Prince William visited Flowerdale today for a community barbeque where about 400 residents turned out to welcome him. It is hard to describe what was an amazing day, there were smiles everywhere as Prince William mixed with locals, cooked the barbeque, played cricket with the kids (as well as Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee and Brad Hodge) and planted a commemorative tree.
Prince William is greeted by Recovery Committee Chair John Burgess as he arrives in Flowerdale
The Prince won everyone over with his humility, genuine interest in the people and willingness to participate and mix with us all. He was more than happy to meet the hundreds of requests for photos and seemed almost embarrassed when people thanked him for coming, saying it was his privilege to be invited.
Prince William gets the local kids together for a photo
Everyone who met him commented on his down to earth manner, his friendly smile and in typical Aussie fashion they said he was a great bloke. There have been many dignitaries and celebrities visit Flowerdale since Black Saturday but none have matched the inspiration provided by Prince William. I suppose the best way to describe it is that he brought joy to the people of Flowerdale.
The day started with the broadcast of the Sunrise breakfast show from the Flowerdale Primary School. As the visit was supposed to be "secret" the show just said they were broadcasting from the bushfire areas although a resident who will go unnamed and was interviewed let it slip that it was happening in Flowerdale. There will also be extensive coverage on Channel 9 Today Show, tomorrow morning.
After Sunrise there was a cricket clinic at the Rec Reserve where Cricket Victoria had organised for Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Brad Hodge and Callum Ferguson to play with the local kids. The cricketers also mixed with the locals and spent a lot of time learning about what happened on Black Saturday and how things are rebuilding.
Prince William and Brett Lee talk bowling tactics
A huge international media pack came into town in buses and they also mixed with locals listening to the stories of Black Saturday. Articles have already appeared in The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, New York Times talking about the Royal visit. Many of the media commented on the positive attitude and community spirit they encountered when talking to people.
Bill Shorten, who has been a tireless supporter of bushfire affected communities and a very regular visitor to Flowerdale, was also on hand early and as always was talking to community members about where things were at. He also donned an apron and cooked the barbeque. A special thanks goes to Bill for his support and willingness to help make things happen.
Prince William and Bill Shorten have a chat while cooking the barbie
Christine Nixon, Ben Hubbard and many VBRRA staff also attended, the fact that they now know so many locals is a testament to the work they have been doing.
When Prince William arrived he had a briefing from the Flowerdale Recovery Committee and was presented with a Flowerdale TShirt. John Burgess was asked to show Prince William around and he recounted the details of how the recovery and rebuilding was taking place.
Prince William planted a gum tree with Erin and Skylah from the Primary School, and there is a memorial plaque to commerorate the tree planting and visit.
It was a real honour and privilege to have Prince William visit and for all who attended it was an unforgettable day. Many people took photos and videos so if you have some you would like to share please send them to me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put them on the blog and the photo site.