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Ballina News

Celebrating 50 years of Las Balsas Expedition

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Fern Robichaud with his assistant Kelly Morton

Celebrating 50 years of Las Balsas Expedition

 

By Samantha Elley

When 10 year old Fernand ‘Fern’ Robichaud heard the story of Marc Modena and his trek across the Atlantic Ocean on a raft from Canada to England, it was a story that would stay with him over the years.

“When I was 24, I contacted him and after that we became good friends,” said Fern at the 50 year anniversary of the Las Balsas expedition held last weekend at Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum.

“He invited me to come on the expedition.”

That expedition would make world headlines as it left Ecuador on May 27, 1973 and sailed for 178 days across the Pacific Ocean, having covered around 14,000km with 12 men on three rafts. (Balsa is the Spanish word for raft).

They saw their fair share of bad and good weather and amazing sea life.

“We sailed through a hurricane and were in the eye of a cyclone,” said Fern.

“The rafts became a floating atoll.

“First you had the little fish feeding near you and that attracted the bigger fish and then, of course, the sharks.”

L to R: Col from the Idaho, Dick Greaves, President, Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, Las Balsas expeditioner Fern Robichaud, Ballina mayor Sharon Cadwallader, Brock from the Enterprise ready to cut the cake.

L to R: Col from the Idaho, Dick Greaves, President, Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, Las Balsas expeditioner Fern Robichaud, Ballina mayor Sharon Cadwallader, Brock from the Enterprise ready to cut the cake.

Seafood was definitely on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Then there was the issue of toileting procedures.

“It was the best seat on the raft,” laughed Fern.

“It was the only seat, so it was often used to sit on to read a book as well.”

Fern is very adamant when he talks about the two greatest highlights of the whole expedition.

“The first was when we left Ecuador and you realised that it was too late to jump off and go back to shore,” he laughed.

“And the second was when we arrived at Ballina.

“There were heaps of people on the shoreline and everyone was happy to see us.”

The expedition was originally bound for Mooloolaba on the Queensland coast, but a strong southerly current carried the rafts down the coast and the three rafts crossed the bar, with the help of some local trawlers, on 21st November, 1973.

Australia obviously had an impact on Fern as he now resides permanently here.

The same can be said for the expedition on the town of Ballina.

Fern Robichaud with his assistant Kelly Morton

Fern Robichaud with his assistant Kelly Morton

President of the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, Dick Greaves, said when they moved into its present site, a purpose built extension was made to the roof of the old Ballina Information Centre to be able to house the last remaining raft of the Las Balsas expedition.

Two of the local trawlerman Col and Brock were on hand at the 50 years celebrations to share their stories of the arrival of the expedition.

With the Navy’s HMAS Labuan following the rafts from Brisbane to Ballina, they called out for help to get all three rafts safely over the Ballina bar.

The Idaho, which Col was on board, and the Enterprise, that had Brock, responded and two rafts were safely brought in.

The third raft was too water logged to take the strain of being towed and was cut loose, where it drifted down to Newcastle, towed into port but eventually destroyed by vandals.

The two rafts that landed in Ballina were combined using their best parts to recreate one raft, which now stands proudly on display at the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

Ballina News

Ballina Shire Council Unveils Draft Housing Strategy for Public Review

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Ballina Shire Council Unveils Draft Housing Strategy for Public Review

Ballina Shire Council Unveils Draft Housing Strategy for Public Review

 

The Ballina Shire Council is pleased to present the Draft Housing Strategy for public review and feedback, aimed at addressing the housing needs within the Ballina Shire over the next two decades. Crafted to anticipate and respond to housing demand, this strategy is a proactive approach to ensuring the availability of suitable housing for residents.

Paula Newman, Council’s Manager Strategic Planning, underscores the significance of this strategy in aligning housing supply with the community’s evolving needs.

“The Draft Ballina Shire Housing Strategy 2024 serves as a blueprint, identifying critical gaps in housing supply and delineating Council’s pivotal role in facilitating and promoting housing options that cater to our diverse populace,” she states.

The strategy delineates 23 actionable items earmarked for implementation over the ensuing 20 years, all aimed at fostering a more inclusive and sustainable housing landscape.

Four overarching principles guide these actions:

  1. Accessibility for Local Workers and Residents: Prioritising housing availability for those who live and work within the community, ensuring equitable access to housing opportunities.
  2. Promotion of Housing Diversity: Advocating for an array of housing sizes and types to accommodate the diverse needs and preferences of residents, fostering inclusivity and choice.
  3. Creation of Walkable Neighbourhoods: Promoting the development of walkable neighbourhoods with proximity to essential amenities such as shops and services, enhancing community connectivity and quality of life.
  4. Enhancement of Housing Resilience: Ensuring new housing developments are resilient to natural disasters and capable of withstanding housing stress, safeguarding the welfare of residents and the integrity of communities.
Ballina Shire Council Unveils Draft Housing Strategy for Public Review

Ballina Shire Council Unveils Draft Housing Strategy for Public Review

Acknowledging the multifaceted nature of the housing system, Ms. Newman underscores the collaborative effort required for meaningful progress. “The housing landscape is intricate, influenced by an interplay of macro-economic policies, technological advancements, and stakeholder dynamics,” she affirms.

“While Council plays a pivotal role, effective resolution necessitates collective action, with landowners, developers, government entities, and community stakeholders each contributing to the solution.”

In the spirit of transparency and community engagement, Council conducted a series of consultation activities, including online surveys and face-to-face workshops, to gather insights and perspectives shaping this Draft Housing Strategy.

The Council invites community members to provide their valuable feedback on the Draft Strategy, underscoring the importance of community participation in shaping the future of housing within the Ballina Shire.

To contribute your insights and ideas, please visit here. Together, let us chart a course towards a more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient housing landscape for all residents of the Ballina Shire.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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Ballina News

Changing up Australia Day

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A girl with an Australian Flag for tweed's Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony

Changing up Australia Day

 

By Sarah Waters

Tweed Shire Council bucked tradition and held their 2024 Tweed’s Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony on Thursday, January 25, last week – the day before Australia Day.

Council decided to change the date last year, after Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles announced an update to the Australian citizenship ceremonies code.

Councils are now allowed to host ceremonies on any of the three days before or after January 26.

Mayor Chris Cherry said hosting Tweed’s Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony a day before the public holiday allowed invited guests to attend last Thursday’s event and then spend Australia Day with their family and friends.

It also saved council with costs by not having to pay staff overtime for working on a public holiday.

Tweed Councillor Nola Firth said that it was a win, win situation to have the awards and citizenship ceremony on a different day.

“While I personally believe Australia Day should be on another day than the one where Captain Arthur Phillip arrived and took possession of what was in fact Indigenous land, the timing of the citizenship ceremony, of which there are many during the year, was not intended to create controversy,” Ms Firth said.

Ms Firth said community members could still celebrate Australia Day as they wished on January 26, but it also allowed the award ceremonies to be held on a day which wasn’t so contentious to some people.

A girl with an Australian Flag for tweed's Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony

Councils now have more control over what they do for Australia Day

Meanwhile, Byron Shire Council, did not host any Australia Day celebrations or ceremonies this year.

Mayor Michael Lyon said council held the opinion quite broadly that there should be a different day to celebrate Australians, which is more inclusive.

“I think the way things are going, more generally in Australia, is to move away from having January 26 as Australia Day and certainly in this Shire we’ve felt that way for a long time,” Mr Lyon said.

Last year, Byron Shire Council held a citizenship ceremony on Australia day, but this year it was moved to January 29.

The Byron Shire also did not hold an Australia Day awards ceremony to celebrate its community members.

In 2022, it decided to celebrate its citizens or community members at a completely different time of the year, which now typically coincides with Local Government Week in August.

Survival Day was instead held again at Byron Bay last Friday, January 26, which celebrated the survival of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture.

Arakwal Bundjalung people of Byron, the Sisters of Reconciliation and the Cavanbah Reconciliation Group invited community members to the 20th annual Cavanbah (Byron Bay) Survival Day event at Main Beach, Byron Bay.

Thousands attended the event, which included Bundjalung and Djugun musicians and speakers who discussed the history of the British Invasion and colonisation of Bundjalung people.

Ballina Shire Council had no changes to its annual Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony with both celebrations held last Friday at the Lennox Head Cultural Centre.

The shire’s ceremony started with a Welcome to Country by Bundjalung elder Aunty Julia Paden, followed by a special citizenship ceremony and the much-anticipated Ballina Shire Australia Day Awards.

 

For more Tweed Shire news, click here.

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Ballina News

Celebrating Excellence: Ballina Shire’s 2024 Australia Day Award Winners

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Ballina Shire Australia Day Ceremony

Celebrating Excellence: Ballina Shire’s 2024 Australia Day Award Winners

 

Today, our community united to pay tribute to our local heroes, extend a warm welcome to new Australian citizens, and celebrate the essence of living in the picturesque Ballina Shire at the 2024 Ballina Shire Australia Day Awards.

Hosted at the Lennox Head Cultural Centre by the Ballina Shire Council, the official Australia Day ceremony was a vibrant affair. It commenced with a heartfelt Welcome to Country by Aunty Julia Paden, followed by captivating performances by the Ballina Players and the Lennox Beach Line Dancers. The ceremony also featured a touching citizenship induction and the eagerly awaited announcement of the Ballina Shire Australia Day Awards.

Among the 40 nominations across various categories, Rex and Di Farrell, 2023’s Citizens of the Year, proudly revealed the 2024 Citizen of the Year. Mayor Sharon Cadwallader, alongside the esteemed Master of Ceremonies Sandra Jackson from 101.9 Paradise FM, had the privilege of presenting the awards.

Ballina Shire Australia Day Ceremony

Here are the deserving recipients and nominees:

Citizen Of The Year: Joel Taylor

Joel Taylor, a Lennox local from birth, has left an indelible mark not just in the realm of surfing but beyond. Despite a spinal cord injury at 21, Joel’s passion for the ocean persisted, leading him to embrace parasurfing. Within a year of his return to the water, Joel clinched the Australian Para Surfing Title and emerged triumphant as the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Champion in the Men’s Prone 1 Division. His personal triumphs inspire many, while his establishment of Unite Clothing in 2004 and active support for bodyboarding associations underscore his commitment to community and the ocean.

Young Citizen Of The Year: Lucy Trease

As the 2023 School Captain of Alstonville High, Lucy Trease epitomizes leadership and service. Alongside her academic pursuits, Lucy co-manages a sourdough bakery with her brothers, extending a helping hand to flood victims in 2022. An avid volunteer and mentor, Lucy dedicates her time to coaching soccer, supporting debating teams, and engaging in school sports, exemplifying exceptional dedication and community spirit.

Senior Citizen Of The Year (Joint Winners)

  • Dr. Colin MacDonald:
    Dr. MacDonald’s illustrious medical career spanning the Royal Australian Navy and Ballina District Hospital reflects his unwavering commitment to healthcare. His advocacy for staff and patients alike, coupled with extensive community involvement, illustrates a profound dedication to service.
  • Yvonne Scarrabellotti:
    For over three decades, Yvonne Scarrabellotti has been a beacon of leadership and service, notably through her instrumental role in the Country Women’s Association and various community initiatives. Her tireless efforts in aiding during natural disasters and supporting numerous local organisations exemplify her enduring commitment to community welfare.

Volunteer Of The Year (Joint Winners)

  • Ivan Leahy:
    Ivan Leahy’s humanitarian efforts, both locally and internationally, highlight his unwavering dedication to aiding those in need. From chairing the Ballina Hope Haven Women’s Refuge to founding Kenya Health, Ivan’s compassion knows no bounds.
  • Ken Delany:
    Ken Delany’s steadfast commitment to Ballina Marine Rescue for over 15 years showcases his exemplary leadership and dedication to community safety. His invaluable contributions as a trainer, fundraiser, and community liaison underscore his pivotal role in safeguarding the Ballina waters.

Community Event Of The Year (Joint Winners)

  • Purple Friday (Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond and Cherry Street Sports)
  • DV Walk (Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond)
    These collaborative initiatives against Domestic & Family Violence, spearheaded by the Rotary Club, underscore the power of community action in addressing significant social issues.

Sporting Achievement Award: Lennox Beach Line Dancing

Lennox Beach Line Dancing’s journey from a small school club to international acclaim symbolizes dedication, talent, and community connection, redefining perceptions of line dancing.

Arts/Cultural Award: Ballina Players

Ballina Players’ longstanding contribution to the arts scene, characterized by exceptional productions and community engagement, enriches the cultural fabric of the Ballina Shire.

Environmental Award: The Wildlife Twins – Bridget and Sophie Thompson

Bridget and Sophie Thompson’s fervent commitment to wildlife conservation and education underscores the importance of environmental stewardship in the Northern Rivers region.

As part of the ceremony, we welcomed 17 new Australian citizens from diverse backgrounds. To learn more about the 2024 Ballina Shire Australia Day award winners and nominees, visit Ballina Shire Council’s website.

 

For more local Ballina news, click here.

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