Notwithstanding our initial scepticism that we might have such an unlikely and wonderful visit – especially with the timing – 11.55am on Thursday 1 April!! – follow up contact with the fantastic Senior Protocol Officer in Government House, Ashleigh Dand, demystified the process, outlined the timetable, taught us lots of things around the protocols to follow and made the path smooth for us.
Nevertheless, there was a degree of controlled mayhem, well-disguised panic and many major and minor things planned and done to make sure we were ready and could put on a good show for our Governor-General.
It all settled down a bit when we had an advance visit from a member of the protection detail on Tuesday who did a security sweep and familiarised himself with the location and what we were planning to do. Nothing like a bit of reassurance when April Fool’s Day is looming!
His Excellency arrived on time and was met and greeted by Shed President Allan McGrath who then brought him into the Shed and introduced him to the many members (around 50 we think) who turned out.
We also had our own notable Yass leaders in attendance: Rowena Abbey (Mayor and Shed co-Patron) as well as Nic Carmody OAM (former Mayor, Inaugural Patron and current co-Patron). Not that I was looking for important people, but I noticed the odd Member of Council and some other Yass luminaries (all of whom, I hasten to add with some pride, are also Shed members).
His Excellency was taken on a quite detailed tour of the Shed facilities, was given a good briefing on our workshops by Roger Holgate and then moved on to the Bush Tucker Garden in which he showed a great deal of interest.
Aaron Chatfield (Ngunnawal man) and Peter Davidson provided the detailed Bush Tucker Garden briefing and fielded all questions about where we have come from and how we are planning to proceed with the garden – especially the educational prospects and potential.
Following that little diversion, His Excellency then very generously agreed to plant a Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) in our garden which we have plans to plant a plaque in front of to memorialise the event. We are very grateful that he was open to that request and amazed how, afterwards, he looked just as clean as before he started.
The official bits then took place. Allan McGrath formally welcomed His Excellency and gave him some information about our history, successes, and plans.
His Excellency responded and was fulsome in his praise of the Men’s Shed movement and was gracious and generous in his views on our Shed and the progress we have made. He also mentioned his great admiration for all Australians who have come through so many challenges in the last few years, still upbeat, looking on the bright side and willing to pitch in and help others who have been badly impacted.
After the formalities, our special Chef for the day, Tim Gee, served His Excellency with a special BBQ sausage with onions in a bread roll. I am not sure if the GG dines this well usually, but he did seem to be enjoying himself.
Tim deserves a special vote of thanks – he cooked for over 50 people – all of whom could have had two servings if they wished (Geoff told me he had 4!!) Tim cooked solidly from about 11.45 am until everyone gave up. There were very few leftovers.
His Excellency then mingled, and most attendees got to have a conversation or were included in a group. Pretty special, really.
Many members made themselves available to help both before and on the day. I will not attempt to name them, but they know who they are and those of you who were lucky enough to attend will have seen them involved in their various ways. My sincere thanks to all of you.
I also want to mention and thank the members of Yass Landcare. When we heard the GG was coming, we panicked a bit because we have been looking to develop space for Landcare to establish a Demonstration Patch in which they could plant examples of the local Australian plants they specialise in producing.
Half a dozen Shed members got to work on the Saturday before the BIG day and spread about 5 cu metres of mulch on the patch, and then, on the Tuesday before the visit, Landcare volunteers descended on the place and completely planted the patch. It looks terrific and enhanced the space no end for the Governor-General’s visit.
So, well-done Landcare – your efforts were and are much appreciated!
The visit concluded at about 1255 right on schedule. I imagine it will be a while before we have that much excitement again!
Wayne Stuart, Secretary of the Yass Valley Men’s Shed. Photos by Alex Tewes and Ross Stirton.