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A fascinating Probus meeting in Whittlesea

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Grace Frost
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Members were encouraged to wear their finest fascinators to this month’s Combined Probus Club of Whittlesea meeting to get in the spirit of Melbourne Cup Day.

Six women were chosen as winners of the fascinator competition when judges had difficulties crowning just one fascinator as the best.

“The judges were unable to, or frightened to, select a winner so it was declared a sextuplet dead heat,” Probus publicity officer Michael Halley said.

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Mr Halley said small break-outs such as the fascinator competition helped make the monthly meetings enjoyable for Probus members.

“Probus provides retirees with the opportunity to connect socially, which is so important in today’s world,” he said.

“Membership is open to anyone who is retired or semi-retired. In recent months at Whittlesea, the membership register has been increased several times.”

Six women drew as the winners of the fascinator competition at this month’s Probus meeting. ​

Tragedy recalled

Bruce Cumming, the driving force behind the Southern Aurora Memorial group, SAM, was the guest speaker at the November meeting.

Mr Cumming shared his account of the Southern Aurora train crash of February 7, 1969.

The overnight express passenger train collided head-on with an Albury-bound goods train at 7am, 174 kilometres north of Melbourne in Violet Town.

The Southern Aurora entered a crossing loop when it was meant to have waited, resulting in nine deaths and 117 people injured.

Mr Cumming heard the crash 12 kilometres away while getting ready for school and recalled the ribbon of smoke he saw high in the morning sky and the ‘haunting effect’ the event had on him.

He established SAM and the memorial gardens nearby the railway station in remembrance of the event.

The gardens are designed as a meditation place with history lessons displayed to highlight the human side of the tragic event. 

The garden theme ‘Helping Hands’ signifies how people stepped forward to help each other at the collision.

The memorial won the gold award for the Best Monument or Memorial at the 2022 Australian Street Art Award, and in October won the Mental Health and Wellbeing Award at the Resilience Australia Awards. 

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