Sunday, January 31, 2010

bushfire preparation, warnings & action – what the community thinks

Today the CFA released details of three recent surveys into community attitudes towards bushfire preparation, warnings and action.

The survey results show that significant numbers of people still plan on staying at home on Code Red days.

As a result of the surveys Emergency Services are again reminding people living in high bushfire risk areas of the importance of leaving early.

CFA and the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner both recently commissioned research into community attitudes towards bushfire preparation, warnings and actions. A third piece of research was also commissioned by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre into residents actions during the Black Saturday bushfires.

The CFA report shows that more than 84% of people living in high bushfire risk areas have a Bushfire Survival Plan and 94% of people recognise that they need to be self-sufficient in the event of a bushfire.

Most alarming was that almost one in three people surveyed (31.3%) plan to stay at home on Code Red days. Of these respondents 25% said there would need to be a fire before they considered leaving their home.

This is a dangerous decision to be making, the last place to be when there is an active fire is on the road trying to escape and on a Code Red day conditions are guaranteed to be treacherous.

The weather conditions on Black Saturday were ferocious and resulted in a tragic loss of life, natural assets and built assets.

Code Red days are, by their very nature, fierce and extreme weather days, it is not safe to be in an area of bushfire risk on these days let alone on the road.

I urge people to think very carefully about their fire plans on these days, it is extremely dangerous to stay in your home on these days.

Below is a summary of each of the three research papers released today.

1. Behaviour and Intentions of Household in High Bushfire Risk Areas – a report for the CFA prepared by Strahan Research

Strahan Research Pty Ltd were commissioned to undertake the survey and report findings to CFA on community behaviour and intentions of households in high bushfire risk areas in relation to understanding risk, undertaking preparedness and response during fire. The survey was conducted in December by telephone using a sample of 400 households spread across the 52 High Risk Townships/Zones in Victoria.

Key Findings:
Ø Most people know that they need to be self sufficient in the event of a bushfire (94%);
Ø Most respondents understand bushfire could impact their property (92.4%);
Ø Over 84% of respondents had a bushfire plan and 92% of them had discussed it with the household and 52% had practised it.
Ø More needs to be done to cement the intent of Code Red Days, significant minorities are still unclear of its status or required actions (21.7% and 23.8% respectively);
Ø 25% of respondents still say that they will do as much as they can to defend their property and leave when threatened.
Ø 60.6% of respondents plan to leave their property on Code Red Days and 31.3% plan not to leave. Of those staying, 25.3% will reconsider in the event of fire while 40% feel safe or prepared to defend.

2. ‘Where are they going?’ People Movement During Bushfires – a report prepared for OESC by Strahan Research

The research was undertaken by Strahan Research with a sample of 600 households in the 52 identified high bushfire risk townships for the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner. It was done in early November to understand what actions people were planning to take this fire season.

Key Findings:
Ø 15% of people have changed their plans since 7 February 2009
Ø 45% plan to leave on Code Red days and 48% say they will initially stay with their property (this is similar findings to the research undertaken by CFA)
Ø If there is a fire 48% believe it will take them 10 minutes or less to get where they want to go
Ø While 45% of people surveyed said they will leave the fire-prone area, to places such as: with relatives/friends outside area (45%), to Melbourne or provincial city (13%) or to a beach or waterway (6%) - 9% of people still plan to go to a public place in the fire zone
Ø On Code Red days 26% of people will wait to be advised when to go.
Ø 20% said Neighbourhood Safer Places are fundamental to their plan, this indicates an NSP is their first option. 5% see NSPs as their 2nd option.

3. The Second Report on Human Behaviour and Community Safety – a report prepared by the Bushfire CRC Research Task Force

Key Findings:
Ø Respondents most commonly became aware of the presence of fire in their neighbourhood through sensory cues in the environment such as smoke, embers or flames, etc, a warning from a family member, friend or neighbour, or a radio announcement
Ø 72 % of respondents indicated that they expected to receive an official warning (from authorities such as the CFA, police, other emergency services, or ABC Radio) if there was a bushfire in their town or suburb. However, 63 % reported that they did not receive an official warning. (Two thirds of respondents who did receive a warning reported that it arrived in enough time respond safely.)
Ø Contrary to anecdotal reports of insurance levels within fire affected areas, the majority of survey respondents (84%) reported having house and contents insurance. Only 4 % said they had no insurance at all.
Ø An overwhelming 99 % of respondents were aware that 7 February was a day of Total Fire Ban. However, the earlier interviews with residents found there was little connection between awareness and appropriate action.
Ø Respondents recognised temperature, wind and luck as some of the most important factors influencing how their home/property was affected by the fires.
Ø In the 12 months prior to the 7 February bushfires, the CFA ‘Living in the Bush’ workbooks, ABC Radio, CFA Community Meetings, and television emerged as the major sources of information about what to do during a bushfire, and how to prepare households for bushfire.
Ø Respondents consistently indicated they would adopt a similar course of action in a future bushfire attack. (77 % of respondents who left their homes before the fire arrived stated that they would leave again if there was a similar fire, while 78 % of those who stayed to defend their properties declared they would stay and protect their home from a similar fire in the future.)

You can download and view copies of the reports by visiting the following links:

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

70kph too soon

I have long been an advocate for 50kph speed zones throughout our townships and was delighted when Kallista finally got approval for a 50kph speed zone through the township (see blog).

This 70kph sign needs to be another 100 metres down the road. Monbulk Road is extremely busy, this photo was taken at midday and is typical of the traffic on the road. Increasing the 50kph zone past Grant's Picnic Ground would be much safer for motorists and pedestrians.

When the signage was erected throughout Kallista I was quite perplexed about the placement of a 70kph sign on the Kallista side of the Grant’s Picnic Ground access way. It would seem to me much safer to put the sign on the Belgrave side of the access way. Given the amount of traffic on Monbulk Road and the amount of traffic turning into Grant’s Picnic Ground it would be much safer for this part of Monbulk Road to be included in Kallista’s 50kph zone.

A number of residents have also raised this issue with me. Clearly a community concern, I had the shire traffic engineers write to the Regional Director of Vic Roads calling for a relocation of the signage.

I hope the response from Vic Roads is positive. Shifting the signage towards Belgrave would be a huge safety improvement for traffic along Monbulk Road and also for pedestrians crossing from Grant’s Picnic Ground to Sherbrooke Forest.

Too often the Shire receives a no from Vic Roads, particularly for our ongoing requests for 50kph zones. I will soon be taking up the matter of 50kph zones again, too long have the Yarra Ranges townships of Belgrave South, Coldstream, Montrose, Millgrove, Mt Dandenong, Selby, Tecoma, Wandin North, Wesburn, Woori Yallock and Yarra Glen been waiting for long overdue safety improvements and speed limit reductions.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

council minutes - 27 jan

click on the image for your copy of the minutes

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budget brushed up

report from the roundtable – 27 Jan

At this week’s council meeting I moved that the revised budget for 2009/10 be exhibited for public comment.

Every mid year the Yarra Ranges council reviews its budget to allow for any emerging needs and to take into account any savings. Most of the ebb and flow of the budget is maintained within the projected surplus/deficit and additional funds are rarely required at the mid year review.

This year is a little different to most. With $1.4 million of additional expense dedicated to support council’s enhanced bushfire preparations for the 2009/10 summer and $220,000 for bushfire recovery costs for which there is no reimbursement back to Yarra Ranges.

There’s also a lot of priority capital works projects and community service works and projects in the mix as well.

With all of these changes it was important and a matter of due diligence that council put the revised budget out for public exhibition and comment. Council will formally adopt the revised budget at its meeting on 9th March after considering any submissions.

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reporting back from the break

report from the roundtable – 27 Jan
thankyou to council
First meeting back for 2010 and I was pleased to report back to councillors special thanks passed on to Yarra Ranges councillors from Uncle Henry Atkinson and Aunty Dot Peters.

At Belgrave Survival Day (held 26th Jan), Uncle Henry, expressed his thanks to the Shire of Yarra Ranges council for all their support of our indigenous community, Uncle Henry wanted me to pass on those thanks. Yarra Ranges council is committed to our indigenous community and reconciliation. We employ a full time Indigenous Development Officer who works hard to deliver the shire’s Reconciliation and Action Plan and ensure ongoing dialogue and consultation with our indigenous community.

a weedy enterprise
As part of my report from delegates I reported to councillors I had received a flyer from an enterprising young person offering to behead my flowering agapanthus at a reasonable rate. The shire’s weed information was included on the

Agapanthus are one of the shire’s weed nasties and I congratulate this young person on their enterprise to make our environment a healthier one. I hope she gets a lot of takers, agapanthus are such a big problem in the shire and spread easily if flower heads are allowed to seed and proliferate.

I also reported back to councillors that my agapanthus have been beheaded, so no seed spread from me!

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

survival day success

Belgrave was abuzz with people at Survival Day on Australia Day. Survival Day was an idea hatched by a handful of community members back in 2007 who wanted to run a community event that celebrated the survival of indigenous culture and heritage. The event has grown and grown over the 3 years it has been running. At this years event the crowd was bigger than ever with over 1000 people attending, it was also broadcast on 3CR community radio too, which was a fantastic addition to the day.

Aunty Dot Peters gave the official welcome.

Judith Durham OAM and Kutcha Edwards treated the crowd to Judith’s all inclusive version of Advance Australia Fair.

Nigel Wilkes and his dance troupe kept the crowd mesmerised with their dancing.

Uncle Henry Atkinson talked about history, the constitution and the terrible atrocities indigenous people have endured since the arrival of white man. Sparkleland provided entertainment for the kids and the Stray Blacks rounded off the program.

I have been proud to be a supporter of Belgrave Survival day since its inception. As part of the proceedings I spoke about some of the ongoing issues that need to be resolved in order to achieve reconciliation and self determination.

“….the Victorian Constitutional and Human Rights Charter provisions do not yet adequately recognise the prior occupation of Victoria by Victoria’s indigenous Peoples, nor does it recognise their strong cultural and spiritual connection to the land or their rights as owners and custodians of the land.

We have an obligation to recognise self-determination as a right of all Peoples recognised by international law and the UN declaration of rights of indigenous peoples….”

I went on to talk about the shire’s commitment to our indigenous community.

“The Shire of Yarra Ranges has a rich Indigenous history. In partnership with our Indigenous community, the Shire seeks to
- strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities
- raise awareness of Indigenous history and issues
- reduce Indigenous disadvantage by the provision of culturally appropriate services, and
- promote Reconciliation on an ongoing basis through our Reconciliation Strategy and Action plan….

….The Shire of Yarra Ranges council takes indigenous issues very seriously, we are one of the only municipalities in Victoria who employs a full time indigenous development officer to work with our indigenous community.

We are proud to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land. We are proud to fly the aboriginal flag. We recognise the uniqueness and diversity of our Indigenous community and we are committed to Reconciliation….”

“Indigenous communities in Victoria continue to face intolerable inequities in health, education, employment, the provision of public services and justice. We must focus on grassroots and state-wide solutions that result in local, regional and systemic reconciliation. We must eradicate individual and institutional racism. Only with these measures we can start to address these intolerable inequities and work to true reconciliation and self determination.”

“You have chosen to celebrate your Australia day by coming here committed to reconciliation and self determination and I thank you.”

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

yarra ranges' young citizen of the year

It was a great privilege to award the Yarra Ranges Young Citizen of the Year award to Kallista resident, Fiona Bilton, at the awards ceremony at Mont De Lancy in Wandin.

Fiona has a great passion to help children and young people who have a parent with a mental illness. She works tirelessly to create greater awareness of mental health issues for young people, parents and families.

She has contributed to a number of projects and activities specifically around mental health. Fiona has provided peer leadership to children and young people through a range of programs including
- mental health week activities
- Council’s Paying Attention to Self (PATS) Program
- the Vic Champs program with Eastern Health and
- the Looking Out for You program with the Austin Hospital.

But that’s not enough for Fiona, as well as her passion for this work she is a member of the Kallista-The Patch CFA Junior Brigade, attends dance classes once a week, works in a local café as a waitress and has just successfully completed year 9.

She is an inspiration, a wonderful volunteer and a great example of young people making a difference in our community, our future is looking bright. My congratulations to Fiona and her family.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

cockie campaign to commence

Council started up its regular schedule of meetings for 2010 last week, up on the agenda was discussion about the cockatoo issue (see blog).

Last year the community met to discuss the ongoing issue with cockatoos and their chewing. I was there along with Parks Victoria, DSE and the local state MP.

It is a challenging issue for council, last year the birds were voracious in their chewing of Kallista and surrounds. But it didn’t stop there, I had reports of chewing in Belgrave, Menzies Creek, Tecoma, The Patch and Monbulk too. In conversations with the DSE it is clear that there is a direct link between feeding cockatoos and this chewing behaviour. Rather than foraging for food in the wild, the cockatoos get a full belly very quickly from bird seed, leaving them with plenty of time to chew fixtures, fittings, mortar, power supply lines, you name it, to hone their beaks.

Kallista Kindergarten suffered countless attacks by cockatoos in 2009, much of their playground was made unsafe and parents had to spend precious funds to repair the damage.

In discussing the issue it was decided that a concerted education campaign be the first step in changing people’s attitudes to feeding cockatoos. I think it is important that people are given the opportunity to understand the issue, how it affects the birds and the consequences to neighbours and their property.

I have been working with the DSE and the Shire’s environment department to produce a flyer to distribute to residents across the Dandenongs.

Along with written material, signage will be placed in picnic grounds to discourage people to feed the birds. At the moment is only illegal to feed wildlife in national parks, except for the birds at Grant’s Picnic Ground where there is a legally binding lease in place to 2019 to allow this practice to continue.

It is a difficult issue, bird feeding is something that many people enjoy. It is possible to enjoy our wonderful wild birds without feeding them bird seed. Providing habitat and natural food sources is a great way to ensure your backyard has a thriving bird population.

After twelve months the success of the education campaign will reviewed and a local law considered. I think it is very important to start with an educative approach as the first step, enforcement should be a secondary measure. People must be given the opportunity to learn how detrimental feeding cockies can be.

The cockatoo issue will come before council for formal resolution, watch this space for more details.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

cfa community meetings - find one near you

The CFA has ramped up its Community Meetings again for the new year. These meetings are well worth going along to. Residents can learn about basic bushfire behaviour, personal safety, house survival and recognition of local bushfire risk. Community Meetings are held throughout the shire in various locations, click here to find one near you.

If you want more in depth information you can attend a local Bushfire Planning Workshop, these facilitated workshops assist residents in developing a bushfire survival plan, click here to find your local Bushfire Planning Workshop.

It’s important to equip yourself with knowledge about bushfire, only then can you make informed decisions about you and your family’s bushfire plan.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

new minister for public transport

It’s been an interesting week for public transport with the resignation of the former Minister Lynne Kosky. As chairwoman of the Eastern Transport Coalition I welcome the appointment of Minister Pakula to the Public Transport portfolio. The ETC looks forward to meeting with Minister Pakula in the coming days to discuss his plans for improving train, tram and bus access in the outer east.

It is good to see Minister Pakula on board Melbourne’s public transport, as he travels around the network I hope he takes the time to travel on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines. The Belgrave line, Melbourne’s longest line, with an off peak travel time of 1hr and 12mins to Flinders Street Station could certainly do with day time express services, first hand experience by Minister Pakula would give some valuable insight.

With the high number of cancellations on the Belgrave/Lilydale lines, train failures in hot weather, lack of integration with connecting services, commuters continue to lose faith in our public transport system. I look forward to highlighting the public transport needs of the east to Minister Pakula.

The Eastern Transport Coalition represents seven municipalities and over one million people in eastern Melbourne. It advocates for accessible and integrated transport in the eastern region of Melbourne to improve liveability and reduce car dependency.

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sexual assault forum

Last night I attended a community forum about rape and sexual assault in Cowes, to read on visit:
Samantha Dunn Greens Candidate for Eastern Victoria

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

burrinja kicks off 2010 with noah symons

Earlier this week I opened the art exhibition Paintings, Drawings & Studies 2005-2009 by local artist Noah Symons at Burrinja in Upwey.

Noah, a local, who draws his inspiration from the hills, is one of our new emerging artists and it was great to see his work hanging at the Burrinja café.

He is multi-talented and does not limit his artistic abilities to the visual arts, he is also an accomplished musician who plays under the moniker
Great Earthquake.

Noah continues the great tradition of hills inspired artists and reinforces the link between the Dandenongs, artists and a place of great creativity.

The Burrinja gallery is somewhat of a construction zone at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped the gallery continuing a terrific program throughout 2010, it is still a great place to visit.

In late 2008 VCAT approved an application for the Use and Development of a 400 Seat Auditorium - in plain English, a performing arts centre space on the Burrinja site.

The $9 million development at Burrinja includes the construction of a 400 seat auditorium, backstage facilities including dressing rooms, toilets and green room to accommodate up to 200 performers, improved foyer and staff amenities.

The Burrinja performing arts centre project is a lesson in never giving up and fighting for what you believe in. Our community has never lost faith in seeing a community cultural centre developed at the Shire of Sherbrooke civic offices.
This is a project that has seen considerable angst over its history, firstly with the proposed sell off of the site, securing council funding, securing state funding, securing, losing then re-securing federal funding. All very significant hurdles our community has negotiated over the last 10 years to see their aspirations delivered.

Burrinja is a key cultural facility much beloved by our community. Burrinja reaches out to the disadvantaged in our community, to those on the fringe and connects community through the arts. Young and old, all have a place at Burrinja.It’s a thriving and vibrant community cultural centre that supports local artists and arts in the local community. It is great to see a huge program for 2010 despite the fact that most of the site is a construction zone!

I encourage you to go and see Noah’s work, pop into the Burrinja Gallery to see some stunning indigenous art and stop for a bite of something in the café too, it’s well worth a visit.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

alleged arsonist caught in sherbrooke forest

On Friday police arrested a 26 year old man on four counts of lighting a fire in a national park, two counts of conduct endangering life and one count of failing to answer bail.

It was detestable to learn that this person allegedly has been deliberately lighting fires in the Dandenong Ranges. It is an abhorrent crime of which the consequences could be disastrous. Police did a great job of tracking the suspected arsonist, utilising 24 officers and a police helicopter, their commitment to finding the suspect unfailing. Their work was a great success with police nabbing the suspect who will appear at the Ringwood Magistrates Court on Monday (11/01).

It has been reported that the arrested man told the hearing at Belgrave Police Station that he was homeless and been suffering from illness for the past two months.

Although the alleged crime is heinous and reprehensible this leads to broader questions about how we as a society deal with factors that create a bushfire arsonist including the issues of homelessness and mental illness.

There is no doubt homeless people are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to accessing health care among many other things. Where are adequate support services for our homeless, where is appropriate funding for public housing, where is the coordinated effort across government to deal with homelessness? I could ask similar questions about our mental health system.

Clearly not all arsonists are homeless, indeed arson is a complex matter with many different factors at play, but there is no doubt we need better long term plans and strategies to ensure a healthy society. There are grave consequences to not adequately addressing mental health and homelessness in our community. The alleged lighting of fires in Sherbrooke Forest highlights the potential of some of these consequences.

Not only do we have to ensure that the police and our firefighters are properly resourced to deal with the issue of arson and that our communities are educated to adequately prepare and plan for a bushfire event, but we also need to take longer term action to ensure that arsonists do not flourish in our society.

I urge residents to be watchful, keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and report it to the police.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

ban aid to japanese whalers - sign petition now

to read more click on the image

From left to right: Cr Samantha Dunn, Sea Shepherd Crew Member and Greens Senator Christine Milne aboard the Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin in Hobart before it set sail for Fremantle and operation Waltzing Matilda.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

fitness for belgrave lake

Belgrave Lake Park visitors now have an additional facility to take advantage of when they next visit the park. A new fitness park has been installed providing users with various apparatus to undertake all manner of fitness training. I was keen to see a fitness park installed in the Lyster Ward to enable the local community to enjoy the benefits of these installations.

I noticed the fitness park was being well used by community members in a recent family visit to Belgrave Lake Park. Family members, young and old were enjoying the balance beams, sit up benches and chin up bars. One keen teenager was using the fitness park for a bit of extreme basketball training, utilising the beams and bars as obstacles whilst dribbling his basketball.

The fitness park also provides training apparatus for those in wheelchairs.

It’s great to see new facilities embraced by the community in one of Belgrave’s most scenic parklands.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

wifi off to a flying start

Whilst I was chairwoman of the Eastern Regional Libraries Board in 2009 I was very keen to see WiFi delivered into branches across the library network. WiFi allows users to link into the library’s wireless internet service for free.

On tour of other libraries throughout Melbourne I noticed how popular the service was and I was keen to provide WiFi services to the Yarra Ranges community too.

Last month all Yarra Ranges libraries had WiFi up and running, with barely any publicity the word has got out. Registrations for the new service have been steady and growing each week.

At one month of operation the tally for registered WiFi users was:
Belgrave 41
Healesville 27
Lilydale 208
Montrose 5
Mooroolbark 24
Mt Evelyn 8
Yarra Junction 58

This is a great start to a service that will bring more people to the library, a great outcome for the community and their library service too.

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cockatoo clean up for kallista

Kallista community members will be familiar with the cockatoo damage wrought on the Kallista Village Green (see blog) and throughout the township last year.

I’m pleased to see that work has commenced on replacing all the damaged bollards on site at the village green as well as additional landscaping improvements as well. The wooden bollards have been replaced with recycled plastic bollards. The new bollards contain waste sawdust as well, making them stronger and more natural looking too. I’m assured by cockatoo experts that the birds will get no joy when trying to chew the recycled plastic bollards and the bollards should be able to withstand any attempts by cockatoos to chew them to bits.

To the left the new bollards, to the right a couple of very chewed bollards. The new recycled plastic bollards are a welcome replacement to the chewed wooden ones. Cockatoos did an amazing amount of damage to every wooden bollard on the village green and didn't stop there, the community house and mechanics hall also got a beating.

Last year I called for an investigation into the next best move for council to address the ongoing issue of the cockatoo chew (see
blog). In the interim I have worked with the DSE and council officers to develop an information flyer about the pitfalls of feeding wildlife, in particular cockatoos. I funded the printing of the flyer through my ward fund late last year.

I have been working on securing funding for the flyer distribution which is now possible via the Shire so they will be making their way to residents across the Dandenongs in the near future.

Council will soon be considering a report on the where to from here with cockatoos, watch this space for more info….

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Monday, January 04, 2010

survival day - belgrave 26 jan

The third annual Belgrave Survival Day is being held at the Cameo Outdoor Cinema on the 26th January. I have been proud to be able support this event since its inception in 2008. This year I was pleased to be able to assist organisers with a grant to secure Judith Durham OAM and Kutcha Edwards and his band to perform on the day.

Survival Day provides the community with an opportunity to celebrate Australia Day by recognising and celebrating the survival of indigenous culture locally and nationally. It is a great celebration of indigenous culture and heritage.

Indigenous elders, Aunty Dot and Uncle Henry will be there as well as Sparkleland children’s entertainer and the Healesville traditional dance troupe, indigenous artists the Stray Blacks will be making an appearance too. Judith Durham OAM will treat Belgrave Survival Day participants to her version of the Australian national anthem at 10:45am.

It is a great day out, I encourage you to come along and bring the family too, don’t forget to bring a hat and sunscreen! I look forward to seeing you there.

When: Tuesday 26th January, 2010 10am to 3pm
Where: Cameo Outdoor Cinema, Burwood Highway Belgrave (
Cost: Gold coin
Access: plenty of parking nearby and close to Belgrave railway station too (Mel Ref 75E10)

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