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Thursday, 23 August 2001
Page: 30207

Mr NEVILLE (11:20 AM) —I am proud to confirm today that the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in my electorate of Hinkler. There is a little community in my electorate at the junction of the Bruce and Isis Highways known delightfully as Apple Tree Creek, and the community very much mirrors its name. It was once a community that had a full range of services, including the Huxley Sugar Mill, but sadly the vagaries of modern transport have meant that it is reduced to only a core of its original size. Nevertheless, it is a very beautiful place. It is indicative of many villages around Australia. It has a beautiful sportsground with a lovely 100-year-old band rotunda, a magnificent World War I memorial recently restored and rededicated by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, a pub, a service station, from time to time tearooms and a truly magnificent park that is a favourite stopover for people accessing the Bruce Highway. But that is not the purpose of this story; the purpose is to tell you that my wife and I were honoured to attend a function in the little Apple Tree Creek Memorial Hall last Saturday night. The event was the Volunteers Ball. It was a ball to honour all the volunteers of the district and to acknowledge their contribution to the International Year of Volunteers.

I suppose what sets Apple Tree Creek, in the Childers district in the Isis shire, apart from other communities is this entrenched ethos of volunteerism. It came out very forcefully that night. The walls were adorned with the banners of Rotary, Lions, the Red Cross, the CWA, the State Emergency Service, bush fire brigades and just about every other imaginable organisation that you could think of. It reflected the collective pride of that district and their can-do attitude to the difficulties that they face. That came through very forcibly, as you will all remember, in the backpackers fire at Childers 12 months ago.

It was a lovely ball. The orchestra, led by Bev Lee of the Revelliers—as she calls them— put on a marvellous show in the Apple Tree Creek Memorial Hall, a typical hall with a beautifully polished floor. The community made a real effort on that occasion. One of the guests was Dudley Martin, the regional winner of the National Volunteer Awards. This very unassuming man from Childers has an incredible portfolio of volunteer organisations to which he dedicates his time, including the local pony club, Legacy, the Red Cross, the show society and the Blue Nurses.

Also epitomising the spirit of self-help and volunteerism was 75-year-old Audrey O'Brien, who has been taking the tea and sandwiches around the hall at gatherings like this for 55 years. In fact, the hall has only been there for 52 years—she even did three years of this in the old hall, which was further up the road. It was like a typical dance in a country area. In the old days, of course, the basket came around with the cups in it. On this occasion, modern activity has taken us to the polystyrene mug. Nevertheless, that same spirit was there, and Audrey O'Brien was still doing it 55 years on.

The chairman of the Apple Tree Creek Memorial Hall Committee, Robert Goding, was the MC for the night and did an absolutely marvellous job. Robert is a local plumber and former councillor of the shire. He and the secretary of the committee, Linda Rapley, did a truly magnificent job in setting the night apart. I thought that this small community was typical of what goes on in a lot of regional and rural communities. It deserved to be acknowledged. It showed that the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well and does not just exist in big cities and in provincial cities but goes down to the smallest villages—very ordinary people doing an extraordinary job.