NDPA President's Statement

Neerim South sits on a ridge road which cuts through green hills and valleys and leads eventually to either Mt Baw Baw or the Yarra Valley.  This small town is home to some 600 people from diverse backgrounds.  Some of them come from families which have been here since the gigantic trees covering the area were clear felled by hand to provide rich grazing land for their dairy cattle.  Some arrived just yesterday and some are weekenders who take advantage of the proximity to Melbourne to enjoy the best of both worlds.  My family and I are of the latter group.  We bought a ten acre block with a soldier settler house on it, usually arrived late on Friday night and left late on Sunday night.  Getting out of the car on arrival in Neerim South was such an amazing experience. The air was so clean and most often crisp.  The sky was black and littered with stars and a weekend of creating art in the form of a garden and sharing good food and wine with friends and family lay ahead. That was fifteen years ago and the empty ten acre paddocks and the little soldier settler house have morphed into a ten acre garden and modern Australian homestead which doubles as a bed and breakfast. This place is warm, welcoming, friendly and endlessly fascinating.  The many different people, the groups both working and social, and the often surprising stories surrounding them make for a diverse and vibrant community. I am presently the President of the Neerim District Progress Association (NDPA) which earlier this year submitted an Expression of Interest to Regional Arts Victoria (RAV) for a grant of $350,000 to “Transform our Small Town through the Arts”.  To our delight and astonishment we were asked to submit an application which successfully lead to us receiving the grant.  To ‘transform a town’ is no mean feat and some would say a total waste of time because they like the place like it is.  I love it the way it is but believe that there is always room for a place to grow and develop and perhaps expand aspects of life which are not the mainstream. The mainstay of this community is sport and in particular football and netball.  Sport successfully pulls the community – both young and old – together. Sport is very well resourced in Neerim South.  We have a great football and netball ground which is lit at night and provides great club rooms for fans and players alike.  Sport is a great leveller and everyone can and do get involved in it.  The loyalties formed on the football and netball fields last for many years.  Our town needs to nurture and support this. Art is also present.  We have a great art gallery, the Serigraph Gallery, which exhibits local artists and craftsmen and women.  There are heaps of artists scattered over the region and a strong support body in the Baw Baw Arts Alliance.  Artists open their studios to the public on a regular basis.  We believe that the grant from RAV will help us build on this strong community foundation by opening opportunities for making and sharing art from primary aged students and on up to the many senior citizens in the district. I am one of those people who has never had any belief in my ‘arty’ skills but loves to see great art.  I hope that over the next 18 months people like myself will take the plunge and, perhaps with a group of friends, create a piece of art for their community.  I hope that this wonderful community will pull together to support what is an amazing opportunity to enhance the beauty and the joy of this place.