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“Deloraine” Tasmania – a town on a mission

David Pyke

Executive Officer Governance, Meander valley council, Westbury, Tasmania

Introduction

Deloraine, Tasmania’s 1992, 1993 and 1995 State Tidy Towns Winner and the 1997 Australian Community of the Year has a population of 2,100 people and has been classified by the National Trust as a town of historical significance.

This picturesque rural community is situated exactly half way between Launceston and Devonport on the Bass Highway and nestles in a fertile valley dominated by Quamby Bluff and the Western Tiers.

In 1823 Governor Sorell sent Captain Rolland to explore the far west of Norfolk Plains (now Longford) and a district west (now Deloraine) to find suitable agricultural land. This expedition led to the opening up of the area and the naming of Mount Roland in honour of their leader and the renaming of the Western River to the Meander.

The Deloraine township was named by the Surveyor Scott, after Sir William Deloraine in “Lay of the Last Minstrel”, a poem by his kinsman Sir Walter Scott.

In 1825 Lieutenant Governor Arthur appointed Land Commissioners to assess the use of the land for future Crown Land leases and land grants but Deloraine district’s new settlers were amongst the first required to pay to take up leases.

To encourage development the laws were changed in the 1850s allowing land to be purchased for as little as one pound per acre. Settlement then grew rapidly despite the problems with bushrangers and transport, the latter being overcome when the State’s first rail link between Launceston and Deloraine was opened in 1872.

Deloraine’s features apart from the attractive landscape and the striking Western Tiers backdrop, include its colonial buildings originating from the 1830s and 1840s. Many of these charming, historical buildings are now used as galleries, craft centres, museums, restaurants and guest houses and prove to be very popular with tourists.

The Past

I will outline some of the major achievements that have occurred to the township over the past forty years:-

In the 1960s the Rotary Club of Deloraine was chartered along with other service clubs namely the Apex Club, the Rotary’s youth offshoot Rotaract and the Lions Club was also formed.

In the early days a number of major developments occurred namely the building of a swimming pool on the banks of the Meander River, a Rotary fountain situated next to the Library in the Main Street, the building of the first stage of St Mark’s Court (an elderly citizen’s home) and another home for the aged – “Grenoch”.

The Rotary Club also commenced the clean-up of the banks of the Meander River and built a pontoon that was used initially to ferry people across the river and was later used as an attraction at the Deloraine Fiesta which was an annual event held on the banks of the Meander River

In the late 1960s the Apex Caravan Park was constructed and is still a very popular campers site and attraction today.

Tidy Towns has played a major part in Deloraine’s maturity with its own program commencing in 1979, the same year as the Tidy Towns competition started in Tasmania.

The 1980s

In 1981 the Rotary Club began its annual “Learn to Swim” campaign for primary school children, an event held each Christmas during the school holidays and now caters for primary school children from Deloraine and surrounding areas. This campaign has proved to be very popular and still runs today with over 200 plus children attending over two weeks of tuition with qualified swimming instructors. The “Learn to Swim” campaign is fully subsidised by the Rotary Club and is offered free to the children participating.

1981 also saw the beginning of the largest craft fair in the southern hemisphere.

There were 30 stall holders in 1981 and this has now grown to over 200 craftspeople in 1999 at 15 venues attracting 30,000 patrons over the four days of the November long weekend to Deloraine.

The Craft Fair has been the recipient of many Tasmanian Tourism Awards over the years and profits now annually exceed $100,000 for the Rotary Club which is generously donated to community organisations within the Deloraine and surrounding community.

In January of 1987 the Rotary Club commenced the clearing of a three hectare area of land of blackberries, tea tree, native grasses and swamp to develop into an area known as Rotary Park.

Also in 1987 the model United Nations Assembly commenced that was run by the Rotary Club of Deloraine and this has been run every year since with 104 students representing 54 countries from 38 separate schools around the State participating this year.

1988 saw the official opening of the new Kanangra Hostel, an elderly citizen’s home which was the second stage of St Mark’s Homes. Kanangra was built on land that was donated by the then Deloraine Council.

The 1990s

The 1990s have probably been the most successful decade for the township of Deloraine as it has definitely bought the most success to the town over this ten year period.

1990 was the year that the township of Deloraine was by-passed and in June of that year the main street of Deloraine was closed to hold a street party, yes, to hold a party to celebrate the by-passing of the town.

The Federal Minister who officiated in the opening at the time, the Honourable Bob Brown MP commented that in all his years in politics this was the only town that he had ever known to throw a party to celebrate the by-passing of a town.

In 1991 the Meander Valley Enterprise Centre was Incorporated with the assistance of seed funding from both the Rotary Club and the then Deloraine Council.

The MVEC offers a range of services to assist small business, including payroll, secretarial and administrative support.

In addition, the MVEC provides work training skills under the Federal Government’s “Work for the Dole” programs.

The MVEC assists community based organisations with feasibility studies, funding applications, strategic and business plans likely to provide economic benefits for the Meander Valley area.

1992 was an exciting year for Deloraine as it was the year when the town won its first State Tidy Towns award. It may have taken 13 years for Deloraine to achieve its first title but it went on to win the State award again in 1993 and in 1995 and is still the only town in the State to win the award three times with three different State judges and is due in no small amount to the dedication and support from the local Council, the community, service clubs and schools.

In September of 1993 the Rotary Club again outlayed $60,000 to have a self-supporting, heritage style, pedestrian bridge, measuring 33 metres constructed to span the Meander River to enable locals and tourists to complete a walk from the caravan park area on one side of the river to the other.

This area is now known as Rotary Park and all up the Rotary Club of Deloraine has spent over $100,000 in establishing this Park which has also been landscaped with abundant plantings of trees, the construction of a barbeque site that is available free of charge on a 24 hour basis.

Rotary Park was rewarded in 1995 by winning the “Best Outdoor Recreational Facility” in the National Heart Foundation’s Local Government Healthy Hearts Awards and also the Rotary Club Craft Fair won the “Community Event of the Year” Awards in the local Council Australia Day awards for its outstanding commitment to the town of Deloraine.

However, as the saying goes, there is still more and in 1997 the Rotary Club again commenced probably its most energetic project to date, that is, the development of a seven hectare nature reserve and natural bushland area which has become known as the “Rotary Common” which includes walking tracks taking in river scenes, bush settings, farm lands and picnic areas. This project is still on-going and will be continually developed by the Club over the next few years.

1995 was a big year for Deloraine as it saw the opening of two special projects, one being the “YARNS” Artwork in Silk and the other being Giant Steps Tasmania.

“YARNS” Artwork in Silk is located in the Community Complex at Deloraine. It is a magnificent portrayal of the Meander Valley, hanging on four wall panels and covering 57 square metres.

The superb work all done with fabric took 300 local women approximately 10,000 hours or 2 years to complete.

It is floodlit and on viewing days there are two host ladies to conduct tours. Included is a fascinating 10 minute audio visual presentation, after which the hosts point out various highlights and answer questions. The whole visit takes to of an hour.

The “YARNS” Committee was formed as a result of two public meetings initiated by an enthusiastic core group who recognised the vast range of art and craft skills of the people in the Meander Valley. With the support of the Municipal Council “YARNS” was born and the enthusiasm spread as the project got underway.

The gala opening of this artwork by Mrs Annita Keating, wife of the then Prime Minister of Australia took place at the Deloraine Community Complex on Sunday the 7th of May, 1995 and the project was officially handed over to the Meander Valley Council as its custodian on behalf of the community.

This project was also successful in winning the “Tourism Development Award” category of the 1995 Tasmanian Local Government Awards for Excellence.

“YARNS” is currently trying to find a new home where it can be open 7 days a week and can also have an information centre incorporated in the new premises with trained staff and have a large display area for the sale of its top quality merchandise.

Funding to achieve this will come from the Regional Forests Agreement (RFA) as one of the listed objectives of this Agreement is “to provide an interpretation of the nature-based and cultural tourism resources of the region in which it is located”.

Giant Steps Tasmania commenced operation as a non-government, special school for children with autism spectrum disorders in June 1995 as the first satellite School of the Canadian Institute for Neuro-integrative Development founded by Darlene Berringer in Montreal in 1981. The opening of the Centre was a culmination of an enormous amount of work from a dedicated group of parents and community supporters, who refused to accept the lack of services for children with this life-long disability.

With the help of the Deloraine community, the State Government and the Canadian Institute for Neurological Development in Montreal, Canada the dream became a reality. Over the years Giant Steps Tasmania has grown and developed into an organisation that provides quality services suited to the specific needs of our own Australian population, education and cultural setting.

The Deloraine community and especially the service clubs have been very generous by donating large sums of money to Giant Steps with the Rotary Club of Deloraine making one of the largest single donations by a service club to any one project in Tasmania with their donation of $50,000 in cash. The Giant Steps Tasmania Education and Therapeutic Centre was officially opened by the then Premier the Honourable Ray Groom MHR on Friday the 21st of July, 1995.

Giant Steps Tasmania currently has 15 children registered including four families who have relocated from interstate to especially have their children enrolled in this special school. The school is also now offering outreach services especially in the areas of consultancy and training.

In 1997 Deloraine won its most prestigious award to date, that being “The Australian Community of the Year Award” presented by the National Australia Day Council.

The Award was presented to the Mayor Councillor Greg Hall by the Prime Australia the Honourable John Howard MP at a function held in the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on the 26th of January, 1997.

Deloraine is the first and only Tasmanian town to win this award.

Also in 1997 Deloraine was voted Tasmania’s Premier Tourism Town in the Tasmanian Tourism Awards and Deloraine businesswoman Jane Bennett won the ABC’s Australian Rural Woman of the Year award. Jane is the Manager of the well-known Ashgrove Farm Cheese Factory at Elizabeth Town.

In March 1997, Deloraine hosted for the fifth consecutive year the Northern Tasmanian Regional Games. These Games were an outstanding success with over 2,000 registrations received for 20 sporting activities and highlighted the excellent sport and recreation facilities Deloraine has to offer.

These Games were awarded first prize in the Best Community Program of the National Heart Foundation “Healthy Hearts” Awards in 1992. This award was given in recognition of local Council’s which have developed innovative programs to help the community become more physically active and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.

The Games also received the 1993 Australia Day Award for the Best Community Event awarded by the National Australia Day Council.

The success of these Games at Deloraine shows the enormous potential that the town has to offer in drawing events of this nature on a regular basis. The Regional Games were only supposed to be held once at Deloraine but because of the on-going success they were held for a record five years in a row.

In 1998 Deloraine was chosen by the University of Tasmania to participate in their “Learning Indicators for Communities” study.

The purpose of this study was mainly to find out what makes a learning community and to identify the networks happening in the community, how people interact and work alongside each other and how this benefits the whole community.

Also in 1998 Council commenced the long-term program to redevelop the main street of Deloraine. Stage One works included the reconstruction of the pavement, paved footpath reconstruction and construction of median strip and landscaping for the top section of Emu Bay Road. An amount of $200,000 has been allocated in the Capital Works Program for 2000/2001 for Stage Two of this redevelopment.

In 1999 the Deloraine Community Resource Development Strategy was launched.

This Strategic Plan identified the range of entrepreneurial options to maximise the use of the environment, cultural and physical assets of the Deloraine community with particular emphasis on built assets.

The study involved extensive community consultation and included:-

  • Workshops with the Steering Committee;
  • Public meetings/workshop;
  • Focus group sessions;
  • Formal representation from individuals and community groups; and
  • Receipt of written submissions from individuals and groups.

The Present

On the 26th of January, 2000 nearly 4,000 people enjoyed the entertainment and activities on the banks of the Meander River at Deloraine to celebrate Australia Day.

“Celebrate Meander Valley 2000”, the culmination of six months planning was an event that not only celebrated Australia Day but also the beginning of the new Millennium for Deloraine.

The Deloraine Primary School was also the recipient of the Timbertrek National Primary School Design Competition Award in its designing of the “Bridge to the New Millennium” project.

In March saw the holding of a “Tasmania Together” community forum that was held at the Deloraine Community Complex.

March also saw the official opening of the Calstock Country Guest House by the Premier of Tasmania the Honourable Jim Bacon MHA. A family home and horse stud since the 1850s, Calstock has recently undergone a $400,000 revamp and was opened as a luxury bed and breakfast accommodation outlet.

Calstock is fondly remembered as the home of “Malua” winner of the 1888 Melbourne Cup.

In April saw the official opening of the Deloraine Folk Museum’s “Our Sporting Heritage” exhibition. The exhibition was part of the National Trust Heritage Festival conducted throughout the month of April and included in the exhibition were photos of the 1938 Australian Cricket Team including Deloraine sportsman Jack Badcock pictured alongside the famous Sir Donald Bradman.

The Tasmanian Youth Consultative Committee held a State Event at the Deloraine Community and Youth Centre on April the 8th. This Event was the only event of its kind held in northern Tasmania and the day was filled with action with everything from live bands, skating, fire juggling and other circus performances to buskers, a roving video crew and information services for young people.

On Easter Monday the Deloraine Turf Club held another successful running of the Grand National Steeplechase at the Deloraine racecourse.

The Deloraine racecourse is famous for its natural brush hurdles which are unique in Australia and it is also reputed to be the oldest racecourse in Australia currently operating.

In early May Deloraine was the host as a luncheon stop for the world renowned “Targa Tasmania”.

Just recently has seen the commencement of the upgrading works for the new Deloraine Water Treatment Plant and by January 2001 Deloraine will be able to provide good quality water for its residents and visitors.

Council has let the tender for the water treatment plant to Water Treatment Australia at a cost in the order of $1.5 million, of which $600,000 is being funded by the State Government through Natural Heritage Trust funding.

The Future

Early July will see the official opening of the new Toddle Inn Child Care Centre in Alveston Drive at a cost of $400,000.

Saturday the 5th of August will see the Olympic Torch Relay convoy stop at Deloraine for a luncheon celebration.

Commencement of works on the Deloraine Community Day Care Centre at a total cost of $160,000.

The completion of the new water treatment plant for Deloraine in early 2001.

The commencement of the Gilberts Hill “Lookout Proposal”.

The relocation of the “YARNS” facility.

Deloraine has been chosen as the only town in Tasmania to be involved in a research project to be undertaken by the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia and the Centre for the Small Town Development in York, Western Australia. The project is being sponsored by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) through their Human Capital, Communications and Information Systems and its objective is “to enhance human capital and facilitate innovation in rural industries and communities.

Deloraine has been chosen as one of 12 communities from all over Australia that have in recent years experienced some form of economic and social revitalisation. The research project is being undertaken by Peter Kenyon, Director for the Centre for Small Town Development and I believe that Deloraine epitomises the 5 key ingredients to a vibrant community as outlined by Peter and those are:-

  • Be a healthy community;
  • Be an enterprising community;
  • Be a leaderful community;
  • Be a youthful community; and
  • Be a passionate community.

Conclusion

All of Deloraine can take great pride in its achievements to date which have not been an effort by one organisation or by an individual but of a whole community working together.

Deloraine is not a community that is content to sit back, complain about its lot in life and call on others to help it develop and grow. It is a community that shows the way and meets any challenges head on and turns these into an opportunity.

Throughout the town’s many achievements there is a strong sense of community, whether it is the hugely successful annual Craft Fair, the “YARNS” Silk wall hanging, the Giant Steps Autism School, or its success in the Tidy Towns Competition or Australian Community of the Year. They are all measures of community pride.

I entitled this paper “Deloraine – a Town on a Mission” and I believe Deloraine has to a certain point accomplished its mission, however, knowing Deloraine as I do there will always be new challenges and ideas that will make Deloraine stand out as a town in Tasmania that has a vibrant “future”.

Thank You.

References

Australian Rural Leadership Program Delegation Address – I Huett (2000).

Deloraine Community of the Year submission – D Pyke (1996).

Tidy Towns submission for Deloraine – D Pyke (1997).

Information on “YARNS” – N Terry (2000).

Meander Valley Enterprise Centre Information document – May (2000).

Key Ingredients to a Vibrant Community – Summary – Peter Kenyon (2000).

Giant Steps Tasmania General Information document – March (2000).

History of the Deloraine Municipality – JR Skemp (1964).

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