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Festival reignites community spirit

THE success of Kalgoorlie/Boulder’s Saint Barbara’s Festival is typical of the resilience of the Goldfields business community and is seen as reuniting the mining community with the general population.

The festival owes much of its success to Dick Scallan, the chair of the Eastern Regional Council of the Department of Minerals and Energy, who some years ago saw that urban Goldfields people had lost touch with the mining industry.

Mr Scallan says he was keen to find ways of raising the profile of the mining industry.

“The Saint Barbara’s Square was there and had been named by the previous mayor, Ray Finlayson, some years ago,” Mr Scallan said.

“I mentioned to him that it would be great to have a statue of our patron saint in the square because no-one knew why it had that name.

“I talked to the mine managers and they were very enthusiastic, so we commissioned local sculptor Nana Lye and at the same time it seemed appropriate that we hold a Saint Barbara’s Parade to unveil the statue and bring the miners out of their pits and into the streets.”

The unveiling of the statue was held in conjunction with the first Saint Barbara’s parade in 1999, an event Mr Scallan said “went off like a rocket”.

“It was so popular that the following year we decided to have a weekend, so we held the parade and a concert for the miners in a park,” he said.

“We combined with Rotary and had a Christmas fair and made a weekend of it.

“When we were planning for last year’s event it was suggested by the mayor that we have a week-long festival, and while we thought it was a tall order, in a very short time we had 10 days planned.

“So, in 2001 we had a 10-day event, which included a huge ball, the parade and lots of other activities.

“This year we’re planning an event that will include the whole community, that is the Aboriginal people, the young and the old. Schools will be involved in the floats for the parade and everyone’s involved.”

Mr Scallan said that, while Saint Barbara was not that well known in Australia, she is revered by the mining community all over the world, especially in Europe.

“For this year’s festival in Kalgoorlie we’re hoping to bring in a Polish mining band and, for the first time, the Mining Club of Western Australia has held a Saint Barbara’s memorial service in Perth in memory of all miners killed at the workplace,” he said.

“We’re developing a Garden of Memory so that the names of all miners killed can be commemorated properly.”

He said the mining community had been enthusiastic and generous in its support of the festival.

“The parade takes about an hour to pass any one particular point and we’ve managed to get a variety of heavy mining machinery included,” Mr Scallan said.

Festival Co-ordinator Donna Hanks said another reason for the spectacular support for the festival was typical human behaviour in celebrating during challenging times.

“With the mining industry the way it is, a lot of people say it’s good to celebrate the industry and not focus on the doom and gloom,” she said.

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