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The adventures of a Valley Boy.

As Gippslandia turns six, we reflect on our journey, the cherished memories made, the resilience built, and our unwavering commitment to flip the narrative about our beloved region.

Feb 25, 2023


Words: Michael Duncan

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved adventure.

Our greatest memories are often linked to our greatest adventures.

As a student of Morwell Park Primary School, we had both the ‘old adventure playground’ and the ‘new adventure play-ground’ (probably not the most imaginative naming conventions!), both of which claimed the skin and bones of many over-confident adventurers. Do they still name playgrounds? They should.

When I was the age of my children, family holidays were often spent in Merimbula and I’d happily lose hours in the rock-pools at Pambula or waiting outside the fire station or airport with a very patient grandfather just to get glimpse of a shiny big red firetruck or a plane coming in to land. Two professions that my younger self linked with adventure and excitement.

As a teenager, my bike covered thou-sands of kilometres, taking me to places that roads wouldn’t always lead. The bike would roll out of the garage in the morning and come home as the street-lights came on. Later, this was replaced with my car; friends would climb in and we’d discover places beyond the range of my bike. Although, happily, the streetlight ruling was forgotten.

Cars have led to planes and, therefore, further fulfilling my adventurous soul with worldly travels, including the obligatory ‟we’re 18, so we’re going to Bali” adven-ture (quite an adventure it was too). Soak-ing in new cultures, cuisines, languages, sights and sounds. Getting yourself into a tight spot, and having to find a way out of it again. It’s these adventures that shaped me and built resilience, resourcefulness, empathy and a sense of humor, not to mention the bunch of friends collected along the way.

These days, adventure is alive and well and arrives in different forms, the most important being fatherhood. I love watch-ing the escapades of my boys and their adventures now have the same impact on me as my own. It may be watching them try a sport for the first time, bringing home something from art class, even those ‘whoops’ moments that earn them a trip to hospital. They’re putting themselves out there without knowing exactly what will come next: Will I like it? Will I be any good at it? What happens if I embarrass or hurt myself ?

They’re adventures that can create lasting memories. The only reward that matters from these moments is intrinsic: a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction and, sometimes, relief.

Maybe most of the above can be read as a little self-indulgent trip down memory lane, but what’s consistent for me through-out these memories are the people that I’ve experienced them with: my family and friends. When it all boils down to it, they’re all you’ve really got, and we treasure our shared memories.

I grew up in the Latrobe Valley – ‘The Valley’ – and, regardless of where my adventures take me, it’ll always be a place I call ‘home’. It’s a place that I’m proud of.

My friends and family are no different, and their upbringing has led some of them to become industry leaders, run major companies, start their own businesses or represent our country, among them great friends, fathers and contributors to society. Perhaps it was always their destiny, but they say it takes a village to raise a child and our village, the Valley, seems to be a great one, worthy of celebration.

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With this edition, we’re celebrating six years of Gippslandia. It was our adventurous spirit to show our region through a different lens that launched our journey. We drew inspiration from people like Shane Gavin and Levi Schmidt, who moved to Gippsland from elsewhere and found adventure at every opportunity, opening our eyes again to the possibilities available at our doorstep.

If adventures create memories and memories become stories, we’ve got an infinite amount of content awaiting these pages.

When our first issue was printed, we were tired of the negative media narrative that followed our region. It was way off the mark. The assessments of our future and prosperity were misjudged (at best) and they missed celebrating what we are and what we have. Unfortunately, it was an outlook that was too prevalent at the time, and an easy one to slip into.

Since day one, we’ve committed ourselves to flipping that narrative, to telling the stories, the adventures and the triumphs of our region. Tell the world what makes us great. And, we’re grateful at the selfless commitment to this undertaking shown by all those involved in Gippslandia.

For these people that have so willingly given to Gippslandia, while you won't feature on bronze statues across the region or become exceedingly rich, we appreciate you being on this adventure with us, enjoying the opportunity to share stories, to inspire, to generate pride and to connect. It’s a driving purpose; the intrinsic rewards have been immeasurable. You’re all doing your bit to leave our patch better than we found it.

We’re not alone. Gippslandia is just one of many vehicles striving to show the world how great our region is.

With each edition comes more feedback that people are proud of Gippsland, and growing prouder by the day. Six years into this adventure, it feels like we’re making progress, and the archaic views of belong-ing to ‘Gippsland’ or ‘The Valley’ being seen as a negative no longer have a place here.
Progress is just that; it’s not completion. For as long as some local leaders believe that being from ‘The Valley’ is a negative, then our work will not be done.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition. A massive thank you to all those that have made this sixth birthday possible.

Maybe this adventure we call ‘Gippslandia’ is just getting started. These Valley boys have just begun.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 25

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