Peter Newman responded to the DELWP request for feedback in regard to their Draft Proposals for changes to the signage and layout of facilities at SBC. He sent me an abridged copy of his letter and has given me permission to post it here. DELWP are not going to be able to deny receiving a very loud and clear message from many voices, that people go to SBC to see exactly where the Police were murdered. The tricky PC language of their Draft Strategy that tries to make out that its a distraction to want to identify the exact site doesn’t fool anyone.To truly honour the fallen Police, they should take the bull by the horns and do the necessary research, find the spot ( HINT : Bill Denheld can show you!) and dedicate the area to their memory. The Kelly gang should barely be mentioned.
Stringybark Creek Draft Signage Proposal
I have reviewed the proposed ‘Draft Interpretation Strategy’ documents.
Before reviewing the documents, I had another look at the Project Summary to satisfy myself as to exactly what it is that DELWP is proposing to do here at SBC. The key points that come out from this Project Summary are:
1. The main focus of the exercise is to review and upgrade the signage and facilities at the site.
2. To provide a new walking path in the general vicinity of where Constable McIntyre escaped and Sgt Kennedy was killed by Ned Kelly.
3. That there will be no attempt to identify the exact site of the Police Camp.
In my original submission to DELWP about this project, I described my vision for what might be done at SBC. I accept now that DELWP’s vision is more low-key. So rather than elaborate any further on my vision for SBC, the following sets out what I think of the draft proposal having regard to the three key points set out in DELWP’s project summary.
The proposed signage
The signage is obviously of a high standard in terms of its design and the information it seeks to convey.
However I believe the off the beaten track location of SBC means most visitors are people who have deliberately sought the site out due to their interest in the Kelly story. Most visitors will already be well aware of the events that preceded the police murders at SBC and the events that occurred subsequently. For these reasons, I have to wonder why such an extensive amount of signage is being proposed. I accept however that for casual visitors who are not already familiar with the Kelly story the proposed signage will certainly be of interest. However for most visitors who already know the story, the signage will just be clutter which will detract from this rather special place.
The proposed McIntyre / Kennedy walking trail
I have to wonder why this new walking trail has been specified as one of the project outcomes, but not a trail to the police camp site where Lonigan and Scanlon were killed, which is what I expect most visitors to SBC have come to see. There seems to be an inconsistency here. Furthermore the McIntyre / Kennedy trail has been proposed on the wrong side of the creek, with it now being generally accepted that Kennedy died at a location on the east side of SBC near the junction with Ryan’s Creek.
I understand that the trail is meant to be indicative only to highlight the distance that Kennedy was chased down, but think it is ridiculous the trail should be on the opposite side of the creek from where this happened. The fact the trail is proposed to commence from the existing picnic ground rather than from the site of the police camp will also give a false impression of the distance that Kennedy was chased down.
The lack of recognition of the Police Camp site
As I have already noted, I believe most visitors to SBC have come to see for themselves the places where these actual events happened. The police camp site is the key site people are interested in seeing and up until now this has been incorrectly identified and is now proposed to be ignored. It would be appropriate for this site to be identified and for some form of memorial to Lonigan and Scanlan to be placed here. It would also be appropriate for the McIntyre / Kennedy trail to be commenced from this site.
I have a keen interest in the Kelly story and would like to see some form of sympathetic development take place at SBC that acknowledges the events that occurred here. I am therefore very pleased to be involved as a ‘stakeholder’ in respect of this project. However having gone back as I have to the original Project Summary, it seems to me the project outcomes had already been decided before the project had even commenced. The main focus is to be on signage and interpretation facilities, but the most important site at SBC is to be ignored. Visitors are to be told that something happened here, but are not going to be told exactly where. And they will be invited to walk a trail that is meant to tell us something about the distance Sgt Kennedy was chased down, but with the distance of that trail being considerably less than what it actually was and with the trail being on the wrong side of the creek.
Looking at the project timeline set out in the Project Summary, I see now that the input DELWP wanted from project stakeholders was simply ideas regarding source documents for use on the signs. DELWP was not seeking information about how the site should be developed. I think this is a deficiency that has set the project up for failure from the outset.
It is apparent that DELWP is spending a lot of money on a development which is looking like it will not be true to the historical events that occurred here and which will not identify the key site which most visitors would wish to see. I think this is a great pity, and I hope that the feedback you receive from stakeholders like me results in a rethink.
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