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Legacy of Sir Robert to live on at revitalised Menzies Square

Article Category  Current News
Date Published  Friday, December 16 2016
Author Dimboola Courier

Legacy of Sir Robert to live on at revitalised Menzies Square
Jeparit's redeveloped Menzies Square was officially opened this morning.

The event was attended by representatives from the partners in the project, including the Menzies Foundation, Federation University Australia, and the Hindmarsh Shire Council, as well as the eldest grandson of Sir Robert Menzies.

Following a fire which tore through the former café and newsagency buildings in May 2012, Council took the opportunity to purchase the land next to the Square.

Former Council CEO Tony Doyle was an apology, however was acknowledged for his work in the early days of the redevelopment project, as was Councillor Rob Gersch.

Several students from Jeparit Primary School began the proceedings by singing the national anthem, before telling the story of how the Menzies family came to be in Jeparit in the late 1890s.

Hindmarsh Shire Council CEO Greg Wood welcomed the special guests and acknowledged the role of a number of Council employees in the project.

Above: Hindmarsh Shire Council Mayor Debra Nelson and Mr Alec Menzies, grandson of Sir Robert, unveil the plaque at Menzies Square to mark the opening.

Ms Sarah Hardy, CEO of the Menzies Foundation, spoke about the importance of remembering the legacy left behind by Sir Robert.


Above - Ms Sarah Hardy, CEO of the Menzies Foundation.

"We share two things in common with the town of Jeparit, and that is around the legacy to keep the ambition and legacy of Sir Robert Menzies alive, for the communities who hold the history - obviously Jeparit being one of them - and also our role is to create relevance for those people today who visit this town."

The Foundation contributed $35,000 to early stages of the project.

"For us at the Foundation that's about extending the legacy of education and telling the story that reflects his own personal journey, and we could not do it better than the Jeparit Primary School children have done," Ms Hardy said.

The Foundation recognises the importance of supporting local students to further their education, with this stemming from Sir Robert's own experiences.

"He was a scholarship boy from here to Ballarat and then on to Wesley College and to Melbourne University."

Students from across the Wimmera who are completing their Year 12 studies are eligible to apply for the Menzies Fielding Tertiary Scholarship, which assists students to move to Melbourne.

For twenty-two years the Foundation has also provided a scholarship to a high-achieving Year 12 student at Dimboola Memorial Secondary College, which takes the form of a cash prize to assist with the expenses involved with moving away from home for study.

Ms Hardy spoke about her visit to Jeparit two years ago to look at plans for the redevelopment.

"It is an incredible joy standing here two years later and seeing what it looks like today."

"You have perfectly captured the story of old and new in the redevelopment of this Square."

Mr Alec Menzies spoke on behalf of the family, and the audience were interested to hear his memories of his grandfather.

"We grew up with this image of him trudging off to school on his little legs in either the mud or the dust to the Jeparit Primary School. It sounded like Mao's Long March - this horrendous picture was painted to us.

"We came up to Jeparit, and we had to see the General Store. And then we said "Where's the school?" and it was three hundred metres up the road! We all turned and looked at him, and he had the grace to blush because he remembered it had all been built up to a bit of a peak."


Above - Mr Alec Menzies, eldest grandson of Australia's longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies.

Alec Menzies spoke about the important role that his grandmother, Pattie Menzies, in Sir Robert's life.

"She was always a country girl. I think she was always his anchor in that way. I think if he'd ever been tempted to get too far away from the roots, she'd have been there tugging at his sleeves to remind him."

Hindmarsh Shire Mayor Deb Nelson concluded the event by thanking all who were involved in the project, including the Nhill Men's Shed, Jeparit Town Committee, and the Drought Army.

The unveiling was followed by a morning tea catered for by the Jeparit A&P Society in the Town Hall.


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