Bomb threat

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Bomb threat

Young input: Mirboo North Primary School vice-captains Georgie Anton and Ben Phillips admire the sculpture with David Tree. The students were the school’s representatives at the unveiling.

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council received a bomb threat just days before the unveiling of Mirboo North’s Sam the Koala bronze sculpture on Saturday.
An anonymous caller threatened to either blow up the sculpture or run over it with a tractor.
Mayor Cr Warren Raabe confirmed yesterday (Monday) that a call had been made to council last Wednesday with those intentions.
Cr Raabe said council took the call seriously, reporting the matter to police. It was decided that no action be taken overnight on Friday, October 28 – the eve of the unveiling on Saturday morning in Baromi Park.
The sculpture was neither blown up nor run over by a tractor, however vandals did attack the sculpture on Friday night, splashing paint over the artwork. Yellow words painted on the front and back of the sculpture declared “Sam is a Scam”.
Cr Raabe told The Star while the vast majority of the community of Mirboo North was right behind the project, “there is a faction that is against it”.
“It was extremely disappointing to hear the sculpture had been graffitied. It was mischievous and unnecessary,” he said.
Mirboo North and District Recovery Committee chairman, Ned Dennis, said that thanks to tremendous community spirit, volunteers on Saturday morning cleaned up the front of the statue and the official proceedings were held without interruption.
Mr Dennis fortunately uncovered the sculpture at about 8.15am on Saturday and noticed the graffiti. “Sam is a Scam” was written twice on the front and once on the back.
“I had a call on Friday from a woman saying it was all a scam and referring me to a website. Another staff member had taken a call making the more serious threats on Wednesday,” he said.
“Like myself, I think the whole community hopes someone will be caught.”
Rather than weaken the community’s resolve, the whole incident and Saturday’s unveiling made the community even stronger.
“We had people volunteering their time on Saturday morning who had had nothing to do with the work done so far. Saturday was just an amazing day,” Mr Dennis said.
The legend of Sam the Koala and the remarkable moment when Mirboo North fire-fighter David Tree shared his water bottle with the struggling animal after devastating bushfires in February 2009 is now immortalised.  The photo of that moment was beamed across national media.
Saturday’s ceremony was attended by hundreds despite inclement weather.
Mr Tree described the act of vandalism as “just one idiot who has started a conspiracy theory.”
“It’s just sad what society has come down to,” he said.
The sculpture was unveiled by community representatives including the two vice-captains of Mirboo North Primary School, Georgie Anton and Ben Phillips, who are also young brigade volunteers; Bernice Snell (on behalf of all community groups and individuals); Neil Trease (president of rail trail committee and a Wednesday Warrior);  Brian Aherne (friends of the Lyrebird Walk committee and Wednesday Warrior); Rob Nyhuis (current CFA captain); Mark Bourke (CFA captain in 2009 at the time of the fires); and David Tree.
The bronze bass-relief sculpture was made possible by a $79,000 grant through the Bushfire Appeal.
In his speech, an emotional Federal Member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent described how honoured he was to participate in this community event.
“There are still people suffering enormous grief from this one terrible event on Black Saturday. This message was sent out to the world in a time of great tragedy,” he said.
Following the unveiling Mr Tree described the memorial as “amazing, nothing like I thought it would be.”
“This is a community day, not a David Tree day,” he said.
“This represents everything a community stands for. It all happened on our watch, it was that simple.”
“It holds a special place in my heart.”
The work, by artist Michael Meszaros, took 18 months to complete.
The remainder of the grant will be used to complete paths, a sign, bollards and other beautification works around the sculpture.

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Posted by on Nov 3 2011. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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