dorcas St, South Melbourne is the recently transformed Lyell Iffla Reserve.

The City of Port Phillip has created a silk purse of a park for everyone from a formerly very dull space between Dorcas, Iffla and Lyell Streets.

The park designers have responded to the attributes of the space and the wishes of the surrounding community to create a delightful park. The current interest in nature based play in an inner urban environment is expressed in the design.

Although it’s only a small space, the park has a wild and a tame side. A child could easily have the sense of being lost in the forest while being in full view of a watchful adult. The grassed open space makes the park seem more spacious and is good for kicking a ball.

1-IMG_0030A signature large tree commands respect as a focal point in the park. Other large trees have been kept too and create the forested feel at the edges. The coastal salt bush creates some of that nature feeling while being low enough not to overwhelm a child.

Logs and rocks create a balancing circuit through the park and there is challenging equipment to climb.


This lizard, created by sculptor Andrew Smith from recycled timber, has a cheeky way of looking right at you.


There are gathering spaces for groups and a wooden platform/stage for the impromptu performances that children enjoy giving.

It’s a welcome relief that playgrounds have moved away from generic off the shelf solutions to imaginative parks that welcome nature, and provide challenging equipment and gathering places.

The community garden looks a bit fallow in the winter but feedback to the City confirms that people want the garden there.

And did I mention that the park boundary is planted with fruit trees, and there is a water fountain too?

Neighbour Jackie writes:

‘The park has been a great success and is much loved by all the families around here. The council put a lot of effort in initial planning, liaising with residents, and asking the children what they would like for their playground.  Maintenance has improved, and users treat the space with more respect now.  Last summer there were many many family picnics.  The only thing in the playground which doesn’t work is an area of loose white pebbles which get thrown about and crashed down the slide.
The vegetable boxes will be planted up in spring. Their success in my view relates more to children learning where their food comes from rather than providing lots to eat.  It is handy though to step over there for a handful of herbs when cooking. The plots are not ‘allocated’, they are shared and anyone can plant. This seems to work ok.  The boxes have water tanks underneath.
We all wanted to keep the park totally natural; no trees were removed and new trees were planted. Yes – the huge trees are wonderful;  there is a world of nature going on in the high tree canopy – birds, bats, possums. This makes the small park three dimensional, not just flat at ground level.   I am fortunate to look out at treetops and sky and birds.  How precious so near the city.’

The Lyell Iffla Reserve won the 2015 Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence for Playspace: minor (<$0.5 million) for the Victoria / Tasmania area. It is now up for the national award which will be announced at their conference in October

Thanks to Rob Grogan’s research on the history of South Melbourne streets, we can learn more about former South Melbourne Councillors Andrew Lyell and Dr Solomon Iffla.


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