My thoughts on ANZAC Day

“ANZAC Day goes beyond the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is the day we remember all Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.The spirit of ANZAC, with its human qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice, continues to have meaning and relevance for our sense of national identity.” from Australian War Memorial website.

In putting this together, three words:
courage, mateship and sacrifice kept coming to the fore.

Courage – There are times in my life that I think I have been brave, but I can’t even come close to imagining the type of bravery and courage our young Soldiers were able to muster up when our country needed help. These men stepped up, left their families and country to fight a battle to protect their beloved Australia. Each of them would have only known a small patch of Australia that they called home, but never thought twice about jumping in to help.The courage to continue fighting when mates had fallen beside them;The courage and strength to be able sleep at night (not knowing what the next day would bring for them) is a courage that I will never be able to comprehend but I can certainly hold in high revere.

Mateship: a very Australian word and trait.To have a true mate is something very special in life. These men fought beside total strangers in such extreme circumstances and relied on each other, all fighting for the same one true love (Australia)
They relied upon each other in a way that formed the foundations of strong mateship ties.These bonds are stronger than any best friend they would ever have had at school, these mates will be their mates forever. For some, that forever was just around the corner. Mates carried wounded mates, mates protected mates and mates wept when they lost one of their own.

Sacrifice: There is one last Anzac Bikkie on the plate.You haven’t had one yet and can’t wait to get your teeth into it. Your granddaughter says she wants it …. really bad! What do you do? Sit back and tell her that you haven’t had one yet and you would hate to miss out? Or do you sacrifice your joy of that delicious chewy biscuit and hand it over? Hand it over.That’s a sacrifice.
Our young men went off to war. Did they make any sacrifices? Surely the love for their sweetheart, wife, mother, father, brothers, sisters, son or daughter made it hard for them to leave, but they each sacrificed their hunger for the comfort and love of their family in order to fight for the country they called home.They sacrificed time away from family in order to fight to keep our country free. Some made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned home to see their families again.

How we live today – the freedom we enjoy in this country is directly contributed to the sacrifices made by these courageous mates.
To honour and remember these brave young soldiers is what makes ANZAC Day one of Australia’s most important national commemorative occasions.

“But while there might not be personal connection with it – it is one of those few days in our calendar that gives us ceremony, tradition and time for reflection. (Quote ABC – the importance of Anzac Day in 2012)

Lest We Forget

The Pride Of Gayndah

Thank you to the North Burnett Regional Council for the opportunity to speak at Gayndah’s Australia Day celebrations to share some of my thoughts.

These words are taken from an Australia day website and I quote:
Australia Day is much more than barbeques and fireworks. It is more than another public holiday. It is more than the pride and excitement of new citizens who call themselves Australian for the first time on 26 January after being conferred citizenship.”
“At its core, Australia Day is a day driven by communities, and the celebrations held in each town, suburb or city – unified by the celebration of what’s great about Australia and being Australian.

A day “Driven by communities“….. as I look around, I see our community represented by you – you who all have a pride in our little town and the great things we achieve by the volunteers who work tirelessly for our community – not for an award they may get – not for any praise or acclamation they may receive. They do it simply out of pride in our community – for the opportunity to be part of a successful event, to keep committees alive to provide services and entertainment for us all.

I have lived in Gayndah all my life and have been involved with the show society for over 30 years and I am still fascinated and in awe of the number of volunteers who put together just this one event. It is in excess of 100. That’s just ONE event held in this town. How many other events are there? That equates to a very large percentage of our residents involved in something on a volunteer basis. I applaud and thank each and everyone in this community for your effort. Gayndah relies heavily on support from volunteers – those who give freely of their own time.

Congratulations to all of the award recipients and nominees. Treasure the honor bestowed on you by our town – you deserve it. I don’t say that because I was a recipient last year, I say it because, as a resident of Gayndah, I personally appreciate the pride and effort each and every one of you has displayed in our town.

Gayndah is a town to be proud of. We have a wonderful sense of community and understand full well the meaning of “pulling together”. Let’s continue to promote the Pride of Gayndah and let’s keep that spirit going.

Let’s Stick Together

We are struggling. Every single one of us. I’m talking about everyone of us in business.

It’s time we took a good long hard look at ourselves and what we can collectively do to make a difference.

We are all in this together. None of us are enemies. So let’s stop trying to pull other businesses down – lets work at this and fix it TOGETHER!

We all need to work together as a community.

As we see businesses close down around us, we all feel a loss. Our town suffers a loss. Services are lost. This is not the direction we want our town to head.

We need to lead by example – starting now!

As business owners we should be supporting each other. Every purchase we make should be from a business in town to keep our money here and circulating. If we all did that, it would make each and every business stronger and keep our own economy driving as hard as it possibly can in this tough time.

One of the positives of living in a town like Gayndah is that we personally know each and every business owner. But it can have a negative effect too. We know their personal traits, their personality glitches and it is so easy to pick fault or find a reason not to deal there. Well, it’s time we all grew up and realised that we are all family – the family of business owners who service Gayndah and it’s residents.

As each business dies from lack of support, we have all lost a piece of our business.

Can your business afford to lose any more trade?

Of course not!

So, take time to think about that Internet purchase and before you click “pay”, think how you would like it if the business owner next door to you was (at that same time) about to click “pay” on an item you have in store.

Yes, there are items that can be purchased “elsewhere” cheaper, but when we need something urgently, we race to the main street. What if that business has closed? What does that do to each and every business in town? Nothing good.

We need every resident in Gayndah to support businesses in town – so every business owner needs to set an example and proudly say “I buy everything locally” and stop “bagging” other businesses. Give a plug for another business in town. Tell each of your customers something positive about other businesses in town.

Promote your business by promoting every business in town.

Times are tough – never been tougher. There has never been a time like this for us all to sit up and pay attention to what’s happening in town.

Ok, so the guy who works at the hardware is not on your Christmas list, the girl who works in the chemist talks too much, the guy at the haberdashery store is taller than you (these are made up examples, not to be taken as fact) but you have to realise that every purchase made in these businesses could be a reciprocal purchase made in yours. Surely this is a clear picture of what we have to do?

It’s been said before and we have heard the tired old phrase but never before has it been more important for each and every one of us (starting with the business owners) to SHOP LOCALLY!

Grinches Unite

To those of us out there prepared to admit that when it comes to Christmas, we are “Grinches”, I need to share my thoughts with you on this phenomena.

A Grinch is described as “a person or thing that spoils or dampens the pleasure of others”. The name was made famous by a Dr Seuss character in a movie of the same name. I have (for a long time now) been, what I call, a Christmas Grinch. I don’t try to spoil the pleasure of others but I do find it extremely hard to get excited by the prospect of a fast approaching Christmas Day. So, by the definition, I’m probably not a true Grinch.

The very mention of Christmas (especially followed with an announcement of “how many days left”) can strike fear in my heart. It’s usually met by a rolling of my eyes, a slight quiver of my top lip and an audible moan. These physical signs are brought on from an implosion my body and brain are suffering. I am NOT the world’s best cook (so the thought of having to prepare a massive banquet of gourmet foods has my head spinning), I have been caught up in the “busy-ness” that Christmas creates and haven’t thought about presents, let alone bought any. Decorations?? Who has time to even find where they stashed them last year, let alone get them out, untangle them, and put them up? Don’t mention having to go back after yourself to clean up all the little bits of tinsel and broken angels that have fallen down in your excitement.

Tree? Where would that be?
Somewhere near the decorations? Who designed artificial Christmas Trees? Obviously a very sick man (ha ha, maybe HE was a Grinch). When you have found the tree, you have to place all those little plastic branches in the right order or otherwise you end up with a tree with a fat top instead of the beautifully sculpted one glaring back at you from the picture on the box. They never do look as beautiful as that one – something about the way they were pulled off and pushed back in the box last year, I think.

Christmas creates this extra work load which all has to be completed before THAT day – preferably at least a couple of days, so I can get out and quickly buy some presents.

It’s usually Christmas Eve when I know I HAVE to get those things wrapped or I’m going to really look like a Grinch the next day. (It’s one thing to feel like one, but I certainly don’t want my grand kids to know about my condition).

So, presents to my left, wrapping paper, scissors, sticky tape, cards and pen to my right, I grudgingly start.

Sigh, start.

Cut paper, wrap present, write on the card, put it aside (feel a funny little tingle. A nice little glow).
Next present, wrapped and put with the first one (Smile. I’m thinking about the recipient and imagining that they will love it).
Next present, wrap, put aside (start humming “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”).
By the time all presents are wrapped, I’m singing out loud and thinking of things I should have done “if only I had thought of it earlier”. I’m thinking that I should have bothered to look for the tree and persist with putting it together the right way up because those presents would look rather nice under a tree. A few decorations would have been nice too. Note to self: “Next year I’m going to put decorations up on 1 December (and that tree). Maybe I should play a few Christmas carols in the office through the day so I can grasp hold of this “Christmas Eve feeling” a little bit earlier? Feels quite nice.

Then there is the dawning of Christmas Day.

No matter how you celebrate your Christmas Day:
– early morning present frenzy;
– a scurry out of bed, best outfits on and off to church for the early service;
– glazing the ham, peeling prawns, getting ready to make a banquet to impress even the finest of chefs;
– or exchanging nothing more than a simple smile over your cup of tea at breakfast, there is no denying that Christmas day is special. There is a certain peace which falls over Christmas Day. Whether its just the simple fact that it is a holiday and no feeling guilty for not working or that the day itself (whatever your beliefs) holds some kind of magic – almost sparkly (or as my granddaughter, Erica would say “farkly”) – there’s no denying that it is absolutely no other day in the year quite like it.

So, Grinches (and everyone else too), on Christmas morning, have a look around you, take a deep breath in then slowly let it out and know that (for at least today) all is right in your world.

It is here! If you haven’t done your shopping yet, get out there (trust me, you’ll be so glad you did), go home and wrap those presents and start singing.

To each and everyone – have the most wonderful, peaceful and enjoyable Christmas Day.

Enjoy the holidays, drive safe and especially charge up your batteries because after the “Annus Horribilis” that was 2011 – you are going to need plenty of energy for the bright, happy and prosperous year ahead!

What are you to do?

A phone call recently from life-time Gayndah resident,  Jack “Jacko” McConnell prompted me to talk about some of the amazing, unrecognised people in our town.

Jacko heard that I was “Doing some promotion thing about Gayndah” and wanted to let me know that the access road up to Gayndah’s spectacular “McConnells Lookout had now be repaired by the council (the road had received some serious washout damage during the heavy January rains).

I asked Jacko why the lookout was named after his family.  I knew that the McConnell family had once owned the land but I wanted to hear his explanation.  His answer: “Well, years ago the SES (State Emergency Service) came to me and asked if they could buy 10 foot square from me right on the top of the mountain for a shed to house their radio tower.”   Jacko sighed and said “How much do you charge the SES?  When we have an emergency, they are out there doing the hard work.  They go out in the storms and put tarps on roofs – How could I charge them anything?”

Jacko then approached the local council and offered to donate one hectare of land right at the top – where we already had an unofficial local lookout spot – as long as the council worked out some arrangement with the SES.

That was 11 years ago and now there are shelter sheds, BBQs, Toilets, concrete paths, viewing platform, bitumen parking area, the SES radio tower and local (Burnett River Radio) community Radio tower  – making the spectacular views over the patchwork display of orchards, along the Burnett River right to town, accessible to everyone.  This spectacular spot is the place for weddings, weekend BBQs, family picnics and is always on the list of “places to see while in Gayndah”.

Jacko has lived in Gayndah all his life, he comes from a grass roots family and is (when I asked his age) “ummm 75 and a half” years old, he lives alone in a humble abode at the base of the mountain – a drive of 6km to the lookout itself – and 15kms to town.  He doesn’t own a mobile phone or computer, wouldn’t have an email address or even heard about Google – not hard to believe if you know this simple-living man.  He spends his days pottering around in his garden where he produces the BEST watermelons and pumpkins you have ever eaten.  Many have guessed at Jacko’s gardening secrets, but none know for a fact what makes his produce so much more superior than anything else you will find.  When his produce is ready, he piles them into his little car and drives around to neighbours and locals to sell and share his wares.  He tells me that the watermelon plants now have fruit on them – I can’t wait – I live between Jacko’s place and town and know I can always count on a visit from him.  I didn’t ask him what he will be selling them for this year, but last year I was paying the princely sum of $2 per watermelon! When I can pay around $20 for an inferior product at the grocery shop, I am only too happy to pay any price increase he asks this year.

Every second day, Jacko goes up to McConnells Lookout with his broom (kindly supplied by the council) and sweeps the paths, cleans the BBQs and checks that all is ready and looking its best for the next visitors – voluntarily.  This man does this out of the goodness of his own heart and pride in his surrounds – he doesn’t do it for accolades nor does he expect remuneration.  There’s a local story about a wedding which was held at the Lookout – before the toilets were in place.  Jacko heard about the wedding and thought the ladies may need somewhere to relieve themselves and so set up a “ladies loo” – four posts and hessian walls surrounding a drum with toilet seat attached. What Jacko hadn’t factored in was the sillouette effect the sunset created through the hessian – but his heart was in the right place.

Visitors to the lookout can sometimes luck on meeting Jacko, who then gives them the “Jacko tour” with plenty of local history and is happy to point out local places of interest. A former Gayndah business couple would regularly go to the lookout for a Sunday reprieve before the start of their busy working week.  The wife told me that they always packed a third glass in their picnic hamper to share their wine with Jacko who quite often turned up when they were there.

Jacko is a member of the “IMPACT Make Your Mark Members and Visitors Scheme” which is a fancy name for volunteers who regularly visit the retirement and aged person’s home in Gayndah.  Jacko visits every month (and has been for 20 years) and takes his “tape player” and plays music for his “old darlings”.  He plays old time dance music, rock and roll and country music and takes a volley ball which he passes back and forth to the residents while the music plays.  His tapes of old time dance music have been compiled by Jacko himself from CDs he has purchased over the years.  He tells me, he takes them home and picks out the “best” songs from them and puts them on tapes to take to the ‘home’.  As a member of the IMPACT scheme, Jacko receives an allowance to pay for travel to and from the ‘home’ – around $10 each time.  Jacko’s words can take the story from here: “They pay you about every three months and I get $100.  Well, What am I to do?  I can’t take it with me and if I put it in my pocket it only weighs my trousers down.”  So Jacko takes that money and buys goodies which he takes with him on his visits.  His next visit is on 24 November when the residents put on a Christmas “dinner” (lunch) for the volunteers.  Jacko has bought tinsel and Christmas goodies to take along on that day to share with his “old darlings”.

Jacko has a love of music and dancing.  In his heyday, he has travelled far and wide to attend old time dances – that’s where he would buy the CDs he uses now at his music days at the ‘home’.  I remember the old time dances that were held regularly in Gayndah – Jacko was always there dressed in his best shirt and cleanest trousers.  Jacko has ‘had a go’ at many dance trends – square dancing, bush dancing and line dancing, but his first love will always be old time dancing.

It’s crazy how you can live in one town all your life and characters like Jacko are just part of the “furniture” and we overlook what they do for our community.  Community spirit is what keeps small towns like Gayndah alive.  Let’s not overlook these important people any more – give them thanks, appreciate what they do for us.

Good on ya Jacko!

Fireman Sam visits…..

We had some smokey fun last weekend.  Time to “burn off” – the old dead grass needs to be burnt so that the new fresh green shoots can come through, making it much sweeter and more appealing eating for the cattle.  So, off we go with the fire-lighter, water tank, shovels and a couple of garden water sprayers (just in case we needed them).

All was going well…. we had arrived and set up the water sprayer at the ready.  Then out came the fire-lighter and our afternoon went downhill quickly.  The old dead grass was certainly prime for the burning!  Off it went and it was a little bit more than three of us could handle comfortably – trying to keep the fire back from the fencelines and not jumping into the neighbour’s paddock.  A call to the rural fire brigade was made and they arrived in their big yellow truck – like a knight on a big white horse – to our rescue.

The Rural Fire Brigade is equipped with full water tanks and are the lifesavers of the bush in fire season.

The Rural Fire Brigade working their magic

Family et al

My family is the best in the world! Hmm have we ever heard that before? Yes, everyone says that and it’s true!  You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family – well, I would choose mine in a heartbeat.

I have been blessed by being born to two fabulous parents – a mother who can make anything (we are talking sewing and craft here not cooking even though anything she rattles out of the kitchen is superb) – a father who tells the best stories in the world and raised us on Slim Dusty music. I will elaborate on my wonderful parents at a later date – there is just too much good stuff to say, that they are posts on their own.

I have a brother who doesn’t waste words and sits quietly listening and observing – be careful when he’s around.  Because he’s so quiet, you forget that he is there and he listens and remembers everything that had been said.

My sister is the tech-savvy member of the family.  As we call her in my office “The knower of all everything”.  She is the one who always knows what to wear and looks fabulous all the time.  A visit with her is always associated with pre-visit stress over what clothes to take with me.

I have one son – a good looking, beautiful nearly-30-year-old.  He runs his own successful mobile welding and fabrication business from his home.

My son and his quiet, unassuming wife have given me two of the most adorable grandchildren.  Nicolas and Erica  are the lights of my life.  Nic is now eleven and is the smartest, nicest 11 year old I have ever known.  Erica is three and, well, she is adorable but quite a handful.

Nic in one of this more thoughtful moments

One of the loves of my life