An ANZAC Story: Push to the Bush

Rod and Pam Elkington
Rod and Pam Elkington

On April 15, Pam and Rod Elkington will set out on an outback trip with a difference. Along with other veterans they will visit remote towns and tell them about ANZAC Day. 

“When we first started Push to the Bush,” said Rod, “Wyandra had 15-16 kids in the school and we marched on ANZAC Day. There were whole heaps of mums and dads asking questions – turns out they weren’t alive when we came back from Vietnam.

“It was the whole family – so we’re actually getting two chops at the cherry!”

That was 16 years ago, with six vets and their partners. The duo from Standown Park have led Push to the Bush every year except 2020, due to Covid. Partners of Veterans sent care bears instead.

“We’ve been everywhere – Aramac, Muttaburra, Yaraka – and they want you back again. This year there will be 14 vets visit Augathella, 8 to Wyandra and our group of 25 vets (50 of us) travel via Bell, Westmar, Bollon, Cunnamulla, Eulo to Thargomindah – what happens after that is anybody’s business!” joked Rod.

“There’s 13-14 coming to us at Standown, leaving with us on the 14th.”

“It’s rewarding allround. Great for towns and for us veterans. Most vets who went out there, have never marched.”

They have told Rod, they feel they are ‘just a number’ in the larger towns. 

In the Push to Bush programme, Rod explains there will be six to eight of them marching, they all know of each other. The vets really appreciate the admiration and respect from the children and adults in the smaller communities. 

“We get vets from all over Tassie, and as far as WA – it is promoted through the park – via friends of friends. 

Pam says, “We take out gifts for the kids, with money raised through our Park events like the meals and raffles on Vietnam Vets day in August – it all goes towards it.” 

In recent times, recycling has also helped them purchase and make gifts for the communities, including three larger digger bears, which each community raffles off. 

Pam said, “Standown visitors know where the money is going so they leave their cans here.” 

The whole point of the Push to the Bush is to take the Anzac Spirit to the children and people of the bush, working with the town and often extra activities are organised, although they don’t expect it.

Along the way, they call into small towns to talk to the school children about ANZAC Day. 

The group set up a ANZAC memorabilia display, a Dawn Service, followed by breakfast with the usual rum and milk. Visiting Vets march in the parade flying the Australian flag, Vietnam Veteran flag and the New Zealand flag and any of the other service flags available, lay a wreath, with Two Up and Crown and Anchor played at the pub/ hall or patch of lawn, after lunch at most venues. 

Often a camp oven stew and damper night is organised – where all Veterans supply the ingredients, and invite the local helpers, organisers, teacher, policeman, basically the town!

Pam said, “It is meant to be a leisurely trip with a lot of enjoyment along the way – we organise the accommodation for the Vets and others, usually at the Rodeo, caravan parks, show or camp grounds or similar with a bit of power and amenities. We ALL camp together.”

Tours of properties, museums and other places of interest have been arranged in the past, as well as fishing comps, concerts, sports day, catching red claw, sheep races and even a bush ball!   

Here are the destinations for 2021 – you can put them on your own list or join the group next time:

AUGATHELLA – POPULATION: 430 – NO. IN SCHOOL: 52               

Experience Augathella “Meat Ant Country” and the rich historical culture the town provides. View the giant meat ant sculpture in the park; it is over a million times the size of an actual ant.    Some history on the notorious bushranger brothers Patrick and James Kenniff can be found at the Kenniff tree. The brothers were a part of one of Queensland’s largest manhunt lasting over thirteen years.     View all the amazing murals along the main street, from the great sheep stations to the 1950’s movie “Smiley”. A must see is the Boadicea Gallery and Cinema, where on exhibition is over 150 heritage photos and where you view the 1956 movie “Smiley”.   They have a store, Butcher shop, Post office and Hotel.    Your accommodation will be at the football oval with limited power and amenities. 

THARGOMINDAH – POPULATION: 270 – NO. IN SCHOOL: 21                 

Thargomindah provides the perfect launch pad for Cameron Corner – the point where three Australian states meet – the iconic Burke and Wills ‘Dig’ Tree at Cooper Creek and historic hotels at Noccundra and Hungerford. Take a self-guided tour of Australia’s first hydro-electricity system driven by artesian water pressure, historic Old Hospital and the Old Jail, or enjoy fabulous birdwatching and nature activities at the unique Lake Bindegolly and Currawinya National Parks.

The Adventure Way is a sealed road from Brisbane to Thargomindah and beyond, with only 20 kilometers of unsealed road to the historic Burke and Wills ‘Dig’ Tree. It is the ideal touring route to or from South Australia via the famous Strzelecki Track and the Flinders Ranges.

Thargomindah Explorers Caravan Park   is only 100 metres from the heart of Thargomindah Township, and is situated 50 metres from the banks of the Bulloo River.

WYANDRA – POPULATION: 116 – NO. IN SCHOOL: 9

Perfectly located halfway between Cunnamulla and Charleville, Wyandra is a must-see town.

Like so many outback towns, Wyandra came into being as a railway settlement. Built along the Western Railway Line, the town was a major water stop for the steam engines heading through to Charleville.

Take a stroll along the Heritage Trail.  See the antique Powerhouse, now a museum, it is definitely worth a look. Finish your walk with a cool drink at the Gladstone Hotel and a burger at the Post Office Café.  Don’t miss the chance to watch a movie, under the stars, at the outdoor cinema.

Wyandra is noted for its locally produced Mineral Water, shipped all around the country.                                                                      

If you are keen to get involved, get in touch with Pam and Rod from Standown Park and tell them we sent you! Phone 07 5486 5144 or visit: www.standown.com.au 

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RSM Noel Huish OAM Ret. Leading the Anzac march in Augathella
RSM Noel Huish OAM Ret. Leading the Anzac march in Augathella
The Anzac service with 6 students at Yaraka
The Anzac service with 6 students at Yaraka
Rod explaining a piece of Anzac memorabilia to the Ilfracombe students
Rod explaining a piece of Anzac memorabilia to the Ilfracombe students
The group gift Push to the Bush teddies that they make from old service uniforms
The group gift Push to the Bush teddies that they make from old service uniforms

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