Nhill pair recounts refugees’ value

web millington visit beechworthCOMMUNITY: John and Margaret Millington with Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor and Allan Shallue (right), Ms Millington’s father, at Rotary Hall in Beechworth last week. PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

A COMPELLING story by the Wimmera’s Margaret Millington – who grew up in Beechworth – and husband John about work with refugees that transformed a small country town was told to a Beechworth Rural Australians for Refugees’ forum in a packed Rotary Hall in Queen Victoria Park on November 30.

With collaboration, help and support through an open-minded community, the Millingtons told how the community of Nhill worked to resettle about 200 Karen refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar (formally known as Burma) from 2009.

Ms Millington said that her husband was general manager of a successful poultry processing company known as Luv-A-Duck when he became aware of a resettlement program placing the Karen in 31 countries, including Australia.

She said the expanding company had a limited local workforce and perceived an opportunity in the resettlement scheme.

But first the pair co-opted the support of others and consulted all sections of the Nhill community.

“It was important to have everyone with us and go on this journey,” Ms Millington said.

The prospect garnered overwhelming community interest and the couple helped to drive the Karen resettlement, starting with jobs for five at Luv-A-Duck and accommodation arranged for them by generous townsfolk.

More than 50 Karen refugees are now employed at Luv-A-Duck in diverse jobs, with another 15 businesses employing 30.

Others have gained confidence to start their own businesses.

“Their work ethic, loyalty and enthusiasm make them valuable employees,” Ms Millington said.

Eighteen families had also since bought their own homes and one elderly Nhill resident gifted her house for use as a Karen community centre when she moved to a retirement home.

Ms Millington said the Karen were actively involved in the community in such pursuits as sport and volunteering, and many had learned many new life skills through their employment and community support, including the town’s neighbourhood centre.

She said the Karen now made up 10 per cent of the town’s population and wanted to assimilate and give back to the community.

Ms Millington said 60 of them had become Australian citizens since 2012.

The couple’s and the community’s initiative had generated benefits valued by Deloitte at almost $42 million and the creation of 80 jobs for the local economy – contributing to the town’s infrastructure and social development.

“There has been success in so many ways for local businesses that have a reliable workforce and the Karen have a place to call home,” Ms Millington said.

 

“Life is so short – if only we could only all accept each for who we are, appreciate what we have, then maybe there would be peace and harmony in our world, and maybe there will then be no such thing as a refugee.”

Indigo mayor Jenny O’Connor, who welcomed the Millingtons to the talk, said the shire had become a designated safe haven for refugees in 2015.

“Rural communities do care about refugees and our dedicated community has strongly voiced its support for refugees where they are welcome and can be safe,” she said.

Beechworth RAR convenor Jamie Kronborg said Nhill and the Karen had demonstrated what could be achieved when a community “walked towards possibility and was open to an idea”.

He said some discussion was taking place in the North East and Indigo to explore what could be offered by local communities.

Ms Millington was a student at Beechworth’s St Joseph’s Primary School when a young girl.

This post is part of the thread: Border refugees and asylum seekers – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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Hasty tree chop

web gaol treesONE DOWN: One of the white poplars felled at Old Beechworth Gaol last week. PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

OLD Beechworth Gaol’s inattention to the community’s efforts to celebrate its significant trees has led to the loss of one of them.

The goal, managed by the Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship, for several months has been using a work gang to fell trees near the colonial-built prison’s western perimeter granite-block wall and adjacent High Street because of senescence – old age – and apparent disease.

ACRE’s Matt Pfahlert said last week that poplars had been suckering into the gaol courtyard and Heritage Victoria’s advice had been sought because of the property’s Victorian heritage registration.

It approved the trees’ removal.

But in the process the gaol felled a white poplar featured in Beechworth Treescape Group’s ‘Town tree walks’ and, as a result, rendered its popular brochure inaccurate.

The volunteer group has spent years identifying Beechworth’s significant and historic trees – particularly at Mayday Hills and in the town’s historic heart – and publishing brochures to encourage visitors and local people to take a series of recommended walks to appreciate the trees, which are all numbered.

One of these was Populus alba near the gaol wall.

“Beechworth Treescape Group  and the general community were given no prior indication of the intention to fell the poplars,” said group secretary Vivienne Harvey.

“When trees which are significant in the streetscape are to be removed an open and transparent process should be followed and communicated to the public before the event in order to avoid shock, anger and misinformation.”

Ms Harvey said it was disappointing that neither Old Beechworth Gaol nor its horticultural advisers had consulted the group – a voluntary community organisation set up to promote Beechworth’s treescapes.

“The trees were part of our ‘Town tree walks’,” Ms Harvey said.

“One of the trees was clearly labelled as such.

“This loss renders the printed brochures inaccurate and confusing.”

Old Gaol Clayton Neil confirmed that the gaol had apologised for the felling the tree without first talking to the group.

“Beechworth Treescape Group will be really important in master planning for the (gaol) site,” he said.

“We want to encourage them to contribute their ideas to what the gaol will be into the future.”

This post is part of the thread: Beechworth old gaol – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

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Burke lights rare chamber sound

web grigoryan bros 3IN DEMAND: Burke Museum collections manager Linda Peacock with Slava and Leonard Grigoryan. PHOTO: Frank Connell

A PACKED house, taxidermised thylacine and a great – still – flight of birds and beaming collections manager Linda Peacock greeted Australia’s finest classical guitarists at Beechworth’s Burke Museum on Friday evening.

Ms Peacock a few months ago secured a grant from Creative Victoria that enabled her to entice brothers Slava and Leonard Grigoryan to play in the museum before just 60 ticketholders.

“What I was hoping to do was introduce the idea of the space as community venue like it was in the 1800s when it was an athenaeum,” she said yesterday.

“I love idea of using it for the community – it’s so beautiful.”

The exhibits at the front of the museum were moved for the concert, making a space that numerous listeners said created a fine acoustic chamber.

The museum also used special lighting for the brothers’ performance.

“Given it was such success we’re very keen to continue it with some sort of program for other forms of performance,” Ms Peacock said.

“What restricts us, of course, is cost – we were really lucky to get that grant.

“But we’ll certainly be looking at other opportunities and ideas.”

Burke Museum and historic precinct and Indigo heritage manager Cameron Auty said the Grigoryan brothers’ concert had been a “novel experience and a test case – but a huge success”.

“We weren’t sure how it would go but we ended up with all tickets sold out inside 24 hours and a huge waiting list,” he said.

“And (the concert) was a really beautiful experience.

“It was really special to see the museum come to life in that way.

“It shows an opportunity to bring different people to the Burke through live music.

“It could be pretty big.”

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Anglican church casts new ‘fisher’

web priest 5567NEW LIGHT: Thomas Leslie hears a sermon by commissioning Wangaratta bishop John Parkes in Beechworth's Anglican Christ Church on November 30. PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

THOMAS Leslie was last Thursday – Saint Andrew’s Day – inducted as priest of Beechworth-Eldorado Anglican parish at Beechworth’s historic Christ Church in a service brimming with the ritual and tradition that comes with two millennia of Christian history.

The former priest at Yea and Molesworth, team minister and at one time chaplain of Wangaratta’s Cathedral College was joined by his parents, 15 of his peers and a congregation of parishioners and visitors as he was commissioned in the post by Wangaratta bishop John Parkes.

He was welcomed formally to Christ Church and to the diocese by Anglican archdeacon of the Hume Peter Macleod-Miller, robed in ceremonial vestments, before Fr Leslie was commended by Yea parishioner John Anderson to the bishop.

The bishop then preached a sermon in which trout fishing featured – a favoured pursuit of the senior cleric – but symbolic of the saint’s day on which the induction took place.

According to the Bible’s new testament, apostles Andrew and his brother, Simon Peter, were charged by Christ to be “fishers of men”.

The bishop later commissioned Fr Leslie and delivered to him his licence bearing the waxed seal of the diocese.

He was also presented by his new parishioners with symbols of Christian ministry and priesthood – a Bible, prayer book, ewer of water, purple stole, a vial of holy oil, communion elements of bread and wine, a towel and parish registers.

Christ Church music director Sandra Williams performed at the church’s historic William Anderson pipe organ for the service, which she ended with Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s ‘Te Deum’ prelude as the recessional.

Parishioners and clergy later gathered in Quercus Beechworth’s Oregon Hall for a celebration.

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Transforming a French legacy

web wine 1514RARE EARTH: Peter Bartholomew and Donna Pelka with viticulturalist Mark Walpole in Ambrose Granjeux’s 1860 vineyard where new chardonnay and shiraz is to be grown. PHOTO: Jamie Kronborg

AN extraordinary transformation is this week taking place on a rare plot of earth above Beechworth gorge.

Donna Pelka, Peter Bartholomew and viticulturalist Mark Walpole are replanting a vineyard that was among the first in colonial times to yield grapes for wine in Beechworth and the North East.

Mark has combed 1860s newspapers – including this one – for mentions of Beechworth’s viticultural development and in the ‘Australasian’ in Melbourne, from January 6, 1866, discovered this:

“…The only Newtown vineyard which has yet produced wine in quantity, that of Mr Granjoux (the name is spelled in various ways), contains three acres of six-year-old vines,” its correspondent reported.

“The soil is a middling brown…a mixture of decomposed granite and clay slate. The following are the kinds of grapes grown – scyras (probably misspelled shiraz), malbec, riesling, tokay, golden chasselas…”

Mark said much was known about the site from the old newspaper records, of which he’s amassed clippings about three centimetres thick.

“We’re setting the vineyard up as it was in 1860,” he said.

“We’re planting about 6000 vines – just chardonnay and shiraz – and we’re using the system as typically used in the Rhône Valley in France, where the vines are trained up the stake.

“The soils are very similar to northern Rhône so we’re using the same rootstocks as are used in that region, and climatically it’s very similar to the Northern Rhône, too.

“In viticultural terms it’s perfect.”

Peter, a highly-regarded restaurant investor, and Donna, a lawyer, say the redevelopment is first “a labour of love”.

But within a few seasons, within its unique drystone granite walls, it will produce wine under a name that is yet to be decided – a legacy, in its way, of Ambrose Granjeux, who is thought to have come from Bordeaux.

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Yack lights up with ideas

WEB_try-yackandandah-pair_pe_c5_20170208ASPIRATIONAL: Totally Renewable Yackandandah co-chairs Matt Grogan and Matt Charles-Jones.

TOTALLY Renewable Yackandandah’s ‘Banksia Award’ for community sustainability and resilience will be on display in Yackandandah on Friday for the community’s ‘Festival of dangerous ideas’.

TRY co-chair Denis Ginnivan had an opportunity to speak about the award – which was presented in Sydney early this month – and also display the prize sculpture at an Indigo Shire Council meeting in Beechworth last night.

The Banksia Foundation, which has the world’s longest-running sustainability recognition award program, acknowledged the tremendous efforts by TRY to deliver totally renewable energy for Yackandandah by 2022.

TRY is working to transition to renewable electricity by matching energy efficiency upgrades with rooftop solar generation, batteries and smart control systems.

Mr Ginnivan said the group ultimately aimed to host interconnected mini-grids within Yackandandah and couple these with larger generation and storage systems that were supported by a community energy retailer.

“The award is a testament to the Yackandandah community’s creativity and willingness to explore big ideas,” he said.

Yackandandah will explore totally renewable energy and other community development ideas at tomorrow’s festival, which starts at 12pm in Yackandandah Public Hall. It will end in the evening with a community street party.

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