Mildura Weekly : Friday May 30 2014 Vol 8 No 30
www.milduraweekly.com.au 60 Mildura Weekly – 30/05/14 In Bob’s memory • From Page 16 Eve said the fishing trips, in particular to Pooncarie, became a regular part of their lives, and after an extended round-Australia trip in 1983-84, they settled on a Red Cliffs fruit block, while waiting to fulfil a near-lifelong dream of buying “a touch of paradise” in the Pooncarie area. That moment came in 1989, when Bob and Eve bought the only citrus block among the surrounding grazing and cropping properties – with a large portion of it fronting the iconic Darling River. Bob’s involvement in the Poon- carie community started the follow- ing year when he took over as secre- tary of the three-person Pooncarie Tidy Towns Committee. According to Eve, he ‘re-invented’ the group, changing its name to the Pooncarie and Dis- trict Development As- sociation to embrace outlying station prop- erties, as well as throw- ing down the welcome mat for travellers and townsfolk alike. He was a good listener, and a bet- ter talker, and had no trouble persuad- ing many people into helping him develop some town’s projects, starting with a tact- ful refurbishing of the historic old cemetery. Then, in 1991, he went in to bat for re- tention of the town’s one-man police sta- tion – not only letting Sydney’s politicians learn where Pooncarie was on the map, but drawing a visit from the then NSW Assistant Commis- sioner of Police. The station was fi- nally shut down, with the building now housing the Post Office, telecen- tre, library and crafts centre, but Bob carried on. Eve said the annual Tidy Town Awards became a major goal, and government and semi-government quickly learned that the Pooncarie development association was an or- ganisation to be reckoned with. After the town park was officially opened, Bob’s focus turned to help- ing Wentworth Historical Society re-enact the infamous burning and sinking of the paddlesteamer Rod- ney’s wool barge at Polia Station during the shearer strike of 1894. His passion, drive and success with this, and other projects led to him being nominated for an Australia Day hon- our, and he was named Wentworth Shire’s Citizen of the Year in 1996. Eve said that at that time, Bob was already involved in another major community project. Early in 1994, local identity Bert Watson came to him with an idea to place a plaque, and possibly a small cairn, to honour Pooncarie boys who had served in the major wars. “It was significant that his request came in the year that was nominated as ‘Australia Remembers,’” she said. “Bob looked at Bert’s list of a dozen or so names and asked: ‘Are you sure that’s all?’ Bert thought for a bit and said: ‘Well, there might be a few more...’” Eve said Bob put his heart and soul into it, and after many weeks of diligent search, triple and quadruple checking, the final tally was: World War One - 33; World War Two - 64; Korea - 1; Vietnam - 2, and Bob said: “Bert, you don’t need a plaque and cairn, you need a bloody War Memo- rial!” A community forum unani- mously supported Bert’s project and Bob’s Memorial design, but the ‘Aus- tralia Remembers’ grant money had run out, so the pair worked their respective contacts, from the armed forces to the different service clubs. They encouraged the local com- munity to pitch in with fund-raisers, and led the way with generous ‘do- nations’ of time and and energy. Bert found a seedling tree that was a direct descendent of the original Lone Pine at Gallipoli, a Scottish Pipe Band, and even someone to make sandwiches for an opening ceremony. It was celebrated in 1996 with an influx of 600 people, many from overseas, and related to the boys on the Memorial’s three bronze Rolls of Honor. They held a march, with an official unveiling of the memorial on May 18, 1996 by Mayor Don McKin- non. Eve said another ‘Bob and Bert’ project was the restoration and pro- tection of the Old Polia-Greenvale Cemetery which goes all the way back to April 7, 1916. Well-known Mildura celebrant Yvonne Spain re- dedicated the cemetery before an- other large crowd in January, 2004. Two months later, Bob helped the town put the community’s con- cerns to politicians and senior State bureaucrats over the mishandling of river flows in the Lower Darling River during the drought. Those efforts set the groundwork for the building of a new weir, incorporating a fish ladder, a project that was finally completed this year. Eve said Bob left the association he helped create in 2005, but was acknowledged for his contribution when the then Wentworth Mayor Marg Thomson officially opened the long-awaited boat ramp in the multi-purpose park in 2006. His community involvement and contribution was fully recog- nised in October of 2006 when he was nominated for, and subse- quently awarded, the NSW Premier’s Award for Community Service at a ceremony witnessed by the majority of the NSW Cabinet, in Wentworth. But Bob wasn’t finished with his work yet. One of his final proj- ects was helping Wilkurra Station’s John Freeman establish an honour board in the Pooncarie Town Hall as a tribute to John’s Battalion, the 7th- 13th AIF – ‘The Pooncarie Boys’ – in March, 2007. “Bob battled kidney disease for some years, opting to keep going with dialysis,” Eve said. “But in the end it was an aggressive brain tu- mour that finally put him between a rock and a hard place.” Bob died in the Royal Melbourne Hospital on October 7 last year, and was cremated at Springvale. But his heart was always in Poon- carie, and he will fittingly be remem- bered, and honoured, on Sunday. • WELL DONE: Bob and his koala book were featured in the Melbourne Sun, ABOVE, the plaque, LEFT, that will be unveiled tomorrow... Bob and Eve with Mayor Don McKinnon at the opening of the Pooncarie war memorial, and RIGHT, a red gum slab sign organised by Bob. Call out to shutterbugs BURONGA residents are being encouraged to “start snapping” in preparation for the annual Western Local Land Services photographic competition. Now in its 16th year, the competition encourages bud- ding photographers of all ages to share their talent and passion for their local area. This year’s theme – ‘My Place’ – encourages entrants to explore ideas of belonging and connec- tion through either the natural or man-made aspects of their lo- cal landscape. The competition is open to interested amateur photogra- phers of all ages, with categories for black and white or colour photos, as well as sections dedi- cated to digital manipulation and to school students, available. Entries close on Thursday, July 31. More information – and entry forms – are avail- able from www.western.lls.nsw. gov.au/resource-hub/photo- competition/2014-photo-comp, or by contacting Fiona Harris on (02) 6870 8627. 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