A message from Australia’s heartland on Local Australia Day 2020 for Lockhart Shire by Mark Warren

Wiradjuri Man, Mark Saddler (pictured above) gave the heartwarming opening address.

Address delivered by Mark Warren at the Local Australia Day for Lockhart Shire hosted by The Rock Recreation Management Committee this Australia Day 2020.

Photo Courtesy Lockhart Shire Council

Thank you for being here today…. special guests/dignitaries…

I’ve been an Australia Day Ambassador for five years now and each Australia Day I make a habit of asking the organisers to send me to this part of the country, Why? Because this is where we come from. This area is near and dear to the Warren family. This is and always will be Wiradjuri Country it is now known widely as the Riverina. To live in Wiradjuri Country or the Riverina means you are living in the heartland of NSW I can’t think of any area that brings with it the abundance of agriculture and livestock and the value this region brings to our mighty nation is massive.

My Grandparents Joe and the mighty Win had 7 seven children. They lived their early days in a little place called Brushwood down near Coolamon and Ganmain. They then transferred to Junee….. Hmmm also fond memories for this very young aspiring broadcaster….my first job in radio was at 2RG Griffith early 90s a drivetime gig including the continental music hour in the evening with Father Beltrami certainly fast tracked my relationship with the entire community I was also doing around the grounds locally both Rugby League and AFL Ganmain -Grong Grong-Matong 8 6 56 lead Mangoplah-Cookardinia 4 5 29 5 into the 3rd quarter now that’s an experience. I digress.

My uncle Bob was a policeman he was awarded the Queen’s Medal for Bravery. My Uncle Jack served our country, Cowra, Port Moresby and post war Japan. My Aunty Gwen and her husband Bert owned the Central Garage at Ganmain, three of my aunties married farmers and lived at places like Eurongilly and Bribbaree. My Dad was born in Junee as some of you might know and more recently they have honoured him with a statue in the centre of town. The pigeons bloody well love that statue….I gest….the locals take great pride in its up keep.


Dad talks of the versatility of the Riverina and the resilience of its people. He often tells the story of his Sister and her farmer husband in the middle of a drought leaving their 7 children with carers while taking to the roads with their kelpies and caravan droving their sheep along the back roads and stock routes, travelling 100’s of kilometres from their home for almost 12 months to keep their animals alive. I am sure there are people in this forum right now who can relate to that type of story and many more stories in their fight for survival.

IT’S CALLED RESILIENCE! Typical Australians doing what typical Australians do in times of disaster. Should you take on an Australian you must have clarity of mind to know you are taking on an opponent who refuses to give in until there is no more water, no more fodder and perhaps no more oxygen. We perhaps use the word Hero too often but right now in Australia we have three classic examples of using the word in its true meaning. They begin with the letter F, they are…. the Farmers, the Firefighters and their Families.

My father is reasonably well known I guess but what you might not know is that when he was just 14/15/16 he played Aussie Rules. He played for Junee in the competition that included The Rock, Lockhart, Osborne, Yerong Creek, Collingullie and MangoplahCookardinia. No doubt he would have played against many of your Fathers and Grandfathers. He was just a boy at the time playing in reserve and first grade with men much older than himself.

Naturally, in those days they would retire to the local for a beer after the game but to include him in the shout, because of his age, involved a process of smuggling his beers out to him in the beer garden. He was no superstar but his ambitions were in the commentary box rather than winning the Brownlow Medal. He clung to a dream of one day becoming a Sports Broadcaster but there was no one to advise or help him learn, he had to teach himself, that led to him rolling marbles down a slope and calling them as horses. He went on to call 3 Melbourne cups. He would sit in trees and pretend to be calling the footy from down at the local ground. He has now called 50 grand finals and 93 Origin games.

Father and son call for their friends at Signet in a recent TV advertisement

When television arrived, he would stand in front of the local electrical store and try calling sport off the screen in black and white…many thought who was this strange kid? He has gone on to call numerous World Swimming Championships, Olympic and Commonwealth Games. At the end of the day, it is fair to say he made it, but it wasn’t so much where he made to, but where he made it from. He was just a little kid from the country who had a huge desire to become a sports commentator and he did it.

His story sort of proves that no matter where you come from whether it be Junee….Lockhart or The Rock, given the motivation, the desire, the willingness to have a go, a touch of luck and a slice of natural ability…….

You can make it in this great Country in which we live and that my friend is one of the reasons we celebrate today as we do. In Australia we are encouraged to dream…. Dad is perhaps living proof of that. I didn’t need to read about him. I lived with him. A colourful experience of that I assure…. But living proof ‘Still the One’ at a tender 76 years of age, my idol, hero father and best mate…. and we’ve hit some hurdles along the way as all if not most families And so a country kid had a dream….Australia is where he was best placed to realise that dream.


Australia Day is so important because it’s about the celebration of our great Country, the people, the lifestyle, the opportunities. Australia Day no matter when you celebrate it, will and should always be exactly that. A day to give thanks that this is our Country no matter what your creed or your colour. Some would have you believe it should be a day of sadness, I think we already have too many of those days in our memories, there are already too many negatives in our lives, so let’s celebrate and continue to say loudly and proudly ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR.

God Bless you all and thank you. Humbled to share Australia Day with Australia’s real life heroes.

Acknowledgement and thanks to…

Australia Day 2020 organising committee
Lockhart Mayor Councillor Rodger Schirmer
Lockhart Shire

Lockhart Shire nestles in the heart of the Riverina and is one of it’s most productive agricultural and pastoral areas. Click here to view the shire’s newsletter. Visit https://www.lockhart.nsw.gov.au/ to learn more.

Punch with Judy

Judy & John Hall live on 100 acres in a small country town, The Rock, (near Wagga Wagga in the Riverina) N.S.W. Australia – inland, about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. Here they run their Mail Order business as well as an Emu Farm and breed sheep. Originally living in Sydney where Judy had her retail sewing shop, the present business of Punch with Judy was conducted from their suburban home from 1991. It grew so quickly, that in 1994 they had to move to larger premises, so settled for the rural life they now enjoy – when they are home! It is like their “haven” with beautiful views of The Rock hill. Judy and the staff conduct the Mail Order business from premises at the rear of the house. Visit www.punchwithjudy.com.au to purchase all your sewing, patchwork, quilting and machine embroidery needs from the comfort of your own home. They have over 6,500 products in their store and as one satisfied customer said “You have a lot of items I have not been able to find anywhere else and your prices are great!”

Click here to view Judy’s latest newsletter mentioning Mark Warren. Thank you, Judy Hall! You’re a legend lady!

Buy from the Bush

Created on 16th October, 2019, #bftb began as an Instagram account showcasing the beautiful things available to buy from rural communities facing drought. The account called on city friends to look to the bush for their Christmas shopping and by so doing, invest in keeping rural communities alive through the drought. Seven weeks later it had over 130,000 followers and had increased rural postage figures by 40%. It seemed the city heard the call for help and as Slim Dusty would say provided a ‘flood of human kindness’ directed at small bush businesses.

Support founder Grace Brennan and #bftb by clicking here: https://www.buyfromthebush.com.au/support-us