Bush at­trac­tion

Bal­ranald in New South Wales is one of the more iso­lated branches but it re­lies heav­ily on vis­it­ing shoot­ers to sur­vive. It is an out­back des­ti­na­tion well worth vis­it­ing for a shoot and a few days ex­plor­ing the nat­u­ral wonders nearby.

Field and Game - - BALRANALD FGA -

Carla Pip­pin had no idea who Field & Game was when the idea was first floated to form a branch in Bal­ranald.

She was work­ing at the kan­ga­roo pro­cess­ing plant and her boss was be­hind the push. “I came to it by ac­ci­dent,” she said. “My boss at the time was a mem­ber in Vic­to­ria and wanted to get Field & Game un­der­way; back then it was a lot eas­ier to regis­ter a ground,” she said.

The first shoot, held on acreage at the back of the his­toric Home­bush pub on Easter Sat­ur­day 1998, was a suc­cess and a month later, a meet­ing was called to gauge in­ter­est in form­ing a branch. “There was a lot of in­ter­est: more than 20 peo­ple turned up to the ini­tial meet­ing, which was un­heard of,” Carla said.

The fol­low­ing year the branch be­came a part of the FGA fam­ily.

Ev­ery Easter since, Bal­ranald has hosted a two-day An­niver­sary Shoot, an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity for the small branch to at­tract vis­it­ing com­peti­tors.

Pow­ered and un­pow­ered camp­ing sites are avail­able at the ground and the club doesn’t charge a fee, in­stead wel­com­ing as many vis­i­tors as it can ac­com­mo­date. Some also choose to stay a short dis­tance away at the Home­bush pub, one of the true “back coun­try” pubs, serv­ing trap­pers, shear­ers, drovers and any other nomads for 128 years.

For many years, the pub held a coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val over Easter, bol­ster­ing the shoot num­bers as fam­i­lies chose to visit the re­gion. “That re­ally drove our num­bers up: the shoot­ers would com­pete and the fam­i­lies would en­joy the mu­sic fes­ti­val, but it isn’t held any­more,” branch sec­re­tary Chris Cami­nis said.

Chris is also mem­ber­ship of­fi­cer for the branch but typ­i­cally he’s also busy sort­ing trap break­downs, fix­ing a fuse to restart the air con­di­tion­ing in the shed and mak­ing sure ev­ery­one is hav­ing a good time. “It is a small iso­lated com­mu­nity and we are a bit re­moved from the other branches in the re­gion but we have peo­ple from Mel­bourne and other parts of Vic­to­ria who are mem­bers; they love the bush and it is where they want to be mem­bers,” he said.

While a lot of those mem­bers at­tend the shoots, it is left to a small band of lo­cals to turn out for work­ing bees. “We are still fairly strong, we have a good mem­ber­ship base com­pare to the size of the town,” Chris said.

The branch re­ally wants to pro­mote it­self as a des­ti­na­tion shoot, a place for a short break or ex­tended hol­i­day based around one of their shoot days and the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the re­gion. “Bal­ranald has shrunk in rel­a­tive terms over the years,” Carla said. “We en­cour­age peo­ple to travel and stay, that is why we have worked so hard to pro­vide power and shower fa­cil­i­ties.”

Carla said hav­ing only four shoots a year prob­a­bly ham­pers the branch but there was a de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep go­ing, hav­ing seen what hap­pens to other small com­mu­ni­ties when they start to lose sport­ing clubs. The re­cre­ation is im­por­tant to the town as well as the par­tic­i­pants. “Home­bush used to be a recre­ational club, they staged gymkhanas here and field days but we are cur­rently the only ac­tive ten­ant; once you lose fa­cil­i­ties in a town it does make it harder to get peo­ple to come and stay.”

The first per­ma­nent home for the branch was Yanga Sta­tion, which has the claim to fame of be­ing the site of Aus­tralia’s first tele­phone ser­vice con­nect­ing the homestead to the shear­ers’ quar­ters.

Ex­plorer Wil­liam Went­worth es­tab­lished Yanga in the 1830s but it was pur­chased by the New South Wales gov­ern­ment in 2005 and be­came a na­tional park.

The branch then moved to the Home­bush Recre­ational Re­serve, 25 km from town on the road to Ivan­hoe.

Yanga, with its in­dige­nous his­tory, sta­tion her­itage, lakes and 170 km of

Mur­rumbidgee River frontage re­mains as a draw­card for the re­gion, as well as Mungo Na­tional Park to the north. “Vis­i­tors are im­por­tant, they are what gives us our money to keep go­ing; if you don’t have the vis­i­tors you are a bit be­hind the eight ball,” Chris said. “This year we have the third leg of the North West Zone Shoot and that is hope­fully go­ing to drive more peo­ple here for our Septem­ber shoot. It is a very im­por­tant shoot lo­cally be­cause it is a me­mo­rial shoot for a lo­cal fam­ily who were killed in the Kerang rail crash in 2007.”

Nurse Stephanie Mered­ith and her two young daugh­ters Danielle, 8, and Chantelle, 6, died in the ac­ci­dent.

The branch pays a fee to the Home­bush Trust on shoot days and as a ten­ant has not in­vested heav­ily in in­fra­struc­ture, but there is one is­sue that needs solv­ing. “It is a gyp­sum ridge and we are work­ing on what we can put down that will stay there and not get eaten up; it is a bit of a dif­fi­cult is­sue for us be­cause it is a big area and a big cost,” Chris said. “We have four mem­bers who are para­plegic or quad­ri­plegic who come and shoot out here; they com­pete and have fun and en­joy it, which is re­ally great, but when it gets boggy, it is re­ally hard to get around.”

A grant for a quad bike that could be used to as­sist dis­abled mem­bers is one av­enue the branch is pur­su­ing.

If you want to plan a trip to Bal­ranald the re­main­ing shoots for the year are:

July 15

100 SIM HCP/SIM GRD 50 SIM HCP/50 SIM GRD

Septem­ber 16

100 SIM HCP/SIM GRD Mered­ith Fam­ily Me­mo­rial — North West Zone Shoot Leg 3

Carla Pip­pin

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