John Martin's Story

Author
John Martin

I was the chairman of the Warracknabeal Townscape Committee. This committee had a brief to implement suggestions in a draft plan which had been prepared by two sculptors and a landscape designer. One of its key recommendations was to build a 'town square'. The committee worked in close consultation with the Shire of Yarriambiack, and the engineer regularly attended all our meetings. At the outset we developed a creed to seek consensus at all costs, to put the community ahead of any private interest, to involve the community as much as possible, and to consult openly with any people that could be affected by construction, or design.

The project took about two years to complete. We widened the four corners of the intersection to include seating. We constructed a roundabout in the form of an eight-spoked wheel to symbolize Warracknabeal as the hub of the cereal-growing district of the Wimmera (Victoria). In the centre of the roundabout we commissioned a sculpture of six sheep and the sheepdog, by the sculptor Grant Fincke. We received $10,000 as a Federation grant. We fabricated steel railings to protect the seats at each corner, and the railing incorporated the wheel motif in its centre. Metal fabrication was carried out by local farmers.

We sold pavers to help finance the project. Over 1000 named pavers were sold. People or organisations paid $25 and the committee made a profit of $10 per paver. These pavers were used at each of the four corners. We also included a mosaic tile pattern at each corner to symbolize the creek on which the town is situated. This was a massive project, which included local school children - they made patterns and designs in the tiles - and a team of women who completed the physical work of planning and laying the tiles. Many working bees were held, mainly at weekends. Many local people helped. Some helped because they saw others helping. "Federation Place" was opened in August 2000. There has been no vandalism. No plants have been pulled out and there has been no graffiti, despite the fact that one corner is occupied by a pub.

We put our success down to our involving the community in every stage of the process. This involvement included letting the people know through regular press bulletins in the local paper. We raised $50,000 through donations, the sale of pavers and the donation of labour and materials. This was matched one for one through a State Government 'pride of place' grant. All work was completed within budget. There was a mix of men and women on the committee. We had a few social functions along the way. We recognised the contribution that individuals made to the project. The fundamental lesson was the need to consult widely and to include as many people as possible in the project. Thus a sense not of ownership but of stewardship was created.

Contact
jkmwar@yahoo.com.au