Gunnedah’s ANZAC Park, home to Australia’s only memorial statue of iconic poet Dorothea Mackellar, is about to undergo an extensive beautification program made possible through a local community partnership.
BHP Billiton has committed $57,000 from its Caroona Coal Project Community Fund towards the project.
Other community partners in the project include the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society, Gunnedah Shire Council, the Namoi Catchment Management Authority and local businesses.
The 18-month project, starting early next year, will include the construction of a new irrigation system, paving and seating and extensive landscaping around the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial.
Project Officer for the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society, Mila Stone, said the commitment made by a number of local groups and businesses towards the park’s revitalisation demonstrated the deep connection Gunnedah has with Dorothea Mackellar and the legacy she has left through her poetry.
“The Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society and Poetry Awards are the oldest and largest national poetry competition in Australia, with a 30-year history and this project is to commemorate this important milestone,” Ms Stone said.
Stephen David, Caroona Coal’s Head of Projects, said that BHP Billiton supported the project because of the contribution it would make to towards the arts and cultural and community development in the region.
“Dorothea Mackellar has strong cultural significance in the Gunnedah region and this project will further connect that heritage to the local community,” Mr David said.
“The society hopes that through this initiative the nostalgia associated with Dorothea Mackellar will continue to be a source of inspiration for generations to come.
“The new park area opposite the Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre, will also provide a place of rest and contemplation both for local residents and visitors to the region.”
The project will include a concrete path with decorative gravel, relocated Koala Seat, an irrigation system, cleaning of the statue an upgrade of gardens.
Mr David said BHP Billiton has invested more than $3.9 million in local community projects since establishing the Caroona Coal Project Community Fund in 2009.
The Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Society, which runs annual national children’s poetry competition, will oversee the development with the assistance of a number of sponsors, Gunnedah Shire Council and local organisations.
Meanwhile, Gunnedah and District Historical Society has become the caretaker of the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Poetry Society’s archives, with the poetry competition’s history now in safe keeping at the Gunnedah Water Tower Museum, along with a collection of Dorothea’s books and other memorabilia.
About Dorothea Mackellar
A THIRD generation Australian, Dorothea Mackellar was born on July 1, 1885, at her parents’ home in Point Piper, Sydney.
Well educated and travelled both in Australia and overseas, Dorothea often visited her family’s properties The Rampadells and Kurrumbede near Gunnedah.
Many of her works, such as Dawn, published in 1911, were inspired by the local landscape.
The memorial statue was a long-held dream for the late Mikie Maas OAM, who started a fund-raising campaign and was astounded when donations began pouring in from all over the country and the Pacific Islands.
The statue of Dorothea Mackellar was created by Sydney sculptor Dennis Adams and unveiled by poet, Rosemary Dobson, who praised Gunnedah’s “gallantry” in honouring Dorothea.
The unveiling of the statue went ahead as scheduled on Australia Day 1983, despite the fact that Dorothea’s horse had an unfortunate accident in the sculptor’s studio when a mould for one of its legs broke.
The plaque had already been cast and all arrangements were made so Dorothea was unveiled sitting on a hessian-covered box but no-one seemed to mind.
Today the Dorothea Mackellar Memorial statue is a major tourist attraction with poetry lovers everywhere stopping off to pay a visit.
Jockey Ray Selkrig visited the statue and commented that it was the best sculpture of a horse he had ever seen.
The Dorothea Mackellar Memorial Poetry Competition for schools, also initiated by Mikie Maas, has grown from a small seed to a nationwide event, attracting thousand of entries from all over Australia.
For more information on Dorothea Mackellar visit http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive