The year in 2021: Stories from the community

The best of the Canberra community shone through in so many wonderful stories during a difficult year.

We said goodbye to old friends, chased after painted treasures on our lockdown trips, and fell in love with some alpacas looking for a new home.

Take a look back at the stories that gave us a smile (and maybe a tear or two) in 2021.

10. ‘What will happen to Dick?’ How an icon came to call Gundaroo home

Dick and Pip Smith

Dick Smith and his wife Pip on their travels to New Zealand. Photo: Marilyn Anderson.

The story of how Dick Smith came to live on a property 30 minutes outside of Canberra is about coincidences and his love of helicopters.

Whenever he can, the 77-year-old flies with his wife Pip from their home in northern Sydney to their 4,000-hectare property in Yass Valley.

For Dick, this is a living bush, though he admits it’s only a six-minute helicopter ride from Canberra.

9. The beloved principal Murray Bruce is retiring after 40 years in ACT public schools

Murray Bruce

Murray Bruce retired after 40 years of teaching Canberra’s children. Photo: ACT Uddannelsesdirektoratet.

After more than 40 years, the school is out for Murray Bruce.

Now retired, the popular Gordon principal saw generations of children go through ACT’s public schools.

“Either you’re the right person to teach … or you’re not,” he said.

Needless to say, he was the right person.

8. Documentary from the SBS shortlist tells the story of a show that must continue

Elwin Bell Jnr as shown in the documentary called The Carnival, by the Batemans Bay-based filmmaker Isabel Darling.

Elwin Bell Jnr as shown in the documentary called The Carnival, by the Batemans Bay-based filmmaker Isabel Darling. Photo: Included.

A documentary by a Batemans Bay filmmaker telling the story of the Queanbeyan family behind Bell’s Amusements was nominated for SBS’s Australia Uncovered series.

The Carnival, directed by Isabel Darling, was a six-year love affair that told the story of the family that has run Bell’s Amusements for more than 100 years.

Unfortunately, it did not work out, but Isabel told it Regional media the short film was a “fly-on-the-wall documentary of a family drama set in the backdrop of a carnival”.

7. We say goodbye to the old Bay Bridge and its operators when the new structure takes off

Rodney Plumb on Batemans Bay Bridge.

Rodney Plumb has run Batemans Bay Bridge for 20 years. Photo: David Jacobs.

For more than 20 years, Rodney Plumb has quietly enjoyed one of the best views in Eurobodalla, if not the entire NSW south coast.

He sat high in the small cabin at the top of the Batemans Bay bridge, raising the buckle twice every day and staring out to the Tollgate Islands while the ferry passed below.

When the massive new bridge was built, 78-year-old Rodney was out of work.

Painted cliffs turn Canberra hikes into artistic, whimsical treasure hunts

A stone with love painted on it stuck between two boulders

You never knew where you would find one of the painted stones. Photo: Tiffany Fletcher.

Did you come across small, hand-painted stones on your walks outside this year? The playful pastime grew like a giant trend in ACT.

Across Canberra, the locals lovingly used works of art on rocks and then placed them in public parks, trails and other places that strangers could find.

Native animals, flowers, book figures, superheroes, fruits, and messages of hope – the rocks triggered a moment of joy for those lucky enough to discover them.

5. Canberra’s beloved therapy packages are looking for a retirement home. Can you help?

Nils Lantzke

Nils Lantzke with two of his trained therapy packages. Photo: Fil.

There was a happy ending to the story of the therapy packs that this year were looking for a new home.

The call went to anyone with five acres left, a shed and some cattle farms to shed a lifeline to some of Canberra’s most beloved four-legged citizens.

Nils Lantzke’s therapy packages were looking for a new home when their events at Wallaroo ended… and the call was happily answered.

4. ‘Time for a Well-Deserved Rest’: An Institution in Canberra, Alan Jessup Retires

Alan Jessup collects donations from the Salvation Army outside the Canberra Center.

Alan Jessup is working his last day on the job at the Canberra Center on March 23rd. Photo: Canberra City Salvos Facebook.

It was the end of an era for the Canberra City Salvation Army as they said goodbye to their iconic collector Alan Jessup, who retired at the age of 90.

Mr. Jessup first began collecting for the Canberra City Corps of the Salvation Army outside the then Monaro Mall 33 years ago, and he had been one of the Canberra Center’s most famous sights.

Sitting on his mobility walker, Mr. Jessup was a man of few words, but he always had a grateful “thank you, buddy” ready.

3. Paul Jurak: The kayak cameraman is preparing to leave the city he fell in love with

Paul Jurak, aka the kayak cameraman, in his familiar red kayak. Photo: Kayak cameraman Paul Jurak.

The man who took some of the most iconic photos of Canberra, Paul Jurak (aka the kayak cameraman), announced that he would leave town, giving him hope in his darkest moments.

Taking pictures began as therapy when he recovered from cancer and quickly became part of Canberra folklore.

Paul estimated that he had taken over 100,000 photos of Lake Burley Griffin and its surroundings over the past decade.

2. Pauly and Bruiser must be reunited thanks to an outpouring of generosity and community spirit

Pauly and his dog shower

Pauly and his “best mate” Bruiser down in the Erindale stores. Photo: Melissa McCormack.

A stream of community spirit and generosity helped reunite Erindale homeless Pauly New with her best partner and beloved companion Bruiser.

Thousands of Canberrans followed the story of Bruiser being seized and begging Domestic Animal Services (DAS) for his return.

So when Pauly’s sister announced that Bruiser had passed her temper tests, there were many who had tears in their eyes and were ready to blow the champagne out.

1. Proud Ken Behrens: Canberrans embraces the lighter side of COVID lockdowns

Ken Behrens shouts

Our Spartacus moment: The boss gives a shout out to all of us – Ken Behrens. Photo: Twitter.

In our top spot: Love it or hate it, Ken Behrens was the mistranslation that turned into an instant legend about Canberra COVID lockdowns.

It quickly became a shining example of Canberra’s indomitable spirit and humor as lockdowns progressed.

“I want to thank all the Canberrans for doing the right thing,” ACT Chief Executive Andrew Barr said innocently in one of his daily press conference updates.

And thus began the legend of Ken Behrens.

Leave a Comment