So much pride in small towns

November 30, 2017

Back Roads presenter Heather Ewart recently travelled to Tara Whitsed’s hometown of Corryong.

An opening wide-shot of the mountainous countryside I called home for 19 years greeted me as I arrived home from work on Monday night.

The rolling green hills and waterways caused me to beam with pride as familiar faces popped onto my television screen.

‘‘That’s Joan. We used to keep our Shetland pony at her house,’’ I exclaimed to my less-than-excited partner.

I was about to settle down to a 30-minute episode of the ABC program Back Roads, which visited the seemingly-sleepy town of Corryong this year.

The promise of seeing the rural setting and its poignant community members excited former and current Corryong residents alike.

My Facebook feed filled with promotional videos in the lead-up to the episode’s air date, with people proud to share where they came from with the many friends who just would not understand.

With the promise of Violet Town featuring on the program in January, it prompted me to think about just how important it is to highlight the forgotten towns dotted across Australia.

Growing up, whenever I met a new person and they asked me where I was from I would respond in the exact same way each time:

‘‘Corryong; do you know it?’’ I would say. ‘‘No,’’ they would respond.

‘‘Well, it’s near Albury-Wodonga but it’s still an hour-and-a-half away from there.’’

It was impossible to convey just how unique life in the town was.

But watching Back Roads presenter Heather Ewart, I felt that special sense of magic was impossible to escape.

She began the episode with an introduction to Corryong’s largest tourism investment, The Man From Snowy River Festival.

Each year, the event draws thousands of people to the town, something that has grown exponentially from its humble beginnings.

Through scenes of bucking broncos and cattleman catching brumbies, Ms Ewart began to paint a picture of just how smart the townsfolk had been in creating a viable future for themselves.

She explored the innovative ways in which the Corryong Neighbourhood Centre was gaining employment for those in need — through a bakery enterprise where funds go back into the community.

Although my bias had me thinking ‘‘you go Corryong’’, it then dawned on me, Corryong was not unique at all in this respect.

There are so many little towns, many within the Goulburn Valley, which continue to thrive through the good work of dedicated community members.

There are countless volunteers who spend hours and hours of their time helping the town move forward.

There are innovators, people who are passionate about the town’s future and those who will never give up on the area they call home.

Despite feeling immense amounts of pride when I sat down to Back Roads on Monday night, it was the way Ms Ewart wrapped up the episode that left me feeling a little guilty.

She spoke about the steps the town would need to make in order to retain its youth.

Like many of my former fellow students, I could not wait to leave Corryong.

When I was 19 I escaped to the bright lights of Melbourne and I am far from being the only one.

However, shining a light on the place I used to call home instilled a new-found appreciation for the area and its isolation.

If I had never lived in the Upper Murray, I am assured the episode would have made me want to visit the area.

And who knows? It may have even made me want call it home.

Tara Whitsed is a journalist at The News.

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