Locals of the minuscule town of Willawarrin have banded together in good-old, country community kinship to save their war memorial – the symbolism of which runs like blood through the veins of the town’s history.
A commemoration of those lost, a place of reflection and solace for family and friends, an historic reminder for budding generations and a monument for the education of local students, the memorial’s significance is in direct contrast with its cracked foundations.
It’s easy for a stranger to miss on the drive past but this memorial has so much significance for this town.Terry Flynn
Enter long-time Willawarrin local and war veteran Terry Flynn who tells the story of how a tight-knit country community with a low socioeconomic status raised $12,000 on their own to restore their Willawarrin War Memorial.
Two years ago, Terry was saddened at the state of the memorial which was built in the 1960’s to commemorate those lost in both world wars. At first glance the memorial seems to suffer some cosmetic cement decay but tree roots are cracking through the monument's foundations below.
“It’s easy for a stranger to miss on the drive past but this memorial has so much significance for this town,” he tells the Argus.
“The names on that plaque are still major families in this community. There are quite a lot of ex-service people who live locally, who still experience post-war trauma and to which this memorial really means something. It plays a major role in teaching local kids the history of the town, the role that local farmers played in times of war and the biographies of the people whose names are engraved on that tablet – they do excursions down here where kids pick a name and go back to the classroom and research that name.”
If a person has been in the military as a career - there’s often a reality jolt when they come out - their world changes so dramatically and there’s often trauma and shock.Terry Flynn
After seeing the rate at which the memorial was deteriorating, Terry kick-started a fundraising intitiative which, after two years of selling meat raffle tickets at the Willawarrin pub, has raised $12,000. But that’s not all. The fundraiser gained the attention of local tradesmen who are volunteering their time and tools to help renovate the entire memorial park space.
“The response from the community has been unbelievable. We have one book of raffle tickets selling in 20 minutes! We also attracted tradesmen who have given their time and equipment for free so all we have to pay for is materials.”
“We’ve had no government grants - just locals, and this is an area of high unemployment!”
The renovations have already started and are significant. Drainage needs to be installed, a flat area of concrete will be layed down, lighting installed, and then there’s the actual momument to be restored.
Another hidden treasure that greets visitors is a Lone Pine tree – grafted from the same species of tree that grows on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey which was the site of the Battle of Lone Pine in 1915.
With Anzac Day approaching, Terry says the Willawarrin War Memorial is an alternative to those ex-service people who “don’t want to go into town and march up and down in a big parade or something”.
“I’ve found that there is quite a lot of service people who live around here and we get together and we like to support each other. If a person has been in the military as a career - there’s often a reality jolt when they come out - their world changes so dramatically and there’s often trauma and shock.
“We try to gather them on Anzac day - we lay flowers but I also put photos out of locals that most people know around here. If a person tells me the name of their relative and whether they served or not, I like to look them up and find out where they served. I then get a service certificate printed out which shows some details and then a photo if I can, laminate them together and give one to the person and keep one to display on Anzac Day.
“We’d like to think that in a perfect world we could have the memorial finished by Anzac day, but a lot of the tradesman are on breaks – they have lives and jobs they need to commit to – but you never know,” he smiles.