Monday, 26 January 2009

Australia Day, Ochre Arch 2009

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Jan and I headed to Grenfell this morning to watch the Australia Day celebrations, held at Taylor Park. It was a glorious morning with a very good roll-up.
We were both very impressed with proceedings. The Town Band played some catchy tunes, the program was run through without a hitch, the speeches were 'just right', the awards were relevant and well deserved, a great many locals volunteered their time to make the event a success, and the atmosphere was very positive.
The key-note speaker was a lady by the name of Valerie Parv who arrived in Australia as a "10 pound pom". Her parents brought the family to Grenfell when she was very young, with her father being the Manager at the local Fossey's store. What was truly amazing was that Valerie is now one of the leading Romance Writers on the planet. Here's her website for those who may not have heard of her before:
We were also very pleased that Valerie was accompanied by her sister, Maureen, who just happens to have been awarded with an Order of Australia Medal (AOM) some years ago in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Camp Quality.
Some of my learnings for the day included:
* Camp Quality is run in NSW on geographical boundaries, recognising that the children who they help are unable to travel far. Some of the centres are Sydney (350 children 'on the books'), Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Canberra, and Wollongong. Children from the Grenfell region are assigned to Canberra.
* Camp Quality cares for children up to the age of 18. A partial contributor to the large number of children is the fact that 70-80 % now recover, although as Maureen rightly points out it would be marvellous if this figure was much higher still. Many children live munch longer simply as a result of an increased determination to live (hope) stemming from the supportive care they receive.
* I had the privilege of meeting a long term local resident who happened to be a member of the whip-cracking demonstration duo on the day. He served in the Armed Services in WWII for 4 years in the Solomon Islands as a Stretcher Bearer. At one point when he was there the Japanese troops population outnumbered the locals.
* The Year 7 enrolments at Henry Lawson High School for this year are around 30 and the school's total enrolments are just under 200. My first year at HLHS was in 1970 and from what I recall the 1st Form (now Year 7) enrolment numbers were in excess of 110, with total numbers in excess of 400. Thus the school has seen over a 50 % reduction in secondary school numbers over a period of almost 30 years. Despite this the school continues to have an outstanding academic, sporting and community reputation. That said, no-one wants to see numbers cut in half again over the next 30 years.
After the event we made our way back to the farm. Given it was around 37 degrees C we figured it was time to fill up what we affectionately refer to as the "Ochre Arch tub-for-two", and kick back and enjoy a celebratory drink or two. For dinner we dined on a superb catch of our very own Yabbies. All very nice, thank you very much!

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