Australian is a land of abundance albeit a dry brown land with droughts, bushfires and floods aplenty. This time last year there were horrific floods in north Queensland, the last three months have been ferocious bush fires in every State. A severe drought impacts the nation.
In spite of all this, we Aussies love this nation. Our heritage is that of doing it tough and of sacrifice whether on the land, in the city, the sporting arena, in cultural pursuits, in research, the work place, Christian ministry, wherever and whatever … the down-under experience is no picnic, lollies don't fall from heaven (as it were).
Yet we've carved out a common experience of egalitarianism, hard work and the outdoors life of fun, humour and of creative endeavours. My son spent seven years in the UK returning in 2010 – that was nine years ago – I can recall him telling me that the life-style for kids is so very different in Australia.
His UK friends could not fathom that as a lad, he'd arrive home after school, be given a snack or a biscuit or a packet of crisp chips and a drink and told to be back inside 20 minutes before dinner.
Aussie kids make their own fun. Nor could they comprehend driving from Manchester to Dover and back in a day (Manchester Mosquitoes AFL team) yet in Australia driving long distances and for hours on end is part of the landscape of life.
I got thinking about some of the special places in my experiences in this great wide brown land that makes Australia Day even more precious for me. A bit like a tourism guide - these are a few of my Australian special places.
79 years ago the Queensland Government opened Eungella land for farming and looked to farmer's sons to take up selections. Eungella (Crediton) is 60 miles west of Mackay on the Great Diving Range, a plateau of rich volcanic soils. My father was one of these pioneers. The view from the Eungella Chalet opened in 1935 down the Pioneer Valley all the way to Mackay is one of the most spectacular in the nation. His diary of developing his dairy can be read on-line.
Our first visit to Albany was in 2010 on a Country Town Tour. The waterways reminded us so much of Vancouver Canada where we had been the year before on Olympic ministry duty in planning the Winter Olympic Chapel program. We stayed at the Landmark which has a revolving restaurant on top of the building giving a 360 degree view of the magnificent waterways. So too Albany with numerous viewing vantage points. Everywhere the name Vancouver was read – it turns out that Captain Vancouver was the first British captain to sail into both Vancouver and Albany waterways.
Richmond is a must re-visit on our Country Town Tours to Tasmania. Just a little south of Hobart it hosts a convict built bridge, a very large and magnificent stone church, remarkable little shops full of knick-knacks and things, plenty for the kids including a full size maze and an ample array of lovely eating places of yesteryear. There are quite beautiful shrubbery and flowers, and huge tree like plants with drooping buds that reflect the wonder of the place.
Moruya is a small country town on the far south coast of NSW, a little south of Batemans Bay and a little north of Narooma, both of which are tourist communities. Moruya is some 8 kilometres from the beach, a little inland and has the hallmarks of a rural town yet the benefits of being coastal. It's a self reliant little town. We lived there for 14 years serving as Master (Chaplain) of Timeout in Moruya – Basil Sellers House – the respite facility for elite athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport. The high school has a remarkable academic record, it hosts a hospital and has eight lively churches. It has fantastic street parades, vintage cars and tractors, arts and crafts, superb bakery's, sports, the river and the regional airport. We raised our family there and not a better place to do so.
We were on a Country Town Tour to the Northern Territory a few years ago that encompassed Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine and Alice Springs. We were fascinated by the WWII Darwin bombing history, the magnificence of Kakadu and the stories from the indigenous groups. Katherine Gorge was something else. Alice Springs is always a treat with its own history. We took The Ghan train from Darwin to Alice Springs rather than flying. It was an astonishing experience with tours along the way, and of course the carriage sleeping berths, the dining and lounge cars, its history and as the Footplate Padre, the locomotive crews.
Laguna Quays – Midge Point
This is the site of the Laguna Quays Respite cottage for missionaries which was opened in 2011. We travel to this Whitsundays area four times a year to check on this and do the maintenance. It is indeed a favourite place.
This is the name given by me, whereby colleagues, friends, associates, enquirers visiting, sit outside my office (double garage) with me, under an awning viewing the Tweed Heads canals, and in the distance Mt Warning, the mountain ranges, the M1 to Brisbane and the aircraft flying in and out of the Gold Coast Airport. My son calls it “Pop's Cafe” as it’s a constant serving of tea and coffee. In this place has sat Test Cricketers (Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years), many elite athletes, those in the corporate world and in business, fellow Ministers and a host of others. Preacher's Perch is quite unique.
That's simply one person's 'special places' celebrating Australia Day. You will have your own 'special places'. They are as different as is chalk and cheese, yet they are all part of this amazing country.
As a Christian Minister I regularly ponder on the hundreds of thousands of Christian messages given each and every year across this land – it all provides my soul with the joy in the Lord and makes me reflect afresh, how very special is Australia Day.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at