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CAP pays of for Willaura

After bushfire swept through the Willaura district in the summer of 2005/2006, the Ararat Rural City Council and the local community was approached by the State Government with a one-off bushfire recovery grant to help get a local project off the ground.

Heather Fleming, a member of the Willaura and District Community Development Group, said that without a pre-determined Community Action Plan, the Council and the community would have struggled to quickly identify a priority project for this unforeseen funding.

“After the bushfire we were all too shell-shocked to even think about something like this,” said Heather.

“The Memorial Park upgrade project was always on our Community Action Plan wish list so we went with that. It’s a good example of how valuable a Community Action Plan is to prioritise projects and decide where money needs to go. We just wouldn’t have had time with everything going on to consult with the community from scratch.”

The Memorial Park upgrade project cost $60,000 in total. Of this, $40,000 in funding was received from Regional Development Victoria’s Small Town Development Fund, $15,000 from Ararat Rural City Council and $5,000 in-kind from the Willaura community.

The Development Group and Willaura Historical Society worked with Council on the project. Council came up with an initial concept which was further developed by the community. Final plans then went on display for public comment - without objection.

“It was a bit of a challenge finding a suitable plan initially that everyone was happy with, but that was overcome,” said Heather. “Engaging the community to the extent where people would make a comment was also a bit difficult.”

Construction began in December 2006 to transform the common area around the existing War Memorial into a beautiful place for reflection, particularly at the annual ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Council carried out most of the works, supported by community working bees. The area was paved, a retaining wall was constructed and trees were planted. Tables and seating were installed and a walking path looping around the area was dotted with historical information plaques.

The project was basically completed in time for the ANZAC Day ceremony in 2007.

“The community was delighted and very pleased with the outcome,” said Heather. “In the past we’ve watched the ANZAC Day ceremony from across the road. It’s a lovely usable area now.”

She said the project had inspired the community to improve and beautify other areas of the town.

“When the project was finished there was a very strong sense of community spirit and an appreciation of the way all parties could achieve something tangible and lasting. It will be an enduring legacy of the support that came out of the bushfire relief funding.”

Colin Holmes, who is one of the organisers of the annual ANZAC Day Memorial service, was also involved with the project.

“It’s always been a well cared for memorial, but the enhancement looks absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The Council and Development Group should be commended for their planning and organisation.”