A saint among Ceduna seniors

There are few things more rewarding for Leeanne ‘Twig’ Holmes than helping senior residents explore the country outside of their home on the Eyre Peninsula.

Originally part of her job as activities co-ordinator at the Ceduna District Health Service, these seniors trips were sadly no longer viable for the hospital. So in 2012 Leeanne decided to volunteer her time outside of work to ensure they would continue.

“Every time I went down the street one of the group would stop me to ask when they could go again because they were so wonderful. In the end I thought ‘oh what’s a week out of my time to take them?’” she says.

Leeanne has organised transport, accommodation and care for groups of up to 35 seniors at a time, allowing them to travel from Ceduna, Streaky Bay, Wudinna and Kyancutta (over 800km west of Adelaide) to enjoy activities that are not always accessible to them.

The group has journeyed as far as Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, and Swan Hill in Victoria to enjoy music concerts, restaurant dinners and even helicopter rides over the Flinders Ranges. For many seniors, these excursions would not have been possible without Leeanne, who also ensures all of their medical care needs are met.

Leeanne ‘Twig’ Holmes with rescue greyhound Zeppo who visits seniors at the Ceduna hospital and village. Leeanne is Ceduna’s 2019 Citizen of the Year. Photo by Kaitlin Kavanagh.

Leeanne says she believes these trips are really important for older people in regional communities, because bus tours and assisted holidays are usually only available from Adelaide, the closest major city.

“Either family have to drive them 800km or they catch a coach or plane on their own, then they have to figure out how to catch a taxi or public transport which they are not used to. Some of these people are 80-90 years old and it’s just a nightmare for them,” Leanne says.

She says the only reward she needs is to see the joy on the faces of seniors while they are travelling.

“The best thing I think is sitting around the campfire, listening to them tell stories. It’s just beautiful seeing them laughing and crying because they are so overwhelmed by it all,” Leanne says.

Despite her humility, the Smoky Bay resident has been named the 2019 Citizen of the Year in her community. The award was nominated by one of the seniors who regularly travels with Leeanne. She was awarded not only for her volunteer work with seniors, but for contributions to the local sports club, her responsibility as an emergency foster carer and her work welcoming student doctors into Ceduna.

Leeanne has volunteered countless hours for her beloved Smoky Bay Community Club, where she was first exposed to the overwhelming mateship and generosity in the community, values that have been central in every facet of her life.

Most recently, she has organised for a rescue greyhound “Zeppo” to regularly visit the seniors at the Ceduna hospital and village.

“I get back to work on Monday and the first thing I hear when I walk through the door isn’t ‘Hello Twig, did you have a good weekend?’, it’s ‘Where’s the dog?’” she says.

Leeanne continues to find new ways to bring joy to her seniors both in and outside of work and says that she cannot see herself stopping.

“I ask them all if they want to do it again they always say ‘yes of course, we’ll leave it up to you to plan.’ As long as the numbers are there I will continue. It’s just gorgeous I love it.”

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Andamooka locals: we need a pool to escape the sweltering heat!

About 600km north of Adelaide in the South Australian outback, locals in the remote town of Andamooka have spent the past year fundraising for a new public pool.

It gets hot in the old opal mining town, really hot.

So hot that the local publican, John Smirnios, reckons he sets bags of ice on his bar fridges to keep them from overheating in the peak of summer.

“The last couple of weeks here have been over 40C every day,” says John, owner of Andamooka’s Tuckabox Hotel.

“The poor kids sit under the air-conditioning with nothing to do. It’s too hot for the playground or skate park. If we had a pool it would be very nice.”

John is a member of the Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association and is driving efforts to raise $100,000 to build a new public swimming pool for the town.

About $20,000 has been raised over the past 12 months or so through a number of community events, raffles and auctions. John has a donation tin sitting on his front bar while miners have also donated opals to the cause.

The new swimming pool is proposed to be built near the Andamooka camp ground.

Andamooka once had a swimming pool at the local school but it closed down due to cost issues. A small splash pad was made for children, but John says a proper swimming pool would be good for tourism and would provide a public place to escape the heat. He would also like to see an information centre established in the town to benefit tourists and short-stay visitors.

“The nearest pool is at Roxby Downs which is a 60km round trip,” John says.

There is a good chance that Andamooka, which lies 40km east of the Olympic Dam copper mine and Roxby Downs, is one of the hottest places on earth during summer heatwaves.

So far this month Andamooka has endured 13 days of 40C-plus weather, while tomorrow (January 23) could see the record broken for its hottest day since records began in 1969, although this 47.8C record was matched over a week ago on January 15. Tomorrow’s temperature is forecast to reach 47C.

Tuckabox Hotel owner John Smirnios. Photo by Travis Hague.

Andamooka has no local council to provide basic infrastructure and services, instead falling under the Outback Communities Authority. The town relies on the dedication of the Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association to carry out community projects and improvements.

The association’s vice chair Ian Thompson says the new swimming pool is one of the association’s major projects, alongside plans for a new community centre, kitchen and men’s shed facilities.

He commends the efforts of locals who put in their time generously to raise money and see projects through.

The association is made up of volunteers and a small number of paid members. It has delivered many community infrastructure projects over the years, including the upgrade of the local caravan and camping site, and playground.

It also implements a successful Work for the Dole scheme which has lead to many improvements including the refurbishment of Andamooka’s historic mining cottages.

“We have a population of about 500 … we do not have one public servant in this town apart from at the school,” Ian says. “That’s a good indication of a community looking after itself.”

Header image: Tuckabox Hotel owner John Smirnios with Andamooka children who would like to see a new swimming pool established in the town. Photo by Travis Hague.

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Community spirit fulfils Waikerie’s nature park dreams

A water and nature play park at Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland demonstrates how a community can work together to achieve amazing results.

Local couple, Clive and Donna Matthews came up with the idea, after noticing how much their daughters, Evie, 9, and Arlee, 7, enjoyed visiting similar playgrounds in other towns during their caravan holidays.

The Waikerie Water and Nature Play Park blends in with the natural environment and the nearby River Murray.

“We were very specific about this, there is no blue or yellow,” Donna says.

The playground features a flying fox, a teepee, water play features, bench seats made from logs and stones, and a climbing wall. An old boat was donated by local car dealership, Sutton Ford and painted by the Waikerie Men’s Shed.

Waikerie couple Donna and Clive Matthews worked tirelessly to fulfil the community’s dream of a riverfront play park. Photo by Christine Webster

The playground has also been designed so it can be enjoyed when it is too cold for water play.

The park was officially opened on December 22, 2018, to coincide with the summer school holidays and it is already giving local families and tourists much joy.

Donna and Clive realised their dream of creating the park on the Waikerie riverfront had potential when they learned about the SA Government’s former Fund My Neighbourhood Grants (FMN) program.

The couple applied for funding from the program and were delighted to receive $150,000 for the park project.

The public also had to vote online for the project and the strong response from Waikerie residents resulted in the playground being one of the highest voted for projects back in 2017.

Clive says they thought they had hit an obstacle, when they learned they were unable to use the FMN money to apply for any further grants.

Zayn, 5, left, Rino, 4, and Lachlan 4, all of Waikerie try out the water pump for the first time at the official opening in December. Photo by Christine Webster

Parks with water elements require expensive underground works and more money was needed. But the town came to the rescue.

The Rotary Club of Waikerie donated $50,000, the Loxton Waikerie Council provided $30,000 of in-kind support in labour and the Waikerie Apex Club contributed $11,000 to shelters at the park.

Members of the Waikerie community and local businesses also donated a total of $15,000 after Donna set up a Go Fund Me campaign.

Clive, who runs a maintenance and installation business at Waikerie, also saved $30,000 by volunteering his time to project manage the park’s construction.

Donna, who has always been artistic and is a beauty therapist, also wanted to save money on having to engage a professional designer. She designed the play area after many hours of research, which included visiting play parks around Australia.

“Parents with young children worry all the time because the river can be dangerous, but at the park they can still get wet and it’s safe,” Donna says.

Adela Frankel, 8, of Berri, on the teepee, which is the park’s showpiece. Photo by Christine Webster.

Drought and downturns in the citrus and wine industries, which in recent years have begun to perform strongly again, have often left Waikerie struggling to maintain its population and town centre.

Clive and Donna believe the tide is gradually changing with several new businesses opening in recent weeks, with Clive saying tourism is the key.

Since the water and nature play park opened just before Christmas, about 3000 people have paused to enjoy the serenity of the riverfront and try out the playground.

“Waikerie is beginning to change and in the next few years I would love to see it boom,” Clive says.

Loxton Waikerie Mayor Leon Stasinowsky says the park is an example of what the community can achieve by working closely with the council.

“It is something I have always been passionate about,” he adds.

Header image: Photo by SkyTec Media.

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Eyes on the sky for spectacular Jamestown air event

All eyes will be on the sky above Jamestown’s Sir Hubert Wilkins Aerodrome on Sunday, October 21, as the local flying group presents its triennial Air Spectacular.

The Jamestown Flying Group’s 11th air show promises to live up to its spectacular name, and World War II and vintage aircraft buffs and adrenaline seekers alike will be in their element.

A rare World War II Hawker Hurricane XII fighter aircraft never before seen in South Australia will be drawcard for the 2018 event.

Used during the Battle of Britain, the Hurricane aircraft is largely ‘under-rated’, having shot down more enemy aircraft than the better-known Spitfire.

The restored Hurricane now based in Scone, New South Wales, is the only plane of its type in existence in the southern hemisphere.

The Hawker Hurricane XII fighter aircraft will visit SA for the first time this October.

Aircraft co-ordinator for the event, Jim Best, says it was a major coup to secure the Hurricane and the air spectacular event will give spectators the opportunity to see it in action for the first time in SA.

“The plane will fly in for the event, it will do aerobatic manoeuvres similar to what they would have done in a dog fight (aerial combat within close range),” he says.

Hurricane pilot Paul Bennet will be in control and says spectators can expect to see him perform loops, rolls and wing-overs in the $4 million aircraft.

“It’s massive really for the event to get this aircraft,” he says.

“There’s every chance it will probably be the first and last time it goes to SA, the furthest it’s travelled so far has been the Illawarra Airshow in NSW.”

Just 2.5 hours drive from Adelaide in the Mid North of SA, Jamestown will be abuzz all weekend, with spectators on Sunday treated to some skilful flying by some of Australia’s best pilots and a fleet of rare aircraft.

A past pyrotechnics display and re-enactment at the Jamestown Air Spectacular. Photo by N Daw.

Among the other features will be an Australian-built Wirraway, Jim Whalley with his rare, historic Boomerang aircraft and Gazelle helicopter, a Grumman Avenger and other antique aircraft.

A heart-stopping aerobatics display by legendary pilots Chris Sperou and Paul Bennet, a dog fight re-enactment, a locally-owned General Grant tank and pyrotechnics display will all feature.

Behind the spectacular event is a small but dedicated group of flying and aircraft enthusiasts and community volunteers.

The Jamestown Flying Group (JFG) has just 28 financial members in a small community, but president Danny Keller says local support, the Friends of the Jamestown Flying Group, and sponsorship made the event possible.

Started more than 30 years ago, the JFG has worked tirelessly over the years, with fundraising and pure hard work to get the Sir Hubert Wilkins Aerodrome established to now include an all-weather bitumen strip, lighting, clubrooms and hangars.

It is a vital local asset, providing a safe landing spot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and other emergency services.

A bird’s eye view of the Sir Hubert Wilkins Aerodrome at Jamestown, which will host the 11th triennial Air Spectacular this October. Photo by N Daw.

The flying group was borne from an incident which saw a retrieval plane clip trees at the end of a short, dirt air strip as it flew out with a patient, local doctor John Shepherd and ambulance officer and founding club member Tony Leesong all on board.

The close-call led to a handful of locals starting the group to develop a more adequate facility. The airstrip was lengthened, lights installed, surfaced with rubble and then eventually bitumen to make it the all-weather landing site it is today.

Club members also made many night-time dashes to the airstrip to turn the landing lights on in preparation for the RFDS to land safely for retrievals in what signifies a true, community effort.

The Australian-built Wirraway will be among the vintage aircraft flying in to Jamestown on October 21. Photo by Darren Mottram.

Last financial year, the RFDS landed 71 times at the Sir Hubert Wilkins Aerodrome for emergency retrievals and medical transfers.

“It’s used by the RFDS, for fire water bombers and general aviation access to the community,” Danny Keller says.

“It’s a very important facility and asset to the community and over the years the JFG has supported the RFDS through our Air Spectacular event.

“This year however, any proceeds from the event have been committed to the Jamestown Hospital auxiliary to support its refurbishment project.”

The air show beings on Sunday, October 21, at 10.45am (gates open at 7am) through until 4pm.

For bookings and information visit the website or Facebook page.

Header photo: A Jamestown Flying Group archive photo by Clive Palmer.

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Community group revitalises famous opal town

A Coober Pedy community group is on a mission to boost tourism in the famous outback opal town by overhauling its marketing materials and revitalising one of the town’s major events.

The Coober Pedy Retail, Business and Tourism Association (CPRBTA) has updated and revised the town’s main tourism website with a new look, logo and slogan ‘Get Outback, Get Underground!’

The volunteer group also pushed for a revitalisation of the town’s major event, the Coober Pedy Opal Festival, which was a “resounding success” with dates shifted from the usual Easter weekend to June.

The festival’s duration was also extended to three days and coincided with other events in the town.

This year’s Coober Pedy Opal Festival attracted about 2000 people, up from its usual 1000. A street parade was a highlight of the event.

Coober Pedy, which mines 70% of the world’s opals, also recently welcomed its own version of the Hollywood sign, made from 3m-high corrugated iron letters crafted by Wayne Borrett.

The improvements to the town’s existing branding came about through a Strategic Marketing Plan funded by a $46,000 grant from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).

Motel owner Deb Clee, who is also CPRBTA treasurer, says the new website, which has also been adopted by the district council as the premier tourism site, is receiving up to 3500 page views a week.

She says website hits were not recorded previously with the old site but she estimated they only reached 1000 per week.

The new logo and slogan reflect’s Coober Pedy’s famous sunsets and opals.

By the end of 2018, Coober Pedy is expected to be celebrating an addition to the Big Winch Scenic Lookout precinct – a 360-degree drop down cinema screening the town’s history and opal mining.

The CPRBTA was more recently awarded $21,500 from round two of the BBRF towards costs of upgrading and installing ‘Welcome to Coober Pedy’ signage at the town entrances.

The rebranding of the town comes as underground Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience Motel reports its most successful July in almost a decade.

Deb says the last time business was this good was in 2010, when Lake Eyre was flooded.

“Everybody in town is saying the same thing … it could have something to do with the luring closure of Uluru to climbers in 2020,” she says.

Inside the Soft Rock Café at the Comfort Inn Coober Pedy Experience Motel.

Coober Pedy has a population of more than 1700 people.

In four years to 2016, about 103,000 international and domestic overnight visitors came to Coober Pedy, according to Tourism Research Australia’s latest Local Government Area profile.

Together, the two groups poured about $31m into the local economy.

While Coober Pedy is mainly fuelled on the tourism industry and opal mining, Deb says the town is sometimes seen as a stopover destination.

However, things are changing, she says.

Photo by Kezia Manning.

“It used to be a stopover town, but we are changing that,” says Deb, whose family has lived in Coober Pedy since 1985.

“We’re seeing the (overnight) stays are getting longer and all these advantages that we’re creating in the town are giving people a reason to stay longer.”

Deb says business confidence in Coober Pedy is at a high but the CPRBTA still wants visitors to extend their stay and “experience everything we have to offer”.

“We have history tours, noodling areas, underground churches, underground mine museum, The Breakaways, and the Dingo fence – the world’s longest fence,” she says.

“There is so much to do.”

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Port Augusta’s desert botanic garden flourishes with volunteer spirit

The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden attracted more than 100,000 visitors last financial year and is helping to reinvent Port Augusta as the “arid garden city”.

The desert botanic garden, which opened in 1996, is regarded as Port Augusta’s top tourism destination and earlier this year was ranked the country’s best regional botanic garden by Australian Geographic magazine.

The 250ha space is owned by the Port Augusta Council, which recorded almost 107,000 visitors to the garden in 2017/18.

The council says the garden’s success is down to the efforts the Friends of the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, a volunteer group which helps maintain the plants, assists in the running of the onsite nursery, lead guided tours and raise funds.

The volunteer group has raised more than $1m for the garden, while voluntary labour over the past four years is valued at more than $4m.

The group says visitors to the garden contribute $18m to the Port Augusta community, a figure based on research carried out by Tourism Research Australia.

Friends of the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden president John Zwar OAM says the garden is a place for research, serenity and exploration. Photo: ABC Port Pirie.

Friends president John Zwar OAM came up with the concept for an arid botanic garden for Port Augusta in 1981, forming the Friends group in 1994 before the garden was finally opened in 1996.

Located on the shores of the Upper Spencer Gulf and offering stunning views of the Flinders Ranges, the garden features significant areas of natural arid zone vegetation as well as coastal vegetation.

Many of the plant collections feature rare plant species in sections dedicated to particular regions of Australia including the Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Central Ranges, Gawler region, and Great Victoria Desert.

John says the garden’s popularity has helped raise the image of Port Augusta, which has faced recent struggles with the closure of the Alinta power plant.

Volunteers put in hours every day to maintain the garden and many of its operations, including the nursery.

“It’s really helped raise the image of the town and people are calling Port Augusta the arid garden city now, whereas it didn’t have this image before,” John says.

“The place, which has gone from being flat for a year or so, has really started to pick up again and I’m hopeful that the garden is safe.

“We now have the world’s largest solar thermal power station going in north of Port Augusta and I think there are another five wind, solar and pumped hydro (projects) going in.

“Port Augusta is a great place to live and there are a lot of positive things about it; it’s a great location near the Flinders, near the sea, and right on the doorstep of the outback.

“Loads of tourists and travellers are passing through and the garden has a captive audience because a national highway – the Stuart Highway – passes right through.

“It’s a really great place to showcase arid zone vegetation and I think tourists really appreciate it.”

Friends of AALBG plant the first tree in 1989. Friends president Dr Gordon Paine, left, Dr Reg Sprigg of Arkaroola, Ian Gilfillan MP, and Brian Powell AM (standing). Photo courtesy of John Zwar.

John says the Friends group has about 400 members including locals and people from around the country and overseas.

About 30 people regularly volunteer on site, he says.

“Without the support of the volunteers, I’m sure the garden wouldn’t have eventuated in the first place and it wouldn’t keep running like it is at present,” John says.

About 160 species of birds, including rare species, can be spotted in the garden and two birdhides provide the perfect place for birdwatchers to observe quietly.

The garden is also home to an award-winning AridSmart section which shows visitors how to use water wise gardening techniques at home.

The Arid Explorers Garden offers a children’s nature play area with a shelter shed, logs, rocks, a dry creek bed and red sand pit.

The Blue Bush Café overlooks stunning scenery. Photo courtesy of AALBG.

Travel and restaurant company TripAdvisor rates the garden’s Blue Bush Café as the second-best restaurant in Port Augusta. Dishes use native produce including lemon myrtle and quandongs.

The garden is also an important place for research with students and researchers conducting studies into the heat tolerance of various arid zone plants.

The Port Augusta Council’s director of corporate and community services, Anne O’Reilly, says the garden is a significant benefit for the regional centre.

She says the Friends group members are valued and passionate ambassadors in the community.

“The garden would not be the success that it is today without the support of the Friends,” Anne says.

The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden is at 144 Stuart Highway, Port Augusta, and is open daily from 7.30am to sunset.

Children explore the Arid Explorers Garden. Photo courtesy of AALBG.

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Volunteers the true stars of Coober Pedy Drive-In

Coober Pedy is the eccentric outback town renowned for its opals and underground dugouts, but roll around every Saturday night and scenes of Hollywood will flicker before your eyes.

The renowned mining settlement – where 70% of the world’s opals are mined – is home to one of the country’s last remaining drive-in theatres, operated by a dedicated band of volunteers who keep the facility running.

There was once a real risk of explosives being let off at the drive-in by hooligan miners, but although the threat has ceased, a notice is still flashed on screen warning of such offences.

Mining blokes would jump in their utes, loaded with gelignite and other mining tools, and head to the drive-in to catch a flick after a day’s work.

Locals say it wasn’t unusual for sticks of dynamite to be thrown at the screen if the film on offer wasn’t to their liking.

A warning sign still flashes on the screen at the drive-in warning viewers to keep their mining explosives at bay. Back in the day it was a real threat, now it’s more a novelty.

Although things don’t go off with quite a bang these days, the romance of the Coober Pedy Drive-In is still very much alive.

It’s now run by the Outback Open Air Cinema Committee, a small group of volunteers who give their time to operating and up-keeping the equipment.

Committee chairperson and projectionist Matt Key says the Coober Pedy Drive-In screens films every Saturday night and often AFL matches on a Friday.

The sessions attract about 30-40 cars, he says, with 70% of patrons locals townspeople, while the rest are tourists.

“The drive-in is the main regular activity for the town,” Matt says.

“It’s the only cinema where people can bring their animals. People come on gophers with cats on their lap, and others will bring their dogs.

“If there are dogs in the movie as well, it often sets of a raucous.”

The Coober Pedy Drive-In might be one of the longest running outdoor cinemas in SA, but it hasn’t been without its downtimes.

Its history is a colourful tale of unwavering community spirit, with the facility built by the Progress and Miners Association by 1965 with money raised from donations and the raffle of a Holden ute.

Volunteers install the drive-in screen in 1964. Photo: Bill McDougall, cooberpedydrivein.org.au/

The films generated a high source of revenue for the town, with eight films shown every week from the likes of Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music.

But as the 1980s rolled in, the rise of television took over and with that came the decline of many drive-ins across Australia.

By 1984, the Coober Pedy Drive-In had closed except for the odd special screening – most notably the charming classic Crocodile Dundee which hit the silver screen in 1986.

By the mid-90s, the Coober Pedy Drive-In was a mostly abandoned site, until a private group reopened it on a commercial basis and the facility was wound back to life.

But in 2000 the lease ran out, and volunteers again had to step up, taking over the operations and keeping the town in touch with films that would go on to form generations of culture.

In 2013, the drive-in suffered its biggest challenge – the takeover of the digital age, meaning the old equipment was made mostly redundant.

Dozens of cars gather at the Coober Pedy drive-in to watch a movie under the stars.

Coober Pedy locals refused to let the curtains close on the outdoor cinema, and so they set out to raise more than $120,000 to undertake a full digital upgrade.

“We held community raffles, karaoke nights, school fundraisers, community markets and took donations, it was something the whole town got behind,” Matt says.

“The State Government chipped in $40,000 and the Coober Pedy Council gave $20,000.

“We’re a small town and we aren’t a well-off community by any stretch, but we pulled it off.”

The drive-in is still managed by the Outback Open Air Cinema Committee, who collect money from the gate, operate equipment, run the canteen and chase grants to ensure the drive-in can stay.

“It’s because of the locals that the drive-in still exists,” Matt says.

“The whole town is behind the drive-in … everyone looks out for each other.

“We are one of two drive-ins in the state and one of 12 in Australia. To have it out here in the country, in the middle of nowhere is pretty special.”

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Naracoorte is my home now

Hafeezullah Haidari had fled persecution in Pakistan when he came to Australia in 2013 with only $34 to his name.

Forced to leave behind his wife and four children, Hafeezullah, a member of Pakistan’s ethnic Hazara minority, sought asylum in Australia, 10,000km from home.

He settled in the small Limestone Coast town of Naracoorte and built a life “from nothing”, opening an Indian restaurant and harnessing a desire give back to the community that took him in.

“In my country it’s not safe for Hazara men,” Hafeezullah says.

“That’s why I came to Australia. It’s the best country in the world, and it’s a safe place.

“I arrived in Australia, and my friend lived in Naracoorte, he told me to come here. I had no work, I was thinking I’d search for how I’m going to build up my life, so I arrived in Naracoorte.

“I am from nothing. No money, no nothing. I decided that I wanted to open a restaurant in the town.”

Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte restauranteur Hafeezullah Haidari, left, with his brother Asmat Ullah Haidari. Photo courtesy of the Naracoorte Herald.

After settling in Australia for two years, Hafeezullah opened Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte, and set out to give back to the community that had embraced him.

Hafeezullah supplies Country Fire Service (CFS) volunteers with free meals and water during emergencies, and also trains and mentors local students and fellow migrants in the town.

He supports Naracoorte High School and Independent Learning Centre students, who mostly speak English as a second language, to increase their employability and build their confidence.

“Many students come through and go on to get a part time job,” Hafeezullah says.

“They learn good confidence and built up their hospitality skills.”

Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte volunteers, Fatima, left, Zahra, Sayed Kazimi, with owner Hafeezullah, and Kara Renshaw, Alannah Johnson and Lianni De Been were congratulated on their efforts. Photo courtesy of Naracoorte Herald.

Aside from hosting fundraising dinners, Hafeezullah provides breakfast for Naracoorte’s annual Australia Day celebrations, and is a member of the local Rotary Club.

In 2017, his story made it to TV screens across Australia when SBS World News aired a piece on his background and the restaurant.

Hafeezullah’s brother Asmat Ullah Haidari has also settled in South Australia and for the first time since 2013, Hafeezullah will travel to Iran in July to see his wife and children.

He says bringing them to Australia is too difficult due to immigration processes but he manages to stay in regular contact.

Hafeezullah is a trained chef, having worked in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Naracoorte Migrant Resource Centre co-ordinator Jenny Stirling says about 350–400 Afghans and Pakistanis currently call Naracoorte home.

She says people often detour to Naracoorte to enjoy fine dining at the Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte.

Hafeezullah, left, with team members from Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte, and 2018 Citizen of the Year Peter Flavel at this year’s Australia Day breakfast. Photo courtesy of Naracoorte Herald.

“His restaurant is noted for its excellence in service standards, quality of ingredients and standard of fare,” Jenny says.

“Hafeezullah Haidari is a self-made man who came to Australia with nothing but his skills and a determination to make the most of his opportunity to build a business and a life in Australia.”

It’s hard to find a bad review of his Indian-style cuisine, which he cooks from authentic recipes and fresh spices and ingredients.

“Indian (food) in Pakistan, the taste is the same – it’s a part of India and a part of Pakistan,” he says.

“Butter chicken is a top dish for Indian cuisine and it’s my favourite.

“Korma is also top of the menu. There are many choices in the restaurant, and a local wine list.”

Pearl Indian Cuisine Naracoorte supports many local wineries including Brand’s Laira, Penley Estate, Patrick of Coonawarra, Browns of Padthaway, and DiGiorgio.

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Outback ambo a real community asset

First it was the outback cop and her sidekick roos.

Now it’s the outback ambulance volunteer and although Susan Pearl has no furry friends by her side – she agrees that life in remote South Australia is never dull.

The Blinman resident is the historic copper town’s first responder, providing locals with emergency medical cover until an ambulance crew arrives from 100km away.

Like some country areas, Blinman has no ambulance station and therefore relies on first responder volunteers like Susan who are first on scene in medical emergencies until an ambulance crew shows.

Former nurse Susan Pearl is the only first responder volunteer in Blinman, supporting the crew 100km away in Hawker.

The former nurse has lived in the Far North historic mining town for the past four years and also runs tours at the Heritage Blinman Mine.

She says she is rarely called to incidents in Blinman – considering its population is only 18 permanent residents – but is rostered on in Hawker when she travels there for training once a fortnight.

Susan also often drives 200km to Port Augusta to serve as a third ambulance officer in the crew.

With South Australia recording the highest population (21.4%) of volunteers among the states, Susan says giving back to her community is simply a part of life.

“When you move to a new community you have to give something back and I’ve always done volunteer work,” she says.

“I’d like to think my first responder role gives people a bit of peace of mind.”

If an incident occurs in Blinman, Susan’s pager will go off and she will gather her medical equipment.

At the same time an ambulance is dispatched from Hawker, 100km away.

Blinman, about 500km from Adelaide, is a historic copper mining town and home to only 18 people.

“Most people in Blinman live on properties and already have first aid training, but they don’t have all the equipment,” Susan says.

“The accidents I attend are mostly motorbike riders who have hit a kangaroo or emu on the road.

“It can be quite challenging because it’s not a controlled environment out here.

“It can be a freezing cold night, driving on slippery dirt roads, or it can be boiling hot with no shelter.”

Susan moved to the Flinders Ranges four years ago after travelling around Australia with her partner Simon.

The couple gave up “well paid jobs” in corporate careers to fulfil a desire for adventure and the outdoors.

Susan had worked in nursing and safety management roles over three decades, helping to improve support for nurses.

But in 2013 while camping in a remote area Simon died from a massive heart attack.

“I had to start life again,” Susan says.

She initially settled in Hawker and began pursuing her Certificate IV in ambulance officer training.

A job opportunity soon arose at the Heritage Blinman Mine, so she moved to the old copper town.

Susan is also manager of the Heritage Blinman Mine, which is open for underground tours until January 15, 2018.

As Blinman has no residential health service, she continued volunteering in the ambulance service as a first responder.

SA Ambulance Service’s Flinders regional team leader Janet Brewer says first responder roles only exist through “community empowerment”.

“Susan is not typical of the general ambulance officer volunteer model, as she is quite remote from her team (In Hawker),” she says.

“Her role only exists because Susan accepted the challenge of being a solo responder for the Blinman community.”

Janet says Susan is supported through the provision of patient treatment kits, a portable defibrillator, radio communication equipment and a reimbursement of travel costs.

She says the SA Ambulance Service relies on local volunteers.

“SA Ambulance is always inviting the community to continue to provide a local ambulance service, so as long as the volunteer has basic good health, a drivers licence and looking to acquire some basic patient care skills,” Janet says.

“They would find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.”

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