Stop and smell the roses

30 Jul, 2011 03:00 AM
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10 year old Fraser Eaton (left), Jade Higgins (8), Finlay Eaton (7), Rafferty Eaton (5) and Brodie Higgins (4) sit around Yoondi's Mia Mia, a traditional Aboriginal camp fire.
10 year old Fraser Eaton (left), Jade Higgins (8), Finlay Eaton (7), Rafferty Eaton (5) and Brodie Higgins (4) sit around Yoondi's Mia Mia, a traditional Aboriginal camp fire.

WITHOUT even thinking about it, more often than not, a trip up the Albany Highway to Perth is synonymous with a pit stop in Williams.

But why not try something a little bit different next time you're faced with a car load of restless kids and a burning desire to pull over and stretch your legs?

From the roadside you might not take much notice (we all know looks can be deceiving) but The Kodja Place in the main street of Kojonup is well worth the detour.

Right on the highway, Kodja Place offers something for everybody.

Whether you're looking for advice or help on what to see and do, how to discover the area's hidden gems, event schedules, regional maps or booking accommodation it's all at The Kodja Place.

But The Kodja Place offers much more than the average regional visitor centre.

At the heart of The Kodja Place is the Kodj Gallery which exhibits artefacts and demonstrates the history of European and Aboriginal culture.

It illustrates the affect on the local landscape and the development of the Kojonup region from traditional Aboriginal times, through European settlement to today.

Aboriginal guides help to trace the tracks of Yongar (kangaroo), Koomal (possum) and Waitch (emu) across the gallery floor where visitors are reminded of the way Noongar people lived in harmony with the plants and animals of the land.

There's also a huge dramatic painting which tells the story of what Aboriginals believe to be the six traditional seasons.

It tells how rivers and waterholes were created and local guides will share with you their language and interpret the cultural significance of the dreamtime serpent depicted in the artwork.

The gallery also displays traditional hunting implements alongside early farming equipment to demonstrate how lives have changed as technology advanced with the transition from Noongar to European tools.

The central exhibit, the Kodja, an authentic Noongar stone axe, is pivotal to the gallery because that is how the Kojonup district was named.

Yoondi's Mia Mia is also another popular attraction at The Kodja Place.

Visitors are invited to be immersed in traditional Noongar culture at a traditional camp fire.

Guests can gain a knowledge of how the Noongars lived and survived by using the implements and provisions of the land.

The Story Place also provides another focus point within The Kodja Place.

Interpretive displays in The Story Place illustrate Kojonup's history and help to immerse visitors in the culture of Kojonup while showing the harsh realities of life for both Noongar and Wadjela (European) people living and working together throughout the last century.

The importance of agriculture and the dominance of meat and wool in the region is depicted by a display of over a million ear tags which is a timely reminder the Shire of Kojonup was the first in Australia to have a sheep population of more than a million.

Within the gallery a shearing shed explores employment opportunities that came with the sheep industry in rural WA and shows how shearing, a foundation of bush life, is done.

Visitors are encouraged to practice fencing techniques that were developed in years when the land was changed forever to accommodate farming.

Kids will love playing on the interactive school bus while parents can debate the truth of yarns and tales spun by locals over a beer at the Spring Bar.

The Kodja Place is also home to the Australian Rose Maze.

More than 100 species of roses form a maze of complex paths outside near the Mia Mia.

The beautiful blooms were bred especially for Australian conditions and there are many rare heritage species to be found among the collection.

Visitors who take the journey through the maze are led through a series of plaques, mosaics and striking pergolas ranging from old sheep yards to the mission brown 1970's pergola.

According to legend, the Rose Maze weaves together the stories of three women, Yoondi, a Noongar woman, Elizabeth, an Englishwoman, and an Italian woman, Maria.

Through letters, a journal and personal dialogues these women impart a powerful personal message of the trials and hardships of rural life in the early 20th century, stories of loneliness and isolation.

Growing in hedges up to two metres high the coloured roses were chosen to sit naturally among the remnant native trees of the Kojonup townscape.

"We have been in this building for 10 years," The Kodja Place manager Glenys Russell said.

"We have tens of thousands of visitors walk through the door each year and the Rose Maze is most definitely a highlight.

"There are plenty of things to discover."

Glenys runs The Kodja Place with the help of a number of community volunteers from the local area.

"It really does provide an overall sense of history and life in the WA bush," she said.

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