The long-awaited return of Riverbank Park was unveiled on the morning of Saturday, the 1st of July. Yass residents and community groups had the pleasure of attending the reopening, with food, coffee, music and novelty activities, such as face-painting, balloons, bubble blowing, stilt walkers in costume walking throughout the park and the Great Rotary Duck Race available. Notable community members and groups, including Yass Rotary, Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath and Councillors, Ngunnawal Custodian Michael Bell representing Ngunnawal Elder, Ken Bell and government ministers including the Hon. Wendy Tuckerman and the Hon. Tara Moriarty were in attendance, giving speeches and contributing to the day. 

(Photo at top:  L-R Tim, John, Anna, and Naomi Auld with their mum Diane and Koala performer Madeline Richardson at back)

The morning commenced at 10 am, beginning first with an opening welcome speech from Mayor Allan McGrath, before handing over to Mr Michael Bell for a Welcome to Country speech. The speech included history lessons regarding Indigenous culture, geography, and the history of the Yass area formerly known as Yharr, as well as highlighting the growing relationship and progress between Council and Indigenous Elders.

 “I’m here today to provide you with a welcome to Ngunnawal land and my people on behalf of my father, Ken Bell, Ngunnawal elder, a respected local and long-time Yass Valley Council worker, on this occasion of the opening of the play space at Riverbank Park. I also acknowledge all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders and recognise the ongoing custodianship of their land, water and sky. I would also like to acknowledge all other first nation Australian people here today, but also all the ancestries and descendants of all the people represented here today, and pay my respects to those heritages, the heritages that make up the broader Yass and visiting communities”, said Michael. 

Ngunnawal Custodian Michael Bell representing Elder Ken Bell & Mayor Allan McGrath

Michael then discussed the history of the Yass township, from the first expeditions in 1821, to settlement in 1830, highlighting that, as the park and playground is built around, the Yass township owes itself to the rivers flowing through it. 

 

“The Yharr still flows strong and consistently today through the heart of Yass, with the town and its people its lifeblood. It provides us with the beautiful location and opportunity, and as we all know too well we can see its strength and power, and at times its devastation in the floods in contrast to its serenity, calmness, and in meekness at times of drought. This river has been and remains the provider of lifeblood and culture, a cultural centre of the Ngunnawal people for over a millennia. It is undoubtedly why this location became the site of the town” 

 

Michael concluded his speech in Ngunnawal language, translated as saying; 

 

 “As we show respect through the land and the people around us, we know the same respect will be shown to us. Welcome, may you all find peace and respect as we look, listen and learn together. Come, let’s play, welcome.”

Andrew and Christine Carrol with their daughter Kaylahn

Situated in the parking area were local catering stalls, including a sausage sizzle/steak sandwich stall held by Rotary, fresh hot doughnuts, and Tank’s Expresso 2U offering hot coffee. 

 

New equipment includes a large tunnel slide, a smaller kids’ equipment featuring a slide, a swing set, a hamster wheel, a flying fox, and balancing logs for kids, with a barbeque area and exercise/fitness equipment for adults. New bathrooms have also been installed, closer to the equipment. 

 

On the development behind the new playground and park, Mayor Allan McGrath spoke highly of the efficiency, commitment and talent of those involved, including council members and builders. 

 

 “We meet today not only to open a new playground but to give thanks and appreciation to those who worked hard to secure funding, those who designed and consulted with the community, and to those who built this project”, said Allan. 

“Between the first of September 2020 and 30th of June 2021, led by director Julie Rogers, our planning and development team both past and present worked tirelessly to achieve this, and without their commitment and dedication, we would not be attending this opening today.” 

 

“I would also like to acknowledge our parks and recreation team who from the moment we secured funding worked hard to consult with the community and to source contracts and ensure the project ran smoothly from start to finish. Finally I would like to thank our contractors for turning the community and Council’s dream of a playground fit for all ages into reality.”

Edmund from Yass exploring the new play equipment

The development of the new Riverbank Park was made possible by the State Government’s contribution under the Public Spaces Legacy Fund, with $2 million awarded to the Yass Riverbank Park project.  

 

 “It’s so important that we have great open spaces for the community here in the Yass Valley, and for all our regional communities there’s got to be investments in places for our kids to really enjoy the outdoors, to get out into nature, and to enjoy play like I know this park will provide. It’s a beautiful setting here down by the river, everyone has done a terrific job, I’m very impressed”, said Minister for Agriculture and for Regional New South Wales Tara Moriarty, 

 “I’m really proud to be a sponsor as a minister for the NSW government. We learnt during covid it was really important, and they need to be right in town where people have access to them”. 

 

The focus of the day then moved to the long-awaited return of the Great Rotary Duck Race, hosted and organised by the Rotary Club of Yass, which was present at other stalls to celebrate the day. 

 

Pouring a bag of dozens of rubber ducks directly into the river, the ducks were numbered for retrieval and later collected by kayakers in the water. The event was used as a fundraiser for Rotary, with residents paying tickets in advance to have a number of ducks for the race, better increasing the odds of winning and contributing to Rotary’s good causes. Yass Firefighters arrived to use the pressure hose, to better assist with aiming the ducks towards the kayakers.  

Riverbank Park Rotary Duck Race

“The winning duck has been identified, and the numbers have been recorded. The people will be called, and they’ll come and get their prizes”, said new Rotary President Paul Twohill

 

“We do projects and raise funds, and we came up with the idea as a great way to make use of the opening”. 

 

Hundreds were present for the day, most notably families with happy, energetic children.  

 

“I know this playspace will be loved and well used for many years to come”, said Allan McGrath. 

 

Griffin Palen