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Sharing Some Great News

Being part of any community has both benefits and pitfalls. Yesterday was at the top of my ‘benefit’s list. Let me tell you why. It was amazing - though think you probably need more info than that.

The seed for yesterday was sown 7 years ago, when the Back to Steiglitz Association (BtS) discovered the historic Steiglitz School was at risk.  The only way to save it was relocation. Though ‘how’ to get that achieved was a massive problem.

The years between then & now, have taken BtS on a frustratingly long and tiresome journey.  Our first member to take up the challenge (Chris Kempers) kept at it for 3 years.  Being tossed from one government department to another left her dizzy & disheartened, so she quit.

I took up the challenge next.  Four years on, my head felt bruised from all the brick walls I kept banging into.  Like Chris, I began to feel as if my efforts were futile … this school was never getting moved.

Until about a year ago, that is.  That was a year like no other …and one topped off with a cherry-of-a-day yesterday.

For after all those years, at 10am, on the 18th of January, 2017, Golden Plains Shire (GPS), Parks Victoria, BtS, National Trust, CFA, various Doctors & Professors and numerous locals all met at the Bert Boardman Recreation Reserve.

Our collective aim?  To find three possible relocation sites for the Steiglitz School … in the heart of Steiglitz itself!

You should have seen us all.  Led by GPS wonders, Greg Anders and Jill Evans, we armed ourselves with maps, hats, sensible shoes, great big grins, and icy cold water (thank you Joanne Burns of GPS), then set off.

A quick look at said school was a must, for many had never met this grand old dame in person.  Some, like Lyn & John Pierotti (National Trust), imagined it the cute little cottage many schoolhouses of that era were.  Whereas, built to cater to a bustling gold rush town,  the Steiglitz School is actually huge.  So, after a moment of awed silence and appreciation, photos and measurements were taken.  Then our convoy headed back to ‘town’ … ready & rearin’ to find that perfect spot. 

With a population of 7 (total of Steiglitz residents when everyone’s home), our band of 30 strong was a sight to behold.  En masse we’d stop as each new site was suggested. Without comment, someone’s long strides would measure it out, quickly followed by someone else, either Chris Smith (Parks) or Dr Justin Oakley (Monash Uni), pulling out an ancient map or two.  Around which we’d quickly huddle, eager to discover whether this site was a viable option.  

Local Steiglitz-ites, Colin Smithyman, Phil Dickson, Peter Sharp and myself, added our knowledge about which buildings had once stood there.  Dale Aston & Tim Waller (GPS) mixed in relevant surveying or permit points.  Maude CFA members, Ralph & Kathy Nordin, were a wealth of fire knowledge & considerations.  Topped off by Stuart Lardner with a touch of Park’s perspective. 

At one point a large mullock heap in the centre of town offered Paul Roser (Parks), Maude local Dr Gray (Deakin Uni) and Steiglitz locals Bill & Roz Speirings, the perfect viewing point to discuss the lay of the land.  While Cooper’s Orchard offered another perspective for our Maude, She Oaks, Steiglitz Community Planning Group reps (Alan & Pauline Tournier) and animated BtS members, Kathy Mar, Sue Roden, Gill Dickson, Chris McKenzie and Jack Boardman.  And although my husband, Terry, said he was talking with the other BtS members, his stained hands make me think he’d momentarily snuck off to enjoy Mrs Cooper’s mulberries!

Apart from one old hippy in the mulberry tree, thinking back on what we must have all looked like, the term ‘poetry in motion’ comes to mind.  Sounds daft I know, though this was a very special moment indeed.

At no other point in the 7 years had all these groups come together, or even come close to working as smoothly as we all did that morning.  Suddenly, we were as one.  What, for years, couldn’t be decided upon, was nutted out in minutes.  There’s no other word for it apart from ‘incredible.’

So incredible I really felt the need to share it with all of you.  For this is not just a BtS achievement, it’s a community achievement.  Many of you reading this right now had a hand in making such a special moment happen.

Our GPS CEO, Rod Nicholls … what can we say about you Rod, besides, you’re a priceless asset.  Having a CEO who loves his community as much as you do, has been a rare gift indeed.   A giant ‘thank you’ for all you’ve done.  Ex-Mayor Jenny Blake … there’s a touch of your special magic in there too Jen.  Then there’s our wonderful Dr Fiona Gray … you really got the ball rolling last year when you wrote a paper on the school’s plight.  We love you so much Fi we’re considering increasing our official Steiglitz population to 8 … lol.  Parks … your recent support for this has been both vital, and so encouraging for we who had almost given up.

Though there’s also many more who own a part of this accomplishment.  All those who signed our petitions.  Those who attended BtS fundraising events each year.  Strangers who, after reading an article on the school, spread the word amongst their friends.  And then there’s the very special individuals, like young Thomas Welsh.  

Thomas, a Grovedale lad (and newest BtS member), seems to have taken the BtS under his wing.  For while most young boys would be playing outside during their holidays, Thomas was helping our plight by ‘sending letters to politics to save the school’, as his Christmas card told us.  Brilliant!

Before I go, I’ll share one last little snippet.

Our favourite relocation site was one with a rather smile-inducing twist.  Turns out Steiglitz residents had been trying to get this very same school moved into town more than a hundred years ago.  We found their original petition.  Guess where they wanted it moved to?  Yep!

With ridiculously happy Steiglitz grins, 
Lindy Allinson and the Back to Steiglitz Associaton.

If you’d like to keep up with exciting School developments, get involved yourself, or even become a BtS member, check out our webpage: