Ryder-Cheshire Australia Biennial Conference in Ballarat 15 – 17th April 2016

Sr Abel Guterras, Brigadier Arun Bhatnagar, Dianne McGrath and Sr Joaquim Soares
Sr Abel Guterras, Brigadier Arun Bhatnagar, Dianne McGrath and Sr Joaquim Soares

In Sydney 2014, the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria Ballarat Support Group volunteered to host the next Ryder-Cheshire Australia Biennial Conference for 2016 in Ballarat, Victoria.

Planning began immediately, including securing the all-inclusive, beautiful venue and surroundings at the Mercure Hotel and Convention Centre in Ballarat for 15, 16 and 17 April.

The Friday commenced very early with a full programme of events for the overseas guests Sr Joaquim Soares Director of Klibur Domin, Timor-Leste and his wife, Brigadier Bhatnagar CEO of Raphael India and his wife, Ms  Carolyn Tapley and Mrs Minna Munro from Christchurch, New Zealand and Mrs Sunita Garware from Raphael Governing Council, India.

Minna Munro NZ, Sunita Garware India and Carolyn Tapley NZ
Minna Munro NZ, Sunita Garware India and Carolyn Tapley NZ

This programme included an ABC Regional radio interview, visits to Damascus College, Ballarat Specialist School and farm with lunch served by the staff and students at the Specialist School bakery, Loreto College, Ballarat Grammar school and Ballarat Clarendon College. Joaquim also visited Gandarra Palliative Care Unit of the Ballarat Health Services to observe chronic care management. Joaquin and Maria had morning tea at Damascus College whilst Arun and Shobhna visited the Ballarat Specialist School. The parties met at the Ballarat Specialist School Farm for a tour culminating with lunch served by the staff and students at the Ballarat Specialist School Bakery.

Sr Joaquin and Sra Maria with Damascus College students
Sr Joaquin and Sra Maria with Damascus College students

On Friday evening The City of Ballarat welcomed all Biennial Conference delegates to a Civic Reception in the old and beautiful Ballarat Town Hall. Cr Des Hudson, the Mayor, welcomed  all to Ballarat and spoke knowledgeably about the work of Ryder-Cheshire and the relief of suffering.

After the Reception delegates were invited by Leo Rennie to visit the Ballarat Old Colonists’ Club, a rare and special invitation.

Saturday and Sunday mornings commenced with yoga sessions instructed by our Yoga Teacher, Lori Hutton.

On Saturday the Biennial Conference was officially opened by His Excellency Sr Abel Guterras, the Timor-Leste Ambassador. In his opening address, Sr Guterras spoke about the work of Ryder-Cheshire and fondly about the history of friendship between the two countries.

Peter Newton, National RCA President, acknowledged the outstanding work by Dr Don Sinclair and Fr Ted Burns and presented both with Ryder-Cheshire Certificates of Appreciation.

Patricia Prendergast gave insights into the beginnings of the Ballarat Support Group along with a special message of sharing the love from the Tetun of Klibur Domin.

Newly appointed CEO of Rahpael Brigadier Arun Bhatnagar and Sr Joaquim Soares Director of Klibur Domin gave comprehensive reports of work undertaken at both facilities. This was followed by the Chairman of the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Canterbury, New Zealand, Ms Carolyn Tapley, who gave an up date on the current situation in Christchurch.

Volunteers, Trish Twaits from Ballarat spoke of her time at Raphael, and Barry and Sue Ward from Bendigo of their time at Klibur Domin.

Jeremi, Ryan, Drew and Sean a group of young friends from ECHO International Aid gave a motivational presentation about their work in Northern Thailand and this was followed by the afternoon workshop, facilitated by Mrs Trish Young from the Australian Catholic University Ballarat, enabling delegates to share stories, discuss and look to the future.

Over canapés and drinks prior to the Conference Dinner, ‘Sing Australia’ delightfully entertained all with well-chosen songs for the Conference. Many were humming along, some dancing and others went into dinner singing. The buffet dinner was followed by a most informative talk with entertaining stories by Mrs Sunita Garware, Member of the Governing Council of Raphael.

Leo Rennie Ballarat, Sr Joaquim Soares Timor-Leste, Dianne McGrath Ballarat and Sr Maria Soares Timor-Leste
Leo Rennie Ballarat, Sr Joaquim Soares Timor-Leste, Dianne McGrath Ballarat and Sr Maria Soares Timor-Leste

Sunday began with an historical movie created by Hugh Elphinstone, President of the Ryder-Cheshire Victoria Bendigo Support Group, and Terry Warr. This was a collage of footage tracing the story of the late Leonard Cheshire and the late Sue Ryder, the two founders of Ryder-Cheshire.

Sunday was a day for the Ryder-Cheshire Homes in Australia. Anne Boyd delivered Cheryl Nesbitt’s report from the Ryder-Cheshire Home at Singleton NSW. Don Hamilton reported on the developments and in particular the newly installed lift at the Ryder-Cheshire Home in Ivanhoe, VIC. Neville Gilbertson explained the new development of an all boys facility soon to be built at the Ryder-Cheshire Home in Mt Gambier, SA.

We heard from the Project Manager of Nardy House in Quaama NSW, Denise Redmond, of the struggles to develop the facility for profoundly physically disabled people. Assisted by the tremendous support from the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation NSW, this facility has now the much-needed infrastructure in place.

Evelyn Petters, Editor of The Red Feather, delivered a comprehensive historical account of the RCA Newsletter, now known as The Red Feather. All present applauded her wonderful work as Editor.

Terry Warr, Convenor of the Ryder-Cheshire Communications Group, displayed the Ryder-Cheshire business cards which can be accessed via him, the Ryder-Cheshire address labels which can be accessed through the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation NSW and the role of Editors and Contributors for the newly refurbished RCA website.

The Conference concluded with an Open Forum hosted by the National President, Peter Newton.

Technology through out the Conference was ably undertaken by Terry Warr, Amit Kumar and Roger Jeffrey our Roving Reporter

The all-inclusive fully laden Trading Table selling goods from Raphael, Timor-Leste and New Zealand which greeted guests at the entrance to the Conference was successfully managed by Julie Brusaschi and her team of helpers.

Trading table of many goodies
Trading table of many goodies

Mars Confectionery Australia kindly donated chocolates for the Conference some of which made their way into the Conference Show-bags, some as lucky chair prizes, but most into a Conference raffle. We were delighted to know that Di McEwen won this and would be using it as one of their Ryder-Cheshire Foundation SA fundraisers.

The Ryder-Cheshire Biennial Conference 2016 provided the opportunity to mingle and talk face to face with delegates to share and exchange ideas and we thank you all for your attendance and contributions.

Ballarat Support Group was very proud to host this Conference and we sincerely wish the next hosts, Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria and the Victorian Ryder-Cheshire Homes, all the very best in their lead up to the 2018 Ryder-Cheshire Biennial Conference in Melbourne.

Dianne McGrath, President

Ryder-Cheshire Foundation Victoria Ballarat Support Group