Hellmail 2011 Appeal - Waratah Park
Hellmail has lent its support to the Waratah Park Nature Reserve and is appealing to companies and other individuals to help restore and preserve what is probably better know as the set for Australia's biggest ever TV product - Skippy (the bush kangaroo) before it vanishes altogether.
What is quite remarkable, and the reason for this appeal, is that 'Ranger Headquarters' and a fair chunk of the surrounding area, still survives today in remarkably good condition. Indeed the interiors are still much as they were in the 1960s including furniture and the familiar radio which featured in most episodes. However, the future of the site is uncertain and had it not been for the determination of the Waratah Park Nature Reserve Foundation, a band of dedicated volunteers trying to protect the site, it could well have vanished beneath the bulldozers altogether and an important part of Australian TV history as well as yet more of Australia's bush lost forever. Ourreasoning is that international support (and the UK is no bad starting place given the series popularity here) would do much to bolster or underpin the efforts of the Waratah Park Nature Reserve Foundation and hopefully secure additional sponsors from around the world. For that reason, or editor Steve Lawson has agreed to highlight the plight of the location and try to raise interest from the UK.
A few may argue that Neigbours, Paul Hogan, boomerangs, and Fosters have equal merit or even importance, but few television series matched 'Skippy' in terms of promoting the diversity of Australia's flora and fauna (and indeed Australia's remarkable bush landscape) - or the world-wide fan base it generated. Even Hogan himself at least on one occasion paid homage to the children’s favourite that is now increasingly being given space in the DVD collections of we forty-somethings.
The fact that the series was parodied so many times since and "Whats that Skip? Someone has fallen down a mine shaft?" has almost fallen into folklore, is testament not only to its huge success during the late 1960s, but the affection that so many have for the series even today. This time it’s Skippy that’s in trouble and given the times he bounced home to alert Ranger Headquarters of imminent disaster, the least we can do is return the compliment. Heres a You Tube video which shows how the park looks today and why your support is needed:
So, does all this really matter and why try and protect the set of a TV show that was made over 40 years ago? Well, I think it does matter. Skippy introduced the world to a unique and diverse landscape, parts of which have already been lost due to the demand for housing in Australia and many children to a lifestyle they could only dream of. It was made before the age of cheap airline travel and at a time when many parts of the world remained unexplored. To us Brits, the landscape was positively alien, even if much of Australia's modern history owes much to Great Britain's obsession with shipping out convicts. Certainly for many youngsters here in the UK, it was also the first we'd seen of Australia's indigenous people - the aborigines.
President of the Waratah Park support group, Penny Edmonds has been calling on the Australian government to act and secure the park on the state heritage register, and we can only hope that once land rights are resolved, the Australian government will support Edmonds' determination to preserve as much of the area as possible for future generations.
Original cast members included Ed Devereaux as the ranger Matt Hammond (who incidentally appeared in several 'Carry On' films here in the UK), Garry Pankhurst as Sonny Hammond, Ken James as Mark Hammond, Tony Bonner as Jerry King the helicopter pilot, and Lisa Goddard as 'Clancy' who incidentally was brought up in Smethick just outside Birmingham, only landing the role after her father was in Australia working on another project.
In these difficult economic times, raising funds is no walk in the park (Waratah or otherwise) and for that reason I feel compelled to lend my own support in terms of highlighting the plight of the site in the hope that Hellmail readers will help the Waratah Park support group secure a future for the site. Any donation however small will help Penny and the team help preserve and revitalise the plot so that future generations can enjoy not only a unique piece of television history, but hopefully see the return of Skippy and his friends, helping boost tourism and once again promote the natural environment of Australia.
The Waratah Park Support Group is Hellmail's chosen good cause for 2011, so we'll keep you updated on progress.
To become a member of the Waratah Park Nature Reserve or to make a donation: