It was an evening to gather and celebrate when the Barossa Community Labyrinth was declared officially open by Mayor Bob Sloane on Friday, November 2.
Invited guests including Lorraine and Geoff Rodda from the Australian Labyrinth Network who drove across from Victoria, sponsors from local companies and organisations, donors, supporters and friends of the labyrinth were welcomed by Labyrinth chairperson Carole Schroeder.
Since the seed of an idea was sown nine years ago, the Barossa Community Labyrinth has been a true community project.
A dedicated group managed all of the fundraising and coordination of the various stages of its construction and greening over the ensuing years.
In her opening words, Ms Schroeder introduced and honoured current members of the group: Angela Lange, Bronwyn Venning, Caroline Phillis, Jenny Griscti, Louise Mason, and paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of past members John and Kay Herring, Sue Raven, Merindah Ward, Laura Wardleworth, Ann Hanson, Christine and the late Jules de Brenni.
Mandy Brown, the Indigenous Arts and Cultural Engagement Officer at Country Arts SA and an Elder of the Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri nations, performed the Welcome to Country, and labyrinth members read Jonathan Hill’s poem ‘Acknowledgement of Country’ after which a branch of sheoak, representing the voice of the earth, the spirit of the land, and gentle whispers transcending time and space was passed progressively until it reached the beginning of the walking path.
After the cutting of the ribbon the branch was walked by Helen Phillips to the centre of the labyrinth as a symbol and in the spirit of reconciliation.
From dream to reality, the story of the “growing” of this community labyrinth is a long one.
Ms Schroeder made particular mention of the role of the Barossa Council in the hosting of public meetings where the dream was first visualised, later in the selection of a suitable site at the Barossa Bushgardens, and through several community grants.
The collaborative role of staff and volunteers at the Bushgardens was also highlighted.
Their expertise and willingness in the provision of support, advice, landscaping and greening cannot be under-estimated. Kate Jenkins, whose involvement in official and volunteer capacities spans many years, elaborated from the Bushgardens perspective.
The challenge of constructing the labyrinth was taken on by Kim Feltus of Feltus Paving and Landscaping. Kim spoke about his involvement from capturing the vision in his initial meeting with the group to creatively working with the intricate design and the many demands it presented from a problem-solving perspective.
The result, as witnessed by all present, is a high quality work of art with enduring properties that not only respects the history and use of labyrinths over thousands of years but places this labyrinth firmly in the present and the future for our community.
As it progressed through several distinct stages it was entirely grant and donation funded.
The realisation of the labyrinth and the construction cost in excess of $50,000 would not have been possible without the interest and commitment to the project from a vast number of sponsors and donors.
Ms Schroeder paid tribute to all of these and also to the “in kind” support which amounted to an additional tens of thousands of dollars.
“The Barossa Valley is a volunteer-rich community and many are the recipients of the gift of giving,” she said.
“In this case it is the community who is the recipient.”
“The labyrinth gift-givers also have the opportunity to receive the labyrinth’s benefits and know that their gift offers others a free experience to enjoy a walk in the beautiful Barossa Bushgardens, mindfully pondering nature with their senses or a chance to practice paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally which, when practiced regularly, can offer a release from the everyday stress in our lives,” Ms Schroeder added.