Sunday, October 22, 2017

Australia Day 2017 - in wonderful Orroroo

Remiss. Sitting in my files, needing to go on the record.

My 2017 experience as an Australia Day Ambassador.

A belated posting of my official report to the Australia Day Council.

Orroroo and Carrieton lie in the upper mid north of South Australia on the road to Hawker and the Flinders Ranges. They’re pretty much the last stop before we start thinking Outback. Orroroo sits right where the Goyder Line divides

the state between arid and rural and Goyder is much remembered and respected as one of the icon’s of the town history. A superb corrugated iron sculpture of him sits on the outskirts of the town.

It is wheat and sheep country of highest quality and the agricultural properties one sees on the road up from Adelaide are impeccable in every way. The high-tech harvesting and ploughing have transformed much of the handsome undulating landscape into a patchwork of beautifully-worked swirls and stripes. Haysheds stand full to the roof with neatly packed bales of golden hay. Sheep in their masses graze on vast acreages, their wool always blending with the hue of that particular land. Cattle, also graze on the expansive pastures.

Orroroo itself is a quiet town of huge, broad streets with giant silos on edge of town. It is a town which feels incredibly spacious with absolutely beautiful fresh air.

The main street brags two fine hotels, the Council chambers and Post Office, and a set of very useful shops: stationer, butcher, grocer, and a singularly upmarket gift shop among them.

The Council hosted me and my husband with overnight accommodation at Nana’s B&B, a comfortable and historic stone house which had beds and facilities fit for about nine people.

All the comforts of home were laid on and a welcome gift basket of local produce awaited me on the kitchen table.

Notably, the house was home for 50 years to one Nancy Parnell who was to become author of a definitive book on the history of the area. It was a very special feeling to be able to read the book and immerse myself in Orroroo history right in the place where it was written.

It was a short walk from the B&B o the Orroroo Hotel for a meet and greet dinner with the Council Chairman, Kathie Bowman, the Chief Executive, Steve Rufus, and the community liaison Anne Frick who had been my point of contact for the event. About 24 council members and local identities came to the dinner.

Australia Day dawned crisp and bright with morning chill in the air.

We gathered on the picnic lawns beneath huge, ancient red gums at the Lions Park. Ducks paddled around the reeds in the creek. Morning light on the adjoining billabong cast dramatically beautiful shadows reminiscent of the famous H.J. Johnson painting in the Art Gallery of SA - the first painting the Gallery ever purchased.

It was a simply gorgeous place to hold a celebration.

The scent of breakfast BBQ filled the air and the Orroroo and Districts Lions volunteers had a sizzling production line going on. As it turned out, the Orroroo Carrieton Australia Day breakfast of 2017 was something of a record-breaker. People just kept on arriving until the adjoining fields were a sea of

utes and 4WDs and the breakfast supplies were severely challenged. More eggs and sausages were rushed in. The cheerful queue seemed to go on for ever.

There were farmers and business people, rodeo stars and retirees; a diverse but strong and cohesive community. All very friendly and welcoming.

Local choir, Sing Australia, kept the crowds entertained, as did the 31 questions on the Australian Trivia Quiz provided on the printed programs


And one became aware that this was an event which had been organised with great skill and thoughtfulness. Aussie flags were strung between trees behind the speakers’ area. Trestle tables and chairs had been brought in. There were even table cloths. Plus, an Australia Day cake which mimicked a lamington from the

outside but was in fact, a classic country fruit cake.

CEO Steve Rufus made a lively welcoming speech and cued in the National Anthem, sung by Sing Australia. Council Chair Kathie Bowman’s engrossing speech reflected on the fact that farmers and country people these days could be ranked among the remarkable members of society, since their numbers were ever diminishing.

After the choir had sung From the Outback to the Ocean, I gave the Australia Day Ambassador address which centred on the proud sons of Orroroo, famous Australians born in the area, among them the poet Rex

Ingamells. While most people had heard of Orroroo Carrieton’s modern reputation for pastoralists and rodeos and quilters, it actually had a significant literary pedigree because Rex Ingamells was the man behind the Jindyworobaks, a literary movement of the 1930s and 40s, which was very important in giving the first official voice to Australian writers and, indeed, could be considered as the crucible of Australiana itself.

I spoke also of the history of Australia Day and qualities we all love about our country and fellow country people. And about the volunteers who are so much a backbone to community life.

Thereafter the Orroroo Carrieton Citizen of the Year, Lynette Bollinger was presented,

followed by Young Citizen of the Year, Isaac Jesser and the Community Even of the Year, an amazing catering feat by the Orroroo Area School for the 2016 Bike SA Annual Tour.

Finally, after more music from the choir, Christy Luckraft was sworn as an Australian citizen by Chair, Kathie Bowman.

Then, the cake was cut and

Lions President, Brendan Laskey gave us all fond farewell.

I managed to get a few photo Tweets out on Twitter and one Facebook image early in the piece but it was really rather hard to do more because of the sociable general interest the local people were taking in my presence and the string of wonderful people I was meeting, including some legends of rodeo.

Reception to my presence as an Australia Day Ambassador was extremely positive and the Council quickly asked for a copy of my speech to publish in its Goyder Gazette.

I have been to a lot of excellent Australia Day events around South Australia now and I have to report that this was one of the most beautifully organised of them all.

It is a fantastic Council and community and I felt honoured and heart-warmed to be involved with them.

Thus with a sense of warmth, we left this broad and open old regional town - but not before checking out its oldest resident. At 500 years, the Giant Gumtree is one of the oldest trees inthe country. And it is truly mighty.