Flying into Albury, we picked up a car there. Author Yvette Poshoglian was on the road trip with me – as we crossed the centre of New South Wales – just missing cattle crossing the country roads, through huge distances on narrow roads between endless fields of yellow grasses – with only sheep and those cows looking up at us. Yes … you got it, we were LOST!!!!!!!
The good news is that even though there was not a single other car on the road and we had NO phone reception and the petrol gauge was blinking EMPTY and we had to turn off the air conditioning so that we were sweat balls – it was very hot – we did not crash, although I swerved around a dead kangaroo on the roadside. I didn’t kill it – so don’t blame me, but I nearly took us off the road into a ditch. This is a HUGE secret – there were no police around – I guess they were lost too – and … well … I went a little bit FAST. I am not admitting anything here. But Yvette only screamed once!
So what’s Edward River? Paradise. The first welcome we received was lazing along the river in a house boat eating great sausage rolls, hand-made by their very own Director of the Sun Festival, Geoff Riley OAM in the great company of locals. They all have amazing stories of floods and droughts, farming and water – they need water for their rice and grain crops. Everyone comes together to fight those fires and sand bank the rising river and to celebrate on Australia Day.
Yvette’s the guru of the Premier’s Reading Challenge who coordinates the most amazing reading program reaching 3000 schools – so cool. Oh, by the way I’m an Ambassador for the Premier’s Reading Challenge. So Yvette was totally embraced by the community as they love their schools, books and their libraries.
I was embraced too – I LOVE them – from the fantastic Rotary cookers who were up early making bacon and eggs and some very, very, very well cooked sausages, before the Australia Day ceremony in the beautiful park in the centre of Deniliquin to former mayor Pat Fogarty leading the Australian Citizenship affirmation to wonderful Steven Charles of Yaruwa an aboriginal elder who gave the Welcome to Country. Steven brought tears to my eyes with his stories.I was proud to acknowledge the first peoples of Australia in my address.
The ‘Sing Australia Choir’ was inspiring. The Edward River Band was inspiring. The people are inspiring.
Too many moving moments and laughter over 3 short days –
- the 90 +year old farmer Alex Allitt who recited the powerful poem of Australia
- Citizen of the Year Shelley Scoullar, a farmer with 3 young children who has become the voice of farmers to access water while protecting the environment (supported by her amazing husband and family)
- Nearly 15 year old Hayley Doohan who leads other young people in sports and self worth – what a girl.
- Ron Richards who has played in the Edward River Band for more than 70 years. He’s over 90 and still serving his community.
- the Central Murray Region Library who opened early so that I could speak to writers and readers or all ages – the Creative Writers Group gave me their anthology of stories – can’t wait to read them
- being hosted by Pat and Richard Fogarty in their exquisite timber Cottages in Deni where I woke up to flocks of galahs (the pink and grey birds not people – ha!) flying overhead on the Edward River – by the way the cottages had a spa in it which was very decadent.
- the generous stories the people of the Edward River shared with me – thankyou, thankyou,thankyou
There is so much more, but I will end this blog on the DENI UTE MUSTER – utes of all shapes and sizes congregate in Deni for the best ever ute muster – country singing – Keith Urban lead the show in 2016 – and truck rides and utes, utes, utes – camping alongside the Edward River and in the huge paddock …. it’s so much fun – on the October long weekend.
Russell Tait who leads the organisation of the Deni Ute muster gave me a special Deni Muster cap – and I promised I’d support it and I do!!!!
I feel honoured to have been an Australia Day Ambassador and honoured to have given addresses in Canargo and Deniliquin.