For the farming village of Boorowa in the Hilltops area of NSW, events on Australia Day provided some much needed distraction from the drought while bringing people together for a celebration of community.
A deacon for the Catholic Church, Patrick Whale, was named Boorowa’s Australia Day Citizen of the Year, in recognition for his work in Saint Patrick’s parish presiding over baptisms, weddings and funerals, and supporting links with other denominations.
Whale is well-entrenched in the region. In 2006 he sold the family’s sheep and cattle farm at nearby Frogmore, and these days, as well as communion services, he delivers bulletins to nearby villages Galong and Binalong.
“This keeps a presence here, a faith community, which is important. It binds them together in a way,” Whale says.
Many bountiful and not-so-good seasons have come and gone since the area was settled.
These days, the parched district 112 kilometres north of Canberra is desperate for rain. Years have passed since a sea of bright yellow canola crops in moist soil surrounded the town. Farmers and businesses are feeling the pinch from the drought, and civic events that lift people’s morale take on more importance.
On Australia Day, volunteers showed extraordinary pluck to refresh spirits and think of others.
Early on the Sunday morning, a shearer with a bucket of tiger worms, Rotarians with 280 tiny yellow rubber ducks and a mob of children gathered around a pond on Ryan’s Creek that wends through Boorowa.
The creek, which flows into the Boorowa River, not only has water, but there are carp and redfin in there too. They are a pest unless you’re entertaining children in a harsh summer. Which brings us to Gavin Campbell and his bucket of crimson-red wrigglers from his worm farm.
Campbell organises the Australia Day junior fishing competition. The carp weren’t biting, but a couple of redfin fell for the worms. At 11 am, the children’s lines were pulled out, leaving the pond free for a rubber duck race.
Rotarian Sina Banks says the ducks were cast adrift from a bridge over the creek, each one having been purchased for $2 by residents, given a number and sent on their way at the end of a strong hosing from the fire brigade.
Wayne Harvey’s duck (no. 82) was first home. Harvey donated his winnings back, adding to the overall $700 raised for Rotary Australia World Communities Services and contributed to the Australian Bushfire Appeal.
On this day of celebrating the community, Boorowa Central School’s captain Byron Campbell and Mackellar Pye handled master of ceremony duties.
A retired builder Bede Morrisey and Jo Snelling, wife of the committee’s president John, sang the national anthem.
Morrisey, meanwhile, was awarded the Len and Joan Oxley Memorial Award, which honours the original founders of Boorowa’s Australia Day celebrations.
Other community awards were given to Sina Banks, Jack Ryan, Chris Corcoran and Sharon Meere.