The Right to Play
by Chris Quinlan f.dip.a

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This disgraceful letter from the Hobsons Bay City Council written in 2005 contains the following words in reference to music practice occurring during normal after school hours well within all prescribed times:

Noise, Nuisance, Offence, Disturbance, Unreasonable, Prohibited, Dangerous, Offensive, Noxious, Annoying, Injurious, Heavy Penalties, Written Records Kept (i.e. Surveillance), Unreasonable Noise, Council may take further action.

On Monday 4th April 2005, Mayor Renee Caruana of the Hobsons Bay City Council and Council Planning Liaison Officer Michelle Rowe visited my home based Studio to discuss ways and means to streamline current Council procedures in regard to young musical students receiving “noise nuisance” letters from their local Council and the warning of hefty fines as well as similar procedures towards home based music teachers.

During that meeting, Mayor Caruana was shocked to learn that letters like the one above were being sent by Hobsons Bay Council and ordered an immediate change to procedure.

We agreed the meeting was positive and forward thinking. Things seemed to improve.

Topics discussed in the 2005 meeting with Mayor Caruana were:

Complainants first contacting their Council to make a formal complaint towards music students practising before any attempt to make amicable arrangements with the student, thereby involving Council’s time and money, that cost inherently being passed on to the neighbourhood Rate Payer.

The negative influence and impact caused to young students by receiving a “noise nuisance” letter in its current state i.e. the strong official wording and the warning of hefty fines as a first resort rather than last.

The clear distinction between music students practising music (i.e. homework) and “general neighbourhood noise” (construction, mowing , traffic noise).

“First Occupancy Rights” in the case of music students practicing with no previous concerns and long standing home based music tutors receiving complaints from new neighbours in new and close proximity residential developments.

The ways in which procedures dealing with these situations can be streamlined using methods currently suggested by the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Justice, with advice from the Victorian Privacy Commissioner (in regards to written “noise” records being kept by Complainants) and the Department of the Child Safety Commissioner when letters like the one above are sent to or directed at children under 18 years of age.

Ways in which to foster a community awareness and understanding for the music student’s need for regular practice in a supportive environment, especially when the instrument is one with sound that projects at times i.e. trumpet, drumset etc.

For many years, I have counselled students in regard to receiving “noise nuisance” letters and have advised ways and means to practice the Drumset without causing undue stress for family and neighbours.

Nevertheless, the receiving of a “noise nuisance” letter in its current form is one that has created stress, family quarrels, neighbourhood disputes and in so many cases the young student simply giving up the instrument due to the typical demonization caused by the prejudicial nature of branding any student or teacher a "noise nuisance".

I am making the discussion paper available as a .pdf here, as prepared for Mayor Caruana, in the hope that you can lend support for the reforming of what is perceived to be a “Standard Process” of sending “Form Letters” to music students simply “doing their homework” and the divisive and negative impact these types of procedures cause the student, their family and the resulting deterioration of neighbour and community relations.

It is my hope that widespread support for these reforms and a spirit of collective teamwork from the music teaching community will bring better understanding and a community awareness of the needs of young students who are learning a musical instrument.

Young music students need encouragement, understanding and a respect by those around them to the right to practice their chosen instrument, especially if that instrument is one that has sound that projects beyond the boundary of the practice room at times.

I also would appreciate receiving any case studies of your own experiences and the passing on of this booklet to any relevant local organisation. Your help and support would be greatly appreciated.

Yours Sincerely

Chris Quinlan f.dip.a

Quiet Drumset Practice Routines

Download "The Right to Play" (2009) .pdf file

Download the EPA "Annoyed by noise" .pdf file
(take note of the cuddly frog on the drumkit!!)

Two new draft letters that work toward a solution
... send these to your Council.