Heritage on show in Bendigo

It’s been a big week for historic transports of delight in Bendigo – or, if you prefer, delightful transport.

On track: This week has been a busy time for Bendigo's historic transport system.

On track: This week has been a busy time for Bendigo's historic transport system.

Particularly our trams.

It started with the launch this week of the Dja Dja Wurrung tram, celebrating the past, present and future of our region’s first people and designed by the talented young artist Natasha Carter.

A large crowd had gathered at the tram depot for the occasion and in the thin, cool morning air, an Aboriginal smoking ceremony had been organised to mark how special it all was.

Thick plumes of the white, leaf-scented smoke just about blanketed the depot’s forecourt and speakers disappeared from view now and then.

The question arose about smoke detectors in the tram barn.

And then, from close-by, came the sound of fire engine sirens …

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                                                                                                                                                Actually, it all worked out rather well. Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chairman Trent Nelson told a charming story about what the smoking ceremony signified.

DTM had always assumed it was all about cleansing and warding off bad things, but Trent says it’s a bit more than that.

He said that every indigenous smoking ceremony used leaves from the clan’s own territory or country. In this case, the smoke was from a mixture of acacia and a specific eucalypt.

The smoke was then a dialogue with the spirits of previous generations.

The ancestors recognised the unique elements in the smoke and this was a way of today’s Dja Dja Wurrung saying: “We’re here and we’re okay.”

Then, when others – including non-indigenous people – were asked to walk through the smoke, it sent the message to the spirits: “Yes, it’s true that these people are not of our mob, but they’re here at our invitation and it’s all good.”

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                                                                                                                                            Then, later in the week, our heritage trams were again in the thick of things, thing time winning a prestigious Museums Australia award for a project using crowd-funding to help restore historic old Number 7 tram.”

The awards were presented at Federation Square in Melbourne where a short video made by the Bendigo Tramways team was screened. Museums Australia judges said: “How much fun is this?

The crowdfunding video says it all, and most importantly shows just how much fun the team at Bendigo Tramways had doing it.

Proactive, brave and inclusive – they took a risk with crowd funding, embraced the technology and utilised social media to get the community on board. It all works, demonstrating that a strong vision, good planning and great storytelling is a winning formula.

Some gentle digs were made about how the contributors to the restoration were also thanked with commemorative packs of locally brewed beer.

When Bendigo was declared the winner, the volume went up by about 100 per cent leading one organiser to later comment it was clear that beer was a strong element of our marketing strategy.

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                                                                                                                                                           Last week DTM asked if old Benders needed a “big” something, like the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple, the Big Koala.

A Golden Square reader said it was not necessary – we already have it.

“Apart from the Chinese name for the Bendigo goldfield, Dai Gum San (Big Gold Mountain), tens of thousands of us use our “big” thing every day.

Big Hill.

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                                                                                                                                                           Which leads us to an observation about signs of our times the other side of Big Hill.

We note some caring souls have got to a sign on the old Calder Highway, near Malmsbury, with a can of black paint.

It used to say: “Form one lane.” It now has a P before “lane” and a T after it.

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                                                                                                                                   The meaning of that was a little clearer than the two consecutive road safety signs on the freeway in the same area.

The first urges us to take a 15-minute power nap to be safe. The next urges us to keep our eyes open if we’re drowsy.