27 December 2021

2021 Year in Review: Stories from the community

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The best of the Canberra community shone through in so many wonderful stories during a difficult year.

We said goodbye to old friends, hunted for painted treasures on our lockdown walks and fell in love with some alpacas looking for a new home.

Take a look back at the stories that gave us a smile (and maybe a tear or two) in 2021.

10. ‘Whatever will happen to Dick?’ How an icon came to call Gundaroo home

Dick and Pip Smith

Dick Smith and his wife Pip on their travels to New Zealand. Photo: Marilyn Anderson.

The story of how Dick Smith came to live on a property 30 minutes outside Canberra is one of chance and his love of helicopters.

Whenever he can, the 77-year-old flies with his wife Pip from their Northern Sydney home to their 4000-acre property in the Yass Valley.

To Dick, this is living out bush, although he concedes it’s only a six-minute helicopter ride from Canberra.

9. Beloved principal Murray Bruce retires after 40 years in ACT public schools

Murray Bruce

Murray Bruce retired after 40 years of teaching Canberra’s kids. Photo: ACT Education Directorate.

After more than 40 years, school’s out for Murray Bruce.

Now retired, the popular Gordon principal saw generations of children go through the ACT’s public schools.

“You’re either the right person for teaching… or you’re not,” he said.

Needless to say, he was the right person.

8. Documentary shortlisted by SBS tells story of a show that must go on

Elwin Bell Jnr as shown in the documentary called The Carnival, by Batemans Bay-based film-maker Isabel Darling.

Elwin Bell Jnr as shown in the documentary called The Carnival, by Batemans Bay-based film-maker Isabel Darling. Photo: Supplied.

A documentary by a Batemans Bay filmmaker that tells the story of the Queanbeyan family behind Bell’s Amusements was shortlisted for SBS’s Australia Uncovered series.

The Carnival, directed by Isabel Darling, was a six-year labour of love that told the story of the family which has run Bell’s Amusements for more than 100 years.

Sadly it didn’t make the cut, but Isabel told Region Media the short film was a “fly-on-the-wall documentary of a family drama set in the backdrop of a carnival”.

7. Bidding farewell to the old Bay Bridge and its operators as new structure soars

Rodney Plumb on Batemans Bay Bridge.

Rodney Plumb has been operating the Batemans Bay Bridge for 20 years. Photo: David Jacobs.

For more than 20 years, Rodney Plumb quietly enjoyed one of the best views in the Eurobodalla, if not the whole NSW South Coast.

Perched high in the little cabin atop Batemans Bay bridge, he raised the span twice each day and gazed out to the Tollgate Islands while the ferry passed beneath.

As the massive new bridge was built, 78-year-old Rodney found himself out of a job.

6. Painted rocks turn Canberra walks into artistic, whimsical treasure hunts

A rock with love painted on it stuck between two boulders

You never knew where you’d find one of the painted rocks. Photo: Tiffany Fletcher.

Did you stumble across small, hand-painted rocks on your walks outside this year? The playful pastime grew as a huge trend in the ACT.

Across Canberra, locals lovingly applied artworks to rocks and then placed them in public parks, paths and other places for strangers to find.

Native animals, flowers, book characters, superheroes, fruit and messages of hope – the rocks sparked a moment of delight for those lucky enough to discover them.

5. Canberra’s beloved therapy alpacas are looking for a retirement home. Can you help?

Nils Lantzke

Nils Lantzke with two of his trained therapy alpacas. Photo: File.

There was a happy ending to the tale of the therapy alpacas who were looking for a new home this year.

The call went out for anyone with a spare five hectares, a shed and some cattle yards, to throw a lifeline to some of Canberra’s most beloved four-legged citizens.

Nils Lantzke’s therapy alpacas were looking for a new home when their agistment arrangements at Wallaroo ended … and the call was thankfully answered.

4. ‘Time for a well earned rest’: An institution in Canberra, Alan Jessup retires

Alan Jessup collecting Salvation Army donations outside Canberra Centre.

Alan Jessup working his last day on the job at the Canberra Centre on 23 March. Photo: Canberra City Salvos Facebook.

It was the end of an era for the Canberra City Salvation Army as they bid farewell to their iconic collector Alan Jessup, who retired at 90 years of age.

Mr Jessup first began taking collections for the Canberra City Corps of the Salvation Army outside what was then Monaro Mall 33 years ago and he’d been one of the Canberra Centre’s most familiar sights.

Perched on his mobility walker, Mr Jessup was a man of few words but always had a grateful “thanks, mate” at the ready.

3. Paul Jurak: The Kayakcameraman prepares to leave the city he fell in love with

Paul Jurak, aka the kayakcameraman, in his familiar red kayak. Photo: Kayakcameraman Paul Jurak.

The man who took some of the most iconic photographs of Canberra, Paul Jurak (aka the kayakcamerman), announced he was leaving the city that gave him hope in his darkest moments.

Taking photos began as therapy as he recovered from cancer and rapidly became part of Canberra folklore.

Paul estimated he’d taken over 100,000 shots of Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounds over the past decade.

2. Pauly and Bruiser to be reunited thanks to an outpouring of generosity and community spirit

Pauly and his dog bruiser

Pauly and his “best mate” Bruiser down at the Erindale Shops. Photo: Melissa McCormack.

An outpouring of community spirit and generosity helped reunite Erindale homeless man Pauly New with his best mate and beloved companion Bruiser.

Thousands of Canberrans followed the story of Bruiser being impounded and implored Domestic Animal Services (DAS) for his return.

So when Pauly’s sister announced that Bruiser had passed his temperament tests, many people had tears in their eyes and were ready to bust out the champagne.

1. Proud Ken Behrens: Canberrans embrace the lighter side of COVID lockdowns

Ken Behrens shout out

Our Spartacus Moment: The Chief gives a shout out to all of us – Ken Behrens. Photo: Twitter.

In our top spot: love it or hate it, Ken Behrens was the mistranslation that turned into an instant legend of the Canberra COVID lockdowns.

It fast became a shining example of Canberra’s indomitable spirit and humour as lockdowns wore on.

“I want to thank all Canberrans for doing the right thing,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said innocently in one of his daily press conference updates.

And thus the legend of Ken Behrens began.

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