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Community spirit burns bright in Warrandyte

WARRANDYTE’s locals have once again demonstrated this community’s generous spirit and dedication to giving back, as tickets for the 2018 Mayoral Fireball have sold out, ahead of the celebration later this month.
Manningham Council Mayor Cr Andrew Conlon has been overwhelmed by the community support for this year’s event, which will honour the selfless work of the CFA’s
volunteers.
“Warrandyte is a really great community and they always unite around events like this” Cr Conlon said.
“There’s been so much support, it’s been great.”
As a cause close to his heart, Cr Conlon selected Fireball as his chosen charity for the 2018 Mayoral Fireball, after almost losing his family home in a devastating bushfire in 2014.
On February 9, 2014 a bushfire sparked by high-voltage powerlines blazed through parts of Warrandyte, destroying the homes of some of Cr Conlon’s neighbours.
“A huge fireball literally came over the hill,” he said.
“Ours was the first house hit by that fire.”
Cr Conlon said his son was home alone when the fire began to burn through the neighbourhood.
“He heard this noise and turned around to see the whole ridge was on fire,” he said.
“In a panic, he ran up the driveway in bare feet, which we think may have also been on fire.
“He rang us and said, ‘Dad, I’m not sure but I think the house might have burned down’.”
Fortunately, the CFA arrived just in time to contain the blaze before it could spread.
“If it wasn’t for the CFA being there, that fire would’ve taken off,” he said.
“That could’ve been catastrophic for a number of people.”
Following the fire, Cr Conlon and his family were left to pick up the pieces.
“That took us a long time to get over,” he said.
However, Cr Conlon refused to sit back and wait, and was able to turn the tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference in the local community.
“I thought more could be done in terms of collaboration and making sure the risk is reduced and people know what to do in a bushfire situation,” he said.
“That’s why I ran for council.”
Four years on and Cr Conlon is hard at work with the Fireball Committee to organise this year’s event, which he hopes will show the CFA’s volunteers just how much the community values
them.
“They don’t do it for the appreciation, but it’s really great when they are acknowledged for what they do.”
This year’s event will aim to raise enough funds to purchase a Forward Control Vehicle for the South Warrandyte Brigade.
“It’s basically not asking the volunteers to spend time fundraising, when they already give away a lot of their time to train and then put their lives on the line when there is a fire,” Cr Conlon said.
Cr Conlon said he also hopes the event will help spread the important messages of the CFA.
“It’s also about raising awareness for the need for other elements of fire safety such as fire plans, and the need for new volunteers” he said.
“It would be great if we could achieve that.”
Warrandyte’s residents have always shown an enthusiastic willingness to support those who continue to risk their lives to help others, which Cr Conlon attributes to their strong sense of community.
Community spirit burns bright in Warrandyte Our CFA Captains are grateful for the support of Fireball in preparation for the dry season ahead.
“There is a sense of unity when you go to an event like this,” he said.
“Everyone is supporting the same cause.
“We’re a very unique community.”
Locals are also eager to show their appreciation, because they know how important the work of the CFA is to the community.
“Everyone living here understands some of the risks,” he said.
“We live in this beautiful environment with trees everywhere,
but that comes with a higher risk in terms of bushfires.”
For the Firies themselves, the community support provided through
Fireball has not gone unnoticed, and continues to have positive impacts upon their experiences as volunteers.
Wonga Park Captain Aaron Farr said the work of Fireball has provided valuable relief from the stress of fundraising.
“By donating to Fireball or supporting us in one way or another, it means we’ve got more time to allocate to emergencies, training and community safety,” Aaron said.
“We can focus on what we do best.” South Warrandyte Community
Safety Officer Bree Cross said Fireball was also crucial to spreading important
CFA messages.
“Although you don’t think of Fireball from an educational perspective, there’s still a lot of education provided through it,” Bree said.
“Now, there is more transparency in what we do, and why we do it.
“I can’t thank them enough really, it’s incredible.”
Chair of the Wonga Park Brigade, Damien Bale said he couldn’t put a value on the community’s effort in supporting Fireball.
“The philosophy is fantastic,” Damien said.
“Having the community effort spearheaded by Fireball, in terms of time and effort, it’s invaluable.”
Warrandyte Brigade’s first lieutenant Will Hodgson said he feels “very proud” to attend Fireball.
“These people are putting their hands in their pockets to support us as volunteers,” Will said.
“To see an event like that put together, where the community comes together, I see it as a celebration.”
Despite juggling family life, Will and his wife Bec, who serves as Warrandyte’s fifth lieutenant, are Fireball veterans, who are keen to make an appearance at this year’s event.
“It’s absolutely amazing, it’s such a great initiative,” Bec said.
“Something that I hope continues into the future and that the community continues to support.”
Cr Conlon also wished to thank the Fireball Committee for their ongoing vision, as well as the event’s many sponsors whose generosity has brought the event to life.
Although tickets have sold out, there are still opportunities for locals to show their support to the cause, such as the Fireball’s online auction.
The auction will begin on October 17 and close on the evening of the Fireball itself.
Those who register will be able to bid on about 100 items over the auction’s 10-day duration.

Go to www.fireball.org.au

Projects ripe for the picking

Photo: EUGENE HOWARD Birrarung House, Laughing Waters

A $30 MILLION State funded Pick My Project community grants initiative, which has been a hot topic for individuals and community based organisations for the past four months and the public voting window to choose which projects are given a share of the money is about to close.

This means Victorian’s across the state have only a few more days to vote for their top three projects.

The initiative aims to distribute funding across the state into projects such as community events, repair cafes/ sheds, community gardens, art projects, urban landscaping, skill share programs and walking/cycling trails.

Community groups, events and initiatives are part of what binds the residents of Warrandyte and surrounding communities together, so it is no surprise that within five kilometres of the township there are 18 project proposals.

The $30M needs to be distributed evenly across the State, but with 2299 projects being put up for public voting — more than half of that focussed around Melbourne — competition for funding is going to be tough.

The participatory budgeting platform this initiative uses means that the popularity of a project is determined by the community who would use it.

In theory, this ensures funds are assigned to a project the community thinks will bene t them the most.

Victorian’s can each only vote for three projects — the Diary has outlined a selection of the projects proposed in and around Warrandyte.

New vision for Laughing Waters

Local artists Eugene Howard and Kate Hill are collaborating with Parks Victoria, Nillumbik Council and the Wurundjeri Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Aboriginal Corporation to seek funding to restore two buildings designed by Landscape Architect Gordon Ford and Architect Alistair Knox, situated in Laughing Waters Reserve.

Once restored, these buildings will be used as a site for an Artist in Residence program, aimed at bringing in a diverse range of national and international artists, as well as cultural programs, talks, workshops and exhibitions for the local community.

Eugene is also hoping to forge a stronger relationship between artists, the local community and the Wurundjeri, which will bolster the existing strong artist community in Eltham, Warrandyte, Kangaroo Ground and Bend of Islands.

“The project has been developed as a co-use space between the Wurundjeri and Residency Projects,” said Eugene when he spoke to the Diary.

Eugene went on to explain the Wurundjeri wish to use the site as a place for “inter-generational cultural knowledge transfer, bush food/medicine education, access to the nearby eel traps and significant cultural sites in the reserve surrounding the buildings”.

“We will also develop smaller projects that will include public language classes, walking events and recurring panel discussions around Indigenous arts and culture; we will grow our partnerships across the Shire of Nillumbik and up the Birrarung (Yarra) River to enable exhibitions and events to occur from the City of Melbourne to the Yarra Ranges.

“We’re thinking of the site as an arts and cultural centre with a core artist-in- residence stream,” he said.

The restoration of two buildings designed by iconic Australian architects, and an opportunity to further understand and strengthen the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through art and cultural experiences, would enhance an already rich cultural gestalt.

Warrandyte Men’s Shed

In May 2017, the Diary spoke with Chris “Chewy” Padgham, Assistant Scout Leader to 1st Warrandyte Scouts and long-time advocate of men’s health when he initially attempted to set up a Men’s Shed in Warrandyte.

Chewy had conveyed how a lifetime working to support and improve men’s mental health had taught him that a space where men can work and chat around other men can help them deal with emotional stress in a healthy way, instead of trying to supress it, which often results in them either lashing out violently or completely shutting down and becoming disconnected with society.

“My objective, which is the objective of every men’s shed really, is to have a place where men can meet and talk and share their experience and I think it will be a great thing for Warrandyte.

“I thought that [a men’s shed] was a good opportunity to act as a catalyst and contribute something back to the community and there’s a lot of people that have been talking about it but not a lot happening so I thought I could get the ball rolling,” said Chewy.

The major hurdles faced by Chewy in 2017 were a suitable location and funding.

Chewy is hoping to secure $85,000 from the Pick My Project initiative, which will go towards leasing and converting an appropriate building.

A sporting chance

Warrandyte, Wonga Park and Park Orchards sporting communities have all put forward projects to improve the sports precinct in their respective towns.

The Warrandyte Sporting Group is encouraging the local community to rally behind its proposed exercise trail to be situated at Warrandyte Reserve.

The exercise trail proposal earmarked several sites for construction of the area, including an option for a single site between the tennis court and oval, a cluster of smaller and more focused workout areas located around the ground and a custom kit to be utilised in a flexible fashion.

The site is designed to accommodate people of varying levels of fitness and aptitude with equipment specialising in strengthening, core exercise, aerobics and agility just to name a few.

The trail would not require any maintenance and would utilise recycled plastics to construct environmentally friendly workout equipment.

The project provides a casual and intensive fitness outlet situated in the heart of Warrandyte.

Wonga Park are seeking $140,000 to install flood lights on the community oval which will allow local sporting teams to train at night which will greatly improve the use of the oval during winter.

In Park Orchards, the local sporting group is in the process of negotiating with Manningham Council for an extensive redevelopment of the Domeney Reserve sports buildings.

The club is looking for $84,000 of funding from Pick My Project to develop a community space at the reserve for dinners and social functions.

Domeney Recreation Centre was earmarked for development as part of the Domeney Reserve Management Plan, endorsed by Council in October 2017.

But in the July 2018 council meeting, sporting groups and other users had proposed an alternative development plan for the Reserve facilities, plans which would require additional funding, on top of that which Council had already assigned the project.

Funding for this social space at Domeney Reserve is not just the first of many steps into the development of the facilities at Park Orchards but would also give the community some much needed community function space, something which they currently lack.

These projects are a small sample of the many funding worthy community projects which have been put forward.

Other local initiatives include: erosion control on Anderson’s Creek; resurfacing of the Anderson’s Creek Primary School oval; Suicide prevention seminars; a sensory play space at Kangaroo Ground Primary School; upgrade of the picnic area at Jumping Creek and a new play space at Park Orchards Community House.

Voting criteria requires the participant to reside within 5km of the chosen project and to be 16 years or older.

If you are interested in voting for any of these, or looking to see all the other projects on offer, visit the Pick My Project website before September 17 and pick your projects.

Project funding is scheduled to be handed out at the end of September.
pickmyproject.vic.gov.au

On the buses: Transdev strike will see commuters stranded

TRANSDEV and CDC bus drivers will strike on Thursday August 16, leaving many Warrandyte residents stranded, as the 906 and 364 will not run at all that day.

Transdev has advised that the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) bus drivers will be taking industrial action by stopping work for 24 hours.

As a result, there will be no services on Transdev bus routes on August 16 2018.

Across the Manningham area, this effects Smart Buses 901, 902, 903, 905, 906, 907, 908, as well as the 200 and 300 series routes.

For those needing to use public transport on Thursday August 16, the only buses running in and out of Warrandyte will be the 578 and 579 to Eltham, as these routes are operated by Panorama Coaches, which, as we go to print, remain unaffected.

The TWU’s decision to take industrial action is part of an ongoing dispute about wage rises across the bus industry, with the TWU seeking a 15 per cent wage increase over the next three years.

George Konstantopoulos, Transdev’s General Manager Operations & Customer Experience, apologised for the inconvenience the industrial action will cause and advised passengers to make alternative plans for travel on Thursday, 16 August 2018.

“The TWU’s decision to stop work for 24 hours hurts our customers, especially those on routes where there are limited or no other public transport options.

“Our customers — including students, the elderly and vulnerable Victorians who rely on our buses everyday — will be hurt the most because of this action,” Mr Konstantopoulos said.

“We will continue to work with the TWU to resolve this dispute and urge the union to reconsider the decision to stop work, because of the significant disruption and distress it will cause passengers and the broader community.”

A statement from the TWU said the union had been encouraged by the positive progress of talks with CDC, however TWU (VIC/TAS Branch) Secretary John Berger said they broke down at mediation without an agreement being reached.

“While our members do not take any joy in inconveniencing the community they serve, they also need to look after themselves and their own families.

“These hard-working members are worth more than what the company have put on the table and have indicated that they are willing to continue to fight for a decent living wage and a secure future.”

 DART Bus Lane upgrades 

Meanwhile, bus lanes for the Doncaster Area Rapid Transit (DART) buses will commence construction on Doncaster and Blackburn Roads.

VicRoads advise that they are building new, dedicated citybound bus lanes along Doncaster Road between the Doncaster ‘Park and Ride’ facility and the Eastern Freeway entrance to improve bus travel times.

These works include:

  • widening the road along the median island
  • building a new kerb and channel
  • laying a new, smoother road surface that will be painted red to classify it as a bus lane

Work on Doncaster Road is expected to begin in mid- August and finish early September.

Blackburn Road will have dedicated citybound bus lanes along Blackburn Road between Canopus Drive and Bellevue Avenue to help improve bus travel times.

These works include:

  • widening the road along the median and service road traffic islands • building a new kerb
  • rebuilding the Canopus Drive bus stop near the BP service station
  • laying a new, smoother road surface that will be painted red to classify it as a bus lane

Work on Blackburn Road is expected to begin in early September and finish mid-October.

Bus services will continue operating during works.

Pedal to the metal at Lions’ rip-roaring track day

The sun smiled down on Sandown Raceway on the first Sunday of July, setting perfect conditions for The Lions Club of Warrandyte’s 22nd edition of In The Driver’s Seat.

This annual event gives visually impaired persons (VIPs) the opportunity to get behind the wheel and drive a few laps of the raceway, under the supervision of a qualified driving instructor.

In Victoria, drivers need to have a Visual Acuity of 6/12 which is measured by reading the letters on an eye chart positioned six metres away. For those who are visually impaired, the inability to read this chart means they are not legally able to drive.

For people who have passed their driving test, the loss of their licence can exacerbate their sense of loss of freedom.

In The Driver’s Seat at Sandown is therefore a high point on each participant’s calendar and each year, the event expands as new VIPs sign up and previous participants return to, once again, get behind the wheel.

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John Pope, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 2013; a rare, degenerative, inherited eye disease with symptoms which include reduced vision in low light and tunnel vision.

“I had been driving for about 40 years…I drove taxis for 20 years, I drove trucks, it was a big part of my life.”

John explained how a trip to the ophthalmologist, five years ago, had suddenly dissected an activity which was a big part of his life.

“The ophthalmologist asked me if my wife had driven me here, I said yes and she said ‘well she’s driving you home’ and that was it.”

Throughout the day, VIPs told their stories of how accidents and degenerative eye diseases had forced them out of the driver’s seat and one thing was clear, days such as this allow them to experience the pleasure of driving once again, something which they clearly miss and is why they keep coming back year after year.

“This is my third time here,” said John.

Ken Gunning stopped driving in 1983 due to his degrading eyesight and after hearing about the day, first came along in 2000.

Ken travels down from Ballarat each year to attend this event, so I asked him what compels him to come back year-after-year.

“The idea that I can have a drive, on my own, without being on the road doing something silly.

“[Out on the track] the speed doesn’t worry me; this afternoon I ended up going over 100kph but if I hadn’t it would not have been a problem — it is more about being in control of the car.”

Ken remembers busloads of VIPs coming in from Geelong, Castlemaine and Bendigo in previous years and although numbers today may not be as high as in the past, Lions Club volunteers and driving instructors turn up, every year to give a sizable group of VIPs some quality track time.

When getting behind the wheel, each VIP has a conversation with the instructor before taking the car onto the track, the instructor assesses the extent of their vision and driving experience and tailors their instructions to that person’s specific needs.

These needs vary from person to person and can mean as little as saying “on” or “off”, while the instructor changes gears, and “brake”, to more complex instructions which may include distance to the corner, when to turn and how much to turn.

It is clear the instructors get as much out of this day as the VIPs.

“I found out about this about 10 years ago and have been back most years since,” said Rowan White, a Melbourne based driving instructor.

“Initially I got an awful lot out of it because one has to be really precise and establish a rapport with a vision impaired person, with any driver, but particularly with a vision impaired driver… it really helped me refine the way I assess people of what they can do and what I can give back to them.”

The event was also supported by Vision Australia, a not-for-profit organisation which supports blind and low vision Australians in helping them become more independent.

Vision Australia’s Access Technology Specialist, Elise Lonsdale was there on the day.

“Because I am vision impaired myself, I’ve not been behind the wheel of a car for a long, long time and it is one of the things I have always wanted to do… and realistically one can’t with low vision, so I took the opportunity today to get in on the fun and I was on the first drive and had a ball.”

Vision Australia’s attendance and coverage of the day by both Channel Nine and Channel Ten brought welcomed publicity to the day. In The Driver’s Seat is the brain child of the Lions Club of Warrandyte.

Pete Watts set up the day 22 years ago when his vision was damaged by glaucoma and Pete became aware of the debilitating effect of vision impairment.

From that first event to now, and into the future, driving instructors bring along their cars and give their time for free to these VIPs, to give back a piece of their old life for a few laps. Murray Rowland, 56, began to lose his eyesight at the age of 17.

“Now I don’t see past my nose; I just see dark and light perception.

“What I get out of today is what the sighted take for granted — driving a motor car every day.

“Going down the straight…and hearing the roar of the motor and knowing I am in control of it, not the driving instructor or someone else, is just a really exciting and fun time.”

A self-confessed lead foot, the smile on Murray’s face speaks volumes about what this day means to the visually impaired and blind.

“The smile will be there on my face for a week…and I just thank everybody who puts it together because it is just an awesome experience…we do not get this chance except for this one day of the year.”

I was given an opportunity to join one of the VIPs on their run of laps.

Strapped in to the back seat trying to hold the camera steady while the driving instructor and the VIP tested our nerves as we accelerated towards 100kph on the front and back straights was better than any theme park thrill ride and the joy in the voice of my VIP driver, John, was infectious.

After seven laps of accelerating, braking, turning and overtaking — at speed — I am not sure if the driver had more fun or I did.

The excitement was exhilarating and I can see why people like John come back year after year.

However, there is more to the day than just driving instructors assisting the visually impaired to relive the joy of driving.

A contingent of classic cars and the Ulysses Motorcycle Club were also in attendance to take anybody there on a hot lap around the track in a variety of vehicles.

The Ulysses Club have been coming to the event since 2012.

“It’s the children, mainly, that brings us here,” said Homer, Ulysses Club member and the club’s liaison at the event.

“We just like seeing their faces smile when they’ve gone for a ride, it gives us a buzz.”

The contribution to this event by classic car owners and the Ulysses Club make this day a great family day out for friends and family of the visually impaired and for the handful of volunteers.

“We offer rides around the track when it is our time on the track, we also offer rides around the car park and the side street.

“They get to enjoy all bits of it — they get the buzz of the speed and some may even ask if we can go a little bit faster,” said Homer.

Even though this event is run in Springvale, attracting the support of national organisations such as Vision Australia and the Ulysses Club brings in the blind and visually impaired from all over the state, and beyond, it is still, at its core, a Lions Club of Warrandyte event.

“We’ve got about 100 VIPs today,” said Jenni Dean, Lions Club of Warrandyte President.

“We’ve had people come from America just to drive around the track, they’ll even fly over from New Zealand — I think it is fantastic.”

After more than 20 years of running this event, the organisational workflow is very efficient which is lucky as year on year the Lions Club of Warrandyte seems to get smaller and smaller with only a handful of current members in both the Lions and the Leos.

“We’d love it if people out there would want to join the Lions Club in Warrandyte, they too could then get an experience like this,” said Jenni.

Bolstered by the support of Nillumbik, Park Orchards and Noble Park Lions Clubs and a handful of volunteers from within the community, the Warrandyte Lions were able to put together another brilliant day at Sandown and both the attending VIPs and myself look forward to coming back next year.

Opening the door to reconciliation

THE COUNCIL chambers’ gallery was filled with friends, family and colleagues on April 24 as Doctor Jim Poulter was presented with Manningham’s Key to the City.

Jim’s important works with Reconciliation Manningham, as a social advocate and as a member of Manningham’s University of the Third Age is the reason Council chose to recognise him with one of the highest honours they can bestow.

Many Diary readers will recognise Jim’s name from his Indigenous history column, Birrarung Stories.

Manningham Mayor Andrew Conlon had this to say before presenting Jim with his award:

“Jim has made a significant contribution to the reconciliation movement.
“Jim has worked closely with Aboriginal Elders and Indigenous organisations to produce educational material on Aboriginal history and cultural practices… has published 25 books, including several acclaimed Aboriginal-themed children’s books, and sold more than 70,000 copies in the past 30 years.
“This includes several acclaimed Aboriginal themed children’s books.
“Jim was also a founding member of Doncare and the Manningham Community Health Centre.
“Since retirement, Jim continues to contribute to the community, giving talks on Aboriginal history and heritage as well as conducting history walks along the Yarra River in Manningham.”

“This is a vehicle to do more — if they are going to give me a key to the city, well it’s got to unlock something, even if it is only their minds.”

At an intimate reception held in the Manningham function rooms following the council meeting, Jim spoke about the significance of his award and his feeling that this is a positive step forward in recognising the rights of Indigenous Australians.

“It’s gratifying to have achievements recognised, but the reality is nobody achieves anything without the help and support of family, friends and colleagues.

“Life’s a journey and we are all involved in journeys with each other and some of our common journeys are for a short time, a long time or sometimes a lifetime,” he said gesturing to his wife of 60 years.

Jim later expanded on the significant role his wife and family have played in enabling him to give in the way he has and how his wife is there to “hose me down every now and again when I get too exuberant”.

Jim concluded his thank you speech with his vision of the future of reconciliation in Manningham.

“This is not the culmination of anything, this is the start of the next phase and gives us the opportunity to get the view of council of what we will be doing next, to make sure that the myth of terra nullius is put to bed in Manningham.

“Council has established a reputation as the leading municipality in reconciliation… so tonight is about building on that.”