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A fun way to pay tribute

Buxton

A story from Buxton in NSW, reflecting life in October 2020

“We’re building a firetruck playground in memory of the boys because they have two young children and we wanted it to be a happy place for them to remember and reflect on their dad, rather than something sad,” said Kim Hill.

Kim, a Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer, is the driving force behind the Telopea Park Memorial Playground in Buxton, a small village south of Sydney.

32-year old Geoffrey Keaton and 36-year old Andrew O’Dwyer, both volunteer firefighters, were travelling in a truck convoy near Buxton when a tree fell, causing the tanker to roll off the road on the night of 19 December 2019. Both were killed and both were fathers of young children born just two days apart.

To honour the lives and bravery of the men, Kim Hill and the RFS community has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to build the playground, which is modelled on the same truck in which the firefighters died.

The playground has been designed by local Australian company Moduplay, based in Wollongong. The company has been designing and building playgrounds since 1989.

Telopea Park needed to be upgraded and the playground is just one part of a master plan to rebuild park facilities.

“This will be a wonderful tribute to the firefighters who lost their lives defending our residents and their homes from the bushfires, and an important reminder to the local community of what happened during the 2019–20 bushfires,” said Matthew Deeth, Mayor Wollondilly Shire Council.

The Black Summer bushfires destroyed homes in Buxton and Balmoral, two villages six kilometres apart but in two different local council areas – the Wollondilly and Wingecarribbee Shires. Both Councils are contributing to the playground.

To help the most severely bushfire-impacted Local Government Areas (LGAs) to quickly rebuild vital infrastructure and strengthen community resilience following the bushfires, the Australian Government provided payments to local councils under the LGA Grants Program. Wingecarribee Shire Council received $1.225 million under this program. Wollondilly Shire Council received $1.3 million under this program.

Local councils know their communities best and can direct funding to where it is needed most. They may use their grants on projects and activities they deem essential for community recovery.

Mark Pepping, Deputy General Manager Corporate Strategy and Development Services at Wingecarribee Shire Council said some of the funding from the LGA Grants Program went to support the playground.

“These funds are a fitting tribute to them and in memory of their contribution,’ said Mr. Pepping.

The Wollondilly Shire Council is also contributing to the playground through project management and in-kind support.

“The disaster relief funding was such a positive initiative from the Federal Government and the fact that it was immediate meant that we were able to respond in ways that we would have not been able to before,” said Wollondilly Mayor, Matthew Deeth.

The memorial playground was unveiled on 5 December 2020 and is now open to the public.