AUSTRALIA Day celebrations in Meeniyan began on Monday just before 8am with the raising of the flag by Tarwin Valley Primary School captain Niamh Martin and principal Brett Smith.
A sizeable crowd was welcomed into the Meeniyan Town Hall by Meeniyan Progress Association president Kathryn Smith who thanked members of the community for beginning their Australia Day celebrations by joining together at the hall.
Special guests were many and included Member for Eastern Victoria Mr. Danny O’Brien MLC, Cr. Bob Newton who attended with his grand-daughter Ebony, Cr. Andrew McEwan, Woolworths Safeway manager Graham Fisher, and of course, local community members nominated for the South Gippsland Shire’s Australia Day awards: Cathy Waldron, Mark Coulter, and Eric Mould.
Fay Bland, president of the Meeniyan CWA led the affirmation.
Tarwin Valley Primary School principal Brett Smith introduced school captain Niamh Martin who addressed the crowd and reminded everyone how privileged we are to live in such a beautiful country and urged one and all to celebrate and be grateful every day for our wonderful lifestyle.
Special guest, Australia Day Ambassador, Mr. Nigel Dick AM then took to the stage, making a return to country not unlike where he and his wife grew up. He emigrated with his widowed mother from England to Australia at the age of 12 where for a time, they lived on a dairy farm in NSW. How well he remembers learning to milk, turning the separator handle, and riding a horse to bring the milkers in! Beverley was brought up in Caragabal, a small town in central western NSW.
Originally training to be a veterinarian, this possible career was cut short by his failure in botany, but with Beverley steering him in the direction of getting a job, he found himself working for Sir Frank Packer at the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and then in Melbourne for Woman’s Day. His media career spanned over 60 years.
“Sir Frank was a mixture. Rough and ready, ‘tough as all get out’ to work for, but he was, nevertheless, a great Australian,” said Mr. Dick
Mr. Nigel Dick could not be described as ‘rough and ready,’ however he could certainly be described as a great Australian. His work in the drug and alcohol fields saw him recognised as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award in 2007.
In 2008 he was admitted to the degree of Doctor of Communications honoris causa by RMIT University and in 2010 he became the Victorian Senior Australian of the Year. Mr. Dick is a Life Ambassador of Australia Day, having been involved in the Ambassador program since its inception.
“Do you say, ‘there is nothing I can do about the problems of the world?’ This is a common mistake for there isn’t a world problem which does not begin right where you are. And always you can diminish or add to it. Not to be aware of this – not knowing the difference you can make – is in itself, one of the biggest world problems. We are the descendents of great men and women who recognized their obligations to fight ignorance, poverty and oppression everywhere. We must do no less,” Mr. Dick said, quoting part of a speech by Arch Madsen, head of Bonneville Broadcasting of Salt Lake City.
The local nominees of the South Gippsland Shire’s Australia Day awards were invited to speak to those assembled.
Eric Mould, co-founder of the Community Event of the Year – the Meeniyan Town Tavern Night’s 30th Anniversary, said he was very pleased to have the opportunity to take to the stage again, as following the announcement in Leongatha of the event’s success in winning the award, he was (almost) lost for words.
“I heard 60 years for this event, a 50th anniversary for another, then 40 years for yet another and I didn’t think we stood a chance. I’m normally known as being able to grab a mic and babble on but I was too surprised.
“I must make particular mention of two people, Avril Van Wamel and my wife Ann, who have worked alongside me since September 29, 1984 in putting this event together,” Eric said.
As mentioned at both the Leongatha and Meeniyan Australia Day events, the Meeniyan Town Tavern Night is one to put on your ‘bucket list’ and the next Tavern Night will be held on Saturday February 21.
Cathy Waldron, nominated by the Meeniyan Progress Association for Citizen of the Year addressed the crowd and in looking back over her time in the township, shared the story of how she originally became involved in a local committee, in an effort to keep the services of a bank available for the townspeople.
The success of the committee’s efforts spurred her on and in the years since, she has served as president and vice president of the Tarwin Valley Kindergarten, successfully securing a $100,000 grant to extend the building, has been involved in fundraising and reading at the primary school and canteen duty at Mary McKillop, and is a sponsor for the MDU and Meeniyan Golf Clubs.
During her time as president of the Meeniyan Traders and Tourism Association, Cathy’s involvement with the Meeniyan on Fire festival was instrumental in the success of the event which now draws thousands of people to the township each July.
Mark Coulter, grandson of the late Harry Prosser of Meeniyan, was nominated by the Meeniyan RSL Sub-branch for Youth Community Contribution award and thanked his parents and family for all their support. Mark was secretary of the Meeniyan RSL sub branch for two years and is currently assistant secretary. A qualified baker with Kelly’s Bakery in Korumburra, Mark is vice president of the Victorian Branch of the Australia Young Chefs Club which organises and promotes workshops and fundraising dinners.
Playing football for Stony Creek, Mark has clocked up 100 senior games with the club and has been an active member of the Leongatha Bowls Club on and off the greens since 2006 and is a member of South Coast Athletics Club.
On behalf of co-organiser of the Australia Day celebration, Meeniyan Progress Association’s Clive Hope, Kathryn Smith thanked all members of the Association and helpers for their assistance, Richard Powell and Brian Hoskins for lighting, sound and photography, Linda Fromhold and the Meeniyan Ecumenical Choir for lovely renditions of iconic Australian songs, including of course, ‘Home Among The Gumtrees,’ and thanked the Meeniyan – Stony Creek CFA and Meeniyan CWA for running the Aussie Breakfast and morning tea (complete with Anzac biscuits).
Clive Hope and fellow Australia Day committee member Avril Van Wamel will not be returning to their roles again, feeling that after 10 years, it is time for others to take the reins, perhaps revitalising the event with fresh ideas and are hoping that someone in the community will put up their hands and take over, so that this wonderful celebration can continue each year.
Organisers wish to acknowledge the support of Woolworths for the generous sponsorship of the Australia Day Ambassador Program for bringing an outstanding Australians as guest speaker to the Meeniyan Australia Day event.
In closing, Heather Scott, president of the Meeniyan RSL Sub-branch, asked for everyone to remember that this Anzac Day will be a particularly special occasion, marking the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, and to come along to remember this occasion with fellow community members during the ceremony and afterwards during brunch.