Victoria the final leg of royal visit
PRINCE William has ended his Australasian natural disaster tour with crash courses in Aussie rules and Victorian floods.
At t he s a me t i me he stumbled into a controversy that has threatened to cause a social rift in a tiny Victorian community.
Having witnessed the aftermath of the Christ - church earthquake and the Queensland floods, Prince William visited the floodravaged communities of Kerang, Benjeroop and Murrabit in the state’s north yesterday.
The second in line to the British throne endeared himself to the locals who, as well as enduring a flood that is still lingering, have been hit in recent years by a locust plague and a train crash that killed 11 people.
‘‘ Having him here was just the tonic for us all,’’ said Sid Hutchinson from Kerang.
‘‘ We’ve all been through a bit and we’ve all worked bloody hard to keep this town going.’’
The prince’s day in Kerang began with a briefing on January’s floods and the massive local effort that saved the town from the f l oodwater t hat covered almost a quarter of the state.
‘‘ You’ve obviously done a marvellous job,’’ he told the locals and CFA and SES volunteers who worked tirelessly to build the levees which saved the town and its electricity sub-station.
A crowd of more than 500 greeted him in Kerang and the prince did his best to satisfy as many as he could with a handshake, a quick word and a polite ‘‘ sorry’’ to the scores who appealed for an autograph.
He had a special word for World War II veteran Bruce Hughes, who greeted him outside the Kerang Memorial Hall. ‘‘ A very charming, decent young man,’’ Mr Hughes said after their chat. Prince William also spent a few extra minutes talking to children from local schools.
‘‘ I think he’s going to be the King of Australia,’’ said Ashton from Kerang Christian College.
‘‘ It was awesome to see him.’’
About a dozen disgruntled flood victims tried to storm the community barbecue for the prince after being left off the guest list.
Police finally allowed them to stand on the far side of the Murrabit football ground on the condition that they not cross the boundary line.
PASS: Prince William learns the finer points of Australian rules