IT is not often that WA’s small country towns attract the big names in entertainment but when they do, you know it will be something special.
Australian music icon John Williamson travelled from Victoria this month as part of the Yongergnow Australian Malleefowl Centre’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Ongerup.
The ecotourism centre is the only one of its kind in Australia and attracts hundreds of tourists to Gnowangerup shire, “the place of the malleefowl” every year.
Run predominately by local volunteers in Ongerup, the centre is dedicated to the conservation of the malleefowl, a threatened Australian bird unique to the semi-arid regions of southern Australia.
Yongergnow visitors can see the usually elusive ground-dwelling bird in the centre’s five hectare mallee sanctuary and natural bush aviaries, and learn about the threatened species in an educational display.
With a farming background in mallee country, Mr Williamson has a strong interest in the Yongergnow Australian Malleefowl Centre and performed at its official opening a decade ago.
He was named as patron of the facility at the anniversary celebration, a sign of support for which event co-ordinator and board member Susanne Dennings said the Ongerup community was grateful.
“John wanted to reaffirm his support to rural communities involved in conversation in any way, particularly the malleefowl,” Ms Dennings said.
“He explained to the audience that as a child, he read one of the first books ever written on the species in the early 1900s, Michael the Malleefowl Chick.
“This started his love for the environment, motivating him to become involved in the Ongerup conservation movement.
“He understands our environment and farming communities.
“He and his wife Meg flew over especially for the occasion, it was a privilege to have their support.”
More than 250 people attended the function and watched Mr Williamson perform and celebrate the milestone anniversary.
Guests were also entertained with performances from Ross Strahan and Ongerup Primary School students and Noongar dance group The Deadly Brothers.
Ms Dennings said the event was a fitting testament to the centre that had survived on the back of community support.
“There’s been hundreds of volunteers involved and of course communities such as Ongerup are getting smaller so it relies heavily on individual people that do so much,” she said.
“An important part of the program was acknowledging those volunteers by unveiling a plaque dedicated to their hard work.
“The Yongergnow Malleefowl Centre has become a community meeting place and this event celebrated that bond, re-uniting friendships and acquaintances.
“It also provides the community with a sense of pride and is certainly something to hang their hats on.”
Ms Dennings said she looked forward to the centre’s next chapter and hoped it would provide tourists with an enriching experience for years to come.
“The centre is focused on telling the community story of their Gnowangerup shire fauna emblem with a whole range of displays, videos and interactive things for kids.
“Its key aim is to provide information, education facilities and an opportunity to understand the value of the environment through the eyes of the malleefowl.
“Following this event we look forward to welcoming more visitors to our region.”
The Yongergnow Australian Malleefowl Centre also houses the Ongerup Community Resource Centre and a café, and is open from Tuesday to Saturday throughout the year.