Aurora garden fitting tribute

By Myles Peterson

A week of commemorating the Southern Aurora train accident ended yesterday with the dedication of a memorial garden.

The opening of the $250000 project drew politicians from three levels of government, including Victorian Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes, Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum and Strathbogie Shire Mayor Amanda McClaren.

Ms Symes opened the garden, 50 years after one of the worst train accidents in Australian history.

‘‘Community members approached me with their dream of transforming a disused rail site into a reflective memorial garden and visitor destination to pay tribute to the lives lost in the disaster, and to remember the contributions from the community who responded and rallied together to assist following the accident,’’ Ms Symes said.

‘‘I have strong roots in Violet Town with my paternal grandparents being raised here, so it is a huge honour as a local MP to be able to give back to this community and acknowledge their tremendous sense of selflessness, strength and resilience in responding to an unprecedented disaster.’’

On February 7, 1969, nine people died in a disastrous collision between the southbound Southern Aurora express service train and a northbound freight train.

A further 117 were injured and many first responders and local community members suffered lasting effects.

The garden will act as a permanent memorial to all those killed, injured and affected.

The new site includes a 1km walking track from the memorial garden to the scene of the crash where a carriage from the train has been preserved.

The Victorian Government provided the largest contribution of $150 000, followed by Strathbogie Shire Council funding the project with $50 000.

V/Line, The Australian Rail Track Corporation and the Federal Government contributed $20 000, $16 500 and $13 000, respectively.

‘‘The Southern Aurora Memorial Garden will acknowledge those whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy and its aftermath and will serve as a reminder of the strength of community in overcoming adversity,’’ Cr McClaren said.