Contribute to "Outback" bridge event

McKillop's Bridge, a long, high span over the once mighty Snowy…
contribute a message of hope as part of a giant unveiling set for August

One 'Year of the Outback' event planned to coincide with Blessed Mary MacKillop's feast day, August 8, is the veiling of McKillop's Bridge; a 256 m long, 19 m high span over the once mighty Snowy, at Derrick in Victoria's Far East Gippsland.

To show solidarity with rural people, the local community will transform the bridge into "a symbol of communal love and hope", when its sides are draped with hundreds of personal messages, says Orbost resident, Sr Helen Barnes RSJ. "And we want messages from all over Australia."

Like other small towns, Orbost - with a population of less than 2,000 - is struggling for survival since many jobs in the traditional timber industry disappeared. "We lost over 500 families in one Christmas alone", says Helen, who is part of the Josephite Rural and Justice Network. "Yet there are reasons for optimism too."

"Our today community has the polarities of 'loggers' and 'greenies' living side by side, a mix that ensues we've lots of creative people with magic ideas,' she says. "Veiling the bridge that spans this spectacular mountain chasm is one focus of this creativity- it's about giving expression to new stories of hope and inclusion."

McKillop's Bridge, located high in the Snowy Mountains, is named after George McKillop, a pioneering explorer of the area. The bridge is a vital link for isolated farming communities living beyond the Bonang highway. "The approaches to the bridge are not for the faint-hearted, but for those who venture there, the views are spectacular," says Helen. The once wild Snowy River, which the bridge traverses, has twice washed away earlier bridges built at this spot.

"It's coincidental that George McKillop and Mary MacKillop share the same sounding name- they weren't relatives," says Helen, "Our community decided the day which honours Mary MacKillop was appropriate for our event as her work began out of concern for bush children and their families."

Helen would like your hope messages to be "sewn, painted, stuck or embroidered on A4 lightweight, preloved material." She adds: "Make sure you leave a margin for sewing around the edges." The messages should be sent to the Orbost Neighbourhood House, Box 238, Orbost, Victoria, 3888, by June 30. For more information contact Helen Barnes on (03) 515 41142 or Judy Bennett (03) 563 42032. Maps of the area are available through the Snowy River Orbost Information Centre.

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