School children shared experience

LOCAL schools played a key role in Kerang's 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay visit.

Thirteen baton bearers carried the baton – made out of macadamia tree wood and plastic found on a Gold Coast beach – during one hour of festivities.

St Joseph's Primary School students were the first to see the baton, with former Gannawarra Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year, Lenny Brown given the honour of starting the second part of day 53's festivities.

Miss Brown allowed students from the school – as well as visiting pupils from St Mary's Cohuna and St Patrick's Primary School, Pyramid Hill – to touch the baton, which contains a message from Queen Elizabeth II, which will be read on her behalf by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, at the games' opening ceremony on April 4.

"I was really surprised to be nominated," Miss Brown said.

"Taking part was amazing. It was so awesome."

The relay route passed many of Kerang's landmarks, ranging from Kerang District Health, where the day's oldest participant - 94-year-old Kerang and District Band member, Mick Hallinan – passed by on his mobility scooter.

Kerang Technical High School students cheered on as Gannawarra Shire Council's first female mayor, Jenny Kelly ran with the baton, whilst Baptcare Northaven residents and staff watched former Gannawarra Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year, Ashleigh Rogers pass by.

"It was a fantastic experience," Mrs Kelly said.

"It really came to a crescendo going past the high school with all the people there."

St Joseph's Primary School students had their second chance to see the baton when it was handed to youth educator and former long-serving football coach, Jim Hirst.

"It was fantastic to be up on the hill (near St Patrick's Catholic Church) and see so many students," he said.

Representatives from Kerang's two lawn bowls clubs featured, with long-serving Lions Club of Kerang and Kerang Golf Bowling Club member, Faye Burton passing the baton to Kerang Bowling Club life member, Ian Roberts.

"It was a great experience," Mr Roberts said.

"There is a lot more people in our community more worthy than me to carry the baton."

One of the highlights involved the leg's two former Commonwealth Games representatives. Kerang Primary School students had their chance to see the baton when Margot Foster OAM – who won a bronze medal in rowing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games – called in, who passed the baton to former Kerang resident and 2014 Commonwealth Games netball gold medallist, Julie Corletto.

Mrs Corletto ran with the baton along Victoria Street, with the relay's third former Gannawarra Shire Council Young Citizen of the Year, Stacey Barbagallo taking the baton to the town's memorial clock tower.

"I really enjoyed carrying the baton. It was really fun and interesting," Miss Barbagallo said.

Boort ambulance community officer branch team leader, Tamara Boyd received plenty of support from the crowd along Wellington Street before passing the baton to former Gannawarra Shire Council Citizen of the Year, Senior Constable Andrew Neil, APM.

"It was humbling to be involved. Thank you to the support from my family and ribbing from my friends," he said.

"It was a wonderful experience, so well done to everyone involved."

Senior Constable Neil had the honour of taking the baton over the Murray Valley Highway and into the Atkinson Park precinct, before internationally renowned Quambatook-born country music singer/songwriter, John Williamson finished the leg with the journey to a community celebration within the park.

"The relay gave us an opportunity to show our wares of our fine shire," Gannawarra mayor, Cr Brian Gibson said.

"The relay puts the spotlight on our area for at least a day."

"Hosting the relay is great as everyone has so much fun. The kids enjoyed the whole atmosphere."

It was the second time this century the Queen's Baton Relay visited the town, with the current relay visit occurring almost 12 years to the day the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games message passed through Kerang.