Melbourne yoga teacher Eliza Hilmer began running free sessions on St Kilda Beach during the pandemic “as a response to the mental health crisis”. What started as small twice-weekly sessions has now increased to over 150 people joining in prompting the local council of Port Phillip to become involved. They have stated that the number needs to be capped at 15 people or the gatherings will come at a cost.
The council is requiring her to pay a $400 permit each time there is a session that is to be paid 3 months in advance, that’s $9600 up front which means $38,400 a year! However this arrangement cant even happen as the permits only support 4 events per year which mean there’s no current way forward for the Yoga sessions to continue as they currently are.
“Since day one I inquired and paid the council for permission to use this land to offer the community wellness by donation for those who can, free for those who can’t,” Hilmer said on a petition to save the initiative, which amassed nearly 1000 signatures within days.
“Restricting numbers, means telling people that they are not welcome to join, that they ‘can’t sit with us’, that they need to leave this public beach and do what … move 1.5m away from the rest of the group? Go home?”
‘Imagining the impact of this on an individual who has maybe taken a bit of courage and effort to show up alone to a community gathering only to be turned away is honestly heart breaking.’
She said she will continue the classes until she is forced to stop or a compromise is met with the council.