Where do you connect with your community?’

STANLEY’S Maggy Tyrie has lived on three continents and admits that settling in to new places is never easy: cities and towns can be unfriendly.
But Stanley and Beechworth were altogether different for the former museum curator. Maggy relates how she connects with her community in the second of a series of lead-in questions for the Kerferd Oration 2016.

I WAS made so welcome in Stanley that I immediately felt comfortable with the people I met and fell in love with the place itself. I wanted to be a part of the community and to contribute in any way I could.

I became a volunteer at Quercus Bookshop. My museum curator experience led me to putting on some art exhibitions and pop-up shows. I took travelling exhibitions to schools, the prison, and to the general public. I have curated a number of exhibitions in the area, and helped curate one for the Kerferd Oration.

It was all so rewarding. I had a great time and I was meeting wonderful people who had stories to tell and experiences to relate, and who became my friends, widening my network. That’s so important in a community.

In Stanley we have a thriving social group and a choir, as well as the athenaeum, hall, church, cemetery and other committees and organisations: all local residents striving to provide companionship and to keep facilities in good working order.

That’s people caring about their community. It is noticed at Stanley’s licensed post office if an elderly resident has not picked up their mail: someone will check on them. More caring.

Stanley’s fight against the mining of water has brought out the best in most people. They stood for hours in Beechworth’s Camp Street kiosk selling raffle tickets, bought multiple tickets, made generous donations, attended meetings and money-raising events. They donated apples and chestnuts to give with the tickets. Most of the wine and produce for the harvest festival dinner in June was donated. People are showing that they care about an issue that affects their lives and livelihoods.

The history and the heritage-listed buildings in the region are also so special and they need to be preserved and utilised: they draw thousands of tourists to this area. Try getting a parking spot in Beechworth over Christmas or Easter.

We need to tell the stories of the people that have made this area great – not just Ned Kelly, but the diverse lives of many amazing, innovative people who have come and gone through the region. Imagine if we could somehow acquire the old Beechworth gaol. What an exciting venue to project a sound-and-light show against the walls to tell these stories. How about a silent movie (perhaps with music) about the gold rush days playing on the walls as you walk by? It’s a great way for children (and adults) to learn about our local history and how their forebears lived.

People today continue to be the lifeblood of this community, their diversity and knowledge enriches and invigorates all of us. We must embrace newcomers and assist them to settle in.

Whether you believe in global warming, or not, changing weather-patterns happen from time to time. Agriculture, viticulture and horticulture are vital to this region and we must face the challenges that the environment throws up.

Community, to me, is also about being connected to nature: being aware of the subtle changes in the growth of trees and plants, the seasonal temperature variations, the migratory habits of birds and insects, as well as watching for fires. We live close to the earth here. (I’m fairly short so I’m closer than most). Nature is part and parcel of living here and loving this place.

It is said that home is where the heart is. That may be so, but for me, my community is where my heart is.

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