In some ways the city-country divide is a superficial myth. Heyfield, a timber town in the foothills of eastern Victoria’s beautiful high country and Warrandyte, a Melbourne ‘weekender-artists’ haven on the Yarra turned ‘outer suburb-daytrip destination’ have both reacted very similarly to a community need – as of course do countless other communities whose stories are seldom told.
(1) In country Victoria in the late 1990s, Heyfield dynamo, Wendy Rhodes, was a prime mover in the Heyfield Racecourse Wetlands project which involved an amazing collection of government bodies and community people. They aimed to turn their Racecourse Reserve into working wetlands which would act as a filter for waters entering from farms, industry and the town’s drains.
For the initial earthworks, Wendy says, the committee spent $46 and got $500,000 work free, with $3million worth of equipment working solidly Saturday morning to Sunday night to create a lake and build earthen walkways with 13 local contractors ‘doing their bit’ over the weekend. Mobil donated $1000 in fuel.
Having not paid much notice to plans displayed for comment, locals were amazed at all the activity and noise early one Saturday morning. Wisely the committee had a handout ready to explain the project. The results:
(i) there was mass interest, support and national TV coverage;
(ii) the Butcher, Baker, Fish & Chips Shop and Pub all donated food;
(iii)a Friends of the Wetlands Group was formed;
(iv) small grants were won to build bridges, plant trees, build hides etc;
(v) Apex, Lions, Rotary, Scouts, school groups and volunteers all contributed.
Three attempts at a National Heritage Trust grant for a Wetlands Interpretative Centre failed. Then, in 2002 Wellington Mayor, Malcolm Hole, applied some political nous as timber coupes were being taken away and Heyfield received $300,000 from a Victorian Government Infrastructure fund for Timber Town projects.
The greater part of this money stayed in Heyfield to build the Centre using local tradesmen. Now the Wetlands Information Centre, with its lovely wetlands outlook is run by volunteers, used by schools, hired out for meetings and is part of Wellington Shire’s coach daytrip project.
(2)Warrandyte Neighbourhood House recently ran a Monster Garage Sale to raise funds for Tsunami victims. Coordinator, Karen Throssell sent out a call through the newsletter and the ‘Warrandyte Diary’ for quality donations and just as in Heyfield there was a huge community response.
-The local IGA was a ‘bottomless pit’ of sausages, sauce and bread;
-Vicki Gardner-Real Estate Agent did all the cooking for the sausage sizzle;
-an Op Shop volunteer spent all day and into the night sorting goods;
-some very valuable goods were donated by a local antique dealer;
-the Community Theatre lent trestles and the Pub ‘strong men’ set them up;
-Linda, a Bendigo Bank Teller was a huge help with ‘the money side of things’.
At the end of a very long day, looking at $5000 in small denominations, Karen commented that they would need a wheelbarrow to get to the bank. Instead Linda carried the five large envelopes in a big box and Karen ‘walked shotgun’ beside her down the main street to the Bendigo Bank.
Karen believes Warrandyte is similar to a country town because the community sectors are very interconnected and the local rag, the ‘Warrandyte Diary’ does a great job backing this up, covering everything from junior sport to local poetry.