When I read the editorial in St Arnaud's local paper, the 'North Central News', concerning the possibility of changing the name of our town which is named after French general (Marshall) Saint Arnaud, I checked the date.
As it was not 1st April, several thoughts came to mind. Was it an attempt at humour; a bid to provoke letters to the editor (always good for a local newspaper); an attempt at political correctness or gaining brownie points towards an award for crusading journalism?
Saint Arnaud was a French military figure who led a successful alliance including France and Great Britain against Russia in the Crimean War.
Prior to Crimea, he was engaged in a brutal suppression in French controlled Algeria. Terrible that some of his actions were, they were no worse than what happens in most wars. Not that any of this excuse's atrocities.
Great celebrations occurred in the victor nations, particularly throughout the British Empire. Locally there were many families who knew soldiers who had fought.
In 1858 a ball to celebrate the recent survey of the town by Wills of Burke and Wills fame was held.
There was considerable patriotic fervour at this event due the Crimean victory. Proposed names of streets were changed to commemorate battles and generals of the war.
By this time local people referred to 'New Bendigo' - an early name for our gold field - as St Arnaud, partly due to a local creek which had been called that since the first miners arrived and partly out of continuing patriotism.
To most people the word 'Saint Arnaud' is the name of our town; nothing more. It has 165 years of achievement and history to be proud of. That is all and the only thing which is important and relevant.
The present coronavirus pandemic is further evidence of what a privileged country and society we live in. Australia's ability to isolate internationally and within its borders to minimize the spread of COVID-19 is a privilege not afforded by many nations in the world.
Here in the Wimmera district and in Horsham we have often felt "politically" underprivileged, as compared with larger regional cities and metropolitan centres, by our isolation and smaller population.
But what a privilege it is now to reside where we are with the relatively minor incidence of COVID-19. Under normal circumstances our privileges are innumerable but even now we should consider just how fortunate we really are.
We are still spoilt for choice even when seeking out our favourite coffee albeit takeaway only. In good times these outlets offer loyalty cards to encourage our patronage over that of their competitors but we know that at the moment they are all struggling to keep their doors open.
We can and should remain loyal during these extraordinary times but how about we leave our loyalty cards aside for the moment as a token of our appreciation and to assist these small businesses though these tough times so that they are still there as our "favourite" when the good times return.
It is only a small sacrifice of privilege for us as individuals but could mean survival for them.
"We either save avoidable lives & destroy society or accept avoidable deaths & save society" so tweeted Alexander Downer, former minister in the Howard government. And he would know about sacrificing lives for the greater good as it was his Government that sent Australian troops to invade an unarmed Iraq and sacrifice 1 million plus lives to bolster American interests in the region.
It is poignant at this time of ANZAC that those with a financial interest in the planet are willing to sacrifice the lives of those who have a physical and moral interest. For those with power have always been ready to sacrifice the lives and livelihoods of others less fortunate ' for the greater good' for centuries.
You only have to see how the returned soldier, physically or mentally wounded, has been treated. They didn't play the game and die honorably on the battle field to be lauded in the future glorifying of the particular war they were involved with. No, these poor souls returned home and the various problems they brought with them had to be dealt with, and to date after all the wars Australians have been involved with not one government has dealt with these any near well enough.
Now with the coronavirus our elites are questioning whether our lives are worth the sacrifice of the economy, they just don't get the fact that without us plebs there is NO economy.
Please just stop fighting.
Discuss plan with each individual group who maybe effected.
Why is it we fight about everything.
We fought about the pool.
Now it is an amazing asset. We fought about the town hall. Now a wonderful success for the city. Now we fight about the river front.
I have walked all parts of the riverfront during Covid and the work that has been done so far to link one part of the city to the other is great.
The showground area is under utilised and could provide so much more than it does now. Huge area that could be better used by all interested parties.
Just keep talking to groups who are directly effected and work together for the mutual benefit of our city.
I have never seen so many happy people out and about enjoying our riverfront.
It just needs more environmentally friendly areas along the river. Perth is a wonderful example of this. Amazing parks everywhere.
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