OPINION | Community spirit evident everywhere

GREAT DAY: Some of my snaps from the 50th city celebrations, including the main picture – Gillian Blackstone (Walker) who was captain of Campbelltown High in 1968, with present school leaders Mia Ha and Hayley Boothe.
GREAT DAY: Some of my snaps from the 50th city celebrations, including the main picture – Gillian Blackstone (Walker) who was captain of Campbelltown High in 1968, with present school leaders Mia Ha and Hayley Boothe.

WELL, I reckon it’s just one of those weeks to give ourselves a pat on the back.

No where does community spirit better than Macarthur.

Firstly, a huge congrats to Wollondilly on another fantastic IlluminARTe Festival in Picton on Saturday night, full of colour, lights and fun. What a great event.

My mate Missy Lancaster, a true homegrown star on the rise, was among the performers, and it was great to see people’s photos all over social media.

Camden, of course, knows how to rally and Camden Art Prize, now in its 43rd year, dominated local fun this week, with the added bonus of the new art gallery.

And interesting to see plans for the Nepean River “reach its full potential” as a tourism draw, with talk of paddle boat or canoe hire.  (Although I did nod my head at one of the online reader comments: “That would be lovely, until you hit the 1km M9 bridge running right through the middle of the river.” Hmmm.)

But my highlight of the week was joining the ‘red rattler’ that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the electric rail connection, and Campbelltown being a declared a city, in May 1968.

The train and station were packed with smiles and fun. A nice touch was also that the train driver was a proud local bloke, Alan Tonks. 

It was nowhere near the crowds of 1968 – claimed to be 50,000 – but the event seemed busy enough on the platform and in the civic hall afterwards, the crowd ranging from old town identities to contingents from schools.

I did see some online comments about the lack of any wider public involvement. “Why hasn't the council organised a parade or something to celebrate and support small business owners and citizens?” was typical.

All I can think is council is holding its powder dry for 2020 when Campbelltown marks its bicentenary, being founded by Governor Macquarie in December 1820.

The red rattler train and station were packed with smiles and fun.

But it’s easy to criticise, harder to do. So congrats to those who took time to organise Friday, particularly volunteer Michael Chalker (of Chalker Music in Queen Street), council staff, the food from Shefali and the team at the Alkalizer cafe, and the wonderful members of Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society led by Kay Hayes. And, of course, the young people. Our future is in good hands.

Some of the old faces were highlighted, such as the daughters of 1968 Town Clerk, Harley Daley. But someone perhaps a bit overlooked was Diana Percival (pictured with son Drew, top left), who was at the forefront in 1968 with her late husband, Greg Percival, one of our greatest local statesman.

It was great to read all the public memories and feedback, but comments by one of our community’s great advocates, Nea Makowski, resonated with me so much I wanted to repeat it here:

“Where else do you have such a rich history, spectacular bushland and river system, beautiful hills...where else is equidistant (more or less) to beaches, mountains and to Sydney, while still being close to Camden, Bowral, rural views, and plenty of good amenities PLUS we have koalas, platypus, lyrebirds and other animals. We have our feet on the ground, we call a spade a shovel, our bullshit meters are finely tuned, and we dig deep to help others less fortunate. These days we also dig deep emotionally to fight for what is right, to preserve what is good about our region and to demand better from our leaders. Instead of cringing when someone looks down their nose at us we know it says more about them than us.”

Hear, hear.

A pollie actually worth recalling

From Liz Kernohan Drive in Elderslie and the Frank McKay building in Picton to Bradbury’s Gordon Fetterplace pool and the Greg Percival Library in Ingleburn, we are often reminded of the giants of local civic history.

But with one bit glaring omission: Clive Tregear.

This truly great man (pictured, at left) was Campbelltown’s fiercely independent mayor from 1964 to 1972 and took us from country town to optimistic new city.

In a time of rapid change, Clive was an honest broker with a ramrod back and eloquent words, the epitome of how a mayor should look, act and sound. (His amazing wife, Genevieve, was a local legend in her own right.)

Yet try to find a building, park, street or even a water bubbler named after Clive today. Which is ironic, given he was known for being a keen "infrastructure mayor”, from building libraries and pools to constantly supporting new local schools.

It should be noted that Clive served on Campbelltown Council a lot longer than his term as mayor...from 1956 to 1980...and he was at the forefront of saving many local historical icons such as the four Georgian houses on Queen Street, not to mention his efforts to protect the Scenic Hills, other local "scenic protection" zones, and stop low-quality blocks of flats.

Given that, I would suggest the legacy of a man like Clive is well worth remembering.

Can our councillors please put on their thinking caps.