I’m sure Yarram is much the same sort of small town as a thousand others around the country, all doing it a little bit hard at the moment due to the political and economic situation, but keeping their heads high, their wheels turning and their spirits up!
One of the main features of a town with a population of perhaps two thousand or thereabouts is the strength of the community spirit; the life-blood that keeps the place alive during good times or bad.
When we lived in Melbourne, we hardly knew the names of our immediate neighbours. We had no idea where the local Lions Club was (or even if one existed). The nearest pub was a couple of kilometres away, as was the ‘local’ church – and we had to be very careful to lock up the house even, if we were only popping out to the local shops, for fear of burglary. In fact, fear was one of the major (if sublimated) thoughts on everyone’s mind. Not only of burglary, but many other factors common in a city environment. While I’m sure a lot of them were purely in the mind of the individual, they nonetheless had to be taken into consideration!
But when we moved to Yarram, some two hundred kilometres south-east of Melbourne, we instantly noticed the completely different way of life in a small town. Virtually everyone knew everyone else for a start, and we weren’t excluded either. Within a week of our arrival I was invited to join the local Lions Club; something which immediately gave Jacqui and I 23 new friends, plus another twenty three through the wives of the members.
This initial group of friends very quickly expanded, because we got to know the friends of Lions at various events. This led on to a third layer as we met friends of friends, virtually all of them very willing to include we newcomers into their midst.
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The town wouldn’t exist without a mass of volunteers to help keep the place going, and we quickly discovered that many of our new friends were already involved in various activities of that nature. Some got involved through membership of service clubs like Lions and Rotary, some through the Churches in the town, and a others working at the hospital and nursing home. Then there is the Red Cross, the SES, CFA, Freemasons, the Men’s Shed, the Countrywomen’s Association, the Agricultural Society and many others, all providing something to suite the requirements of one group or another around the town.
Then there are the various festivities, popping up annually and enjoyed by the whole town, as well as the many visitors who come to Yarram especially to join in the fun (with the added benefit that they bring very useful new cash into the district!).
Yarram’s Tarra Festival is a good case in point; it happens every year for a three-day period over the Easter break. It includes a Rotary exhibition of paintings (offering over three thousand dollars in prizes), a major street parade on the Saturday, and all sorts of other exhibitions and shows at nearly every available venue in the town: ‘Pancakes in the Park’ on Sunday morning, a Monday Market that usually completely circles the Recreation Ground, and several sporting events as well. About ten thousand people visit Yarram over the period of the Festival, boosting the coffers of the town, while having a good time.
Then there’s the Agricultural Show, which has been running in Yarram for a hundred years or more. While only a one day event, it attracts farmers from a wide range of territory, where they can show off their animals, the quality of their wool and the wonderful cooks their wives are!
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These shows are very popular throughout Australia, and they help to increase understanding between country folk and the ‘townies’ who come to see what’s going on. The kids love it too, because there is usually an area where they can play with young animals.
Life is much easier paced out here in the ‘sticks’ and I think Jacqui and I will be quite happy to enjoy our final years here, away from the rat-race and with good friends, most of them just as old as us!
Have you experienced the peace and community spirit of rural life?
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