What an amazing few days in Wudinna...
Thursday afternoon saw Sue DuBois open the photographic exhibition in the Wudinna Town Hall in which people had made family displays of old records and photographs. Residents from Trudinger Aged Care Complex were taken along and they were able to sit, browse and interact with many visitors who had returned for these events.
People had returned from far and wide and travellers had stayed just to enjoy the experience. Others had heard about the “Australian Farmer” and just wanted to see it for themselves.
This was such a happy time for the sculptor Marijan Bekic and his son David sharing the praise and appreciation of a grateful community in the company of his lovely wife Jasna.
Thursday evening Peter Goers broadcasted from the Wudinna Community Club where meals were served. Mr Goers spoke with great passion about the effect the sculpture had on him and others who have seen it. He noted how the community had entrusted the design and work to Marijan who in the two years he has been living and working in Wudinna has endeared himself to the community and become a much loved “artist in residence”.
It was a fantastic evening with Mr Goers entertaining a packed audience, and cooks and volunteers in the kitchen earned a gold medal for their wonderful effort in providing food for numbers which must have far exceeded their expectation and planning. The club was packed to capacity
The sculpture is an amazing feat, a great work or art and Marijan and his son David are really nice people to know; it has been a pleasure to have them here among the people of Wudinna. His wife Jasna has been very generous in allowing her husband to be here and they have both made sacrifices living apart for most of the time. It has also been a time which has allowed for such generosity of spirit donations of money and “work in kind” from the community here. The local community, corporate sponsors and friends state-wide have actually made this all possible. A lasting tribute to the spirit of pioneers everywhere as these farming communities were settled and endured great hardships to do so.
Friday morning saw a free cooked breakfast on the site of the Australian Farmer and Wudinna and Districts Telecentre land sponsored by the new Bendigo Bank agency housed in the telecentre. The Bendigo Bank was officially opened and praise was given to Elaine and Graham Waters for the work they had put into getting the new premises built inside the telecentre.
Wudinna District Council chairman Tim Scholz and Bendigo state manager for South Australia and Northern Territory John Oliver said there is no evidence that in any other town where the Bendigo has opened it has adversely affected any existing bank.
John Oliver stressed that the Bendigo Community Bank works slightly different to other banks in that the capital is returned to the local community whereas all other banks take capital out of their communities. On the Eyre Peninsula over $600,000 has been returned to the local communities since they opened.
It was decided that the most effective way to provide Bendigo banking facilities in Wudinna was to make it an agency of the Cummins branch. Chris Miller is the branch manager of the Bendigo Bank in Cummins and he plans to visit Wudinna fortnightly initially; he will come more often or less according to demand. Mr Miller once worked for a Bank which no longer has a Branch in Wudinna and he is familiar with the area.
Eleanor Scholz explained something of how the telecentre came into being and how it currently operates and why incorporating a branch within the building was such a good idea. The staff already working in the telecentre have all been trained to work in the Bendigo agency and this is very cost effective. Jade Klante, Kylie Freak, Rita Spencer and when she returns from maternity leave Donna Mullan either have been or will be fully trained and able to assist.
The bank now needs community support. They gave $5000 sponsorship to the motocross held in Wudinna recently even though they are so new they have yet to generate a lot of business. This is an indication of how by supporting them we can also support events in our local community.
Friday night’s official opening was spectacular with over 1000 attending including press and many photographers, Federal MP Rowan Ramsey, State MP Liz Penfold, Wilbur Klein and Peter Treloar, along with many past residents and tourists just travelling through or holidaying on the Eyre Peninsula.
Food and craft s were on display and souvenirs available including Wudinna beer and wine labelled as collectables.
This project was first envisaged about 15 years ago when a group of dedicated people had a dream which seemed impossible at the time and amazingly is now a reality.
The evening started with Marie O’Brien and a large group of children singing “I still call Australia home” while standing under the statue. Following this the Sculpture Committee along with Marijan and David Bekic stood under the statue. Cr Tim Scholz and Cr Eleanor Scholz, both active sculpture committee members, thanked everyone for their commitment and spoke again of the journey from idea to fulfilment and of the sculptor Mr Bekic’s enthusiasm and willingness to remain involved over all these years.
Mr Bekic spoke about his vision and involvement from the start and how much he has enjoyed being in Wudinna and how especially precious was the chance to work with his son David during the project. Mr Bekic said how proud he was that his Croatian community generously donated $18,000 in thanks to their adopted country. He said that Wudinna was a “can do” community.
He will now be able to return home to his family in Sydney. This will take some time as he has collected a huge amount of belongings during his two-year stay.
The covering was removed from the statue by committee members and Mr Bekic cut the ribbon around the statue and the project was declared officially open.
Mr Bekic was told he was to receive a gift which was “for him but he couldn’t have it or take it away”. This turned out to be a magnificent painting by Rosemary Woodford Ganf of the sculptor which would be put on display so everyone could remember the artist as he was seen by everyone who met him on site.
Following the opening, fireworks were set off and the Mother’s Little Helper band played late into the night. A huge marque had been erected with tables and chairs in preparation in case it rained. Many thanks go to all who worked during the opening and a special thank you to those locals who provided all the equipment and the huge amount of voluntary hours needed to make this a huge success.
Sunday morning a ecumenical service was held in the marquee as a celebration of God’s creation and human creativity and to give thanks for this work of art. Following the service, Father John Folkman blessed the granite and sprinkled holy water, walking right around the base and blessed each portion.
This has been an overwhelmingly emotional time for Mr Bekic and he wanted to speak to those present again. He jokingly said that when he came to Wudinna he couldn’t speak in front of people and now we can’t shut him up. He publicly thanked his wife Jasna. for the sacrifices she and his daughters had to make to allow him and David to be here and how difficult life can be living with an “artist”. He also thanked Marlene Boylan for not only accommodating them during this time but providing a “home”.
Because this had been such a busy time an unscheduled barbecue was arranged for in Apex Park and anyone who wished was invited to attend. At least 50 people took advantage of this and shared a lovely time of fellowship .