GEORGE HATCHMAN BUSH RESERVE – Noticed it whilst out walking he did!
Photos by Cr David Pahlke
The story from the fabulous Moreton Border News 15.9.2017
WHEN Willowbank residents George and Christine Hatchman were out on their regular morning walk recently they were shocked by something they came across. While they’d been away on holidays, a large sign reading ‘George Hatchman Bush Reserve’ had been placed at the edge of a bush area they walk through on a regular basis. “I had to blink and double blink to make sure what I was seeing was real,” George wrote in an email on his return from that walk.
“That was an absolutely overwhelming heartfelt moment to feel the warmth of this community recognition.” And just to make sure he had not imagined it, the couple took the same walk the next morning. The naming of the bush reserve in George’s honour came from an initial submission to Ipswich City Council from Amberley Guide Leader Rosemary Bailey. She believed that the naming of the area opposite their Guide Hut in recognition of George was appropriate for a man whose actions are at the heart of the community. In 1986, George, a member of the RAAF, was posted back to Amberley. He had also served at the base from 1965 to 1970.
He said it was his re-introduction to the community that set him on the path he walks today. He became involved in Amberley State School, where their four children were schooled, and where the rekindling of a friendship directed his community involvement. “The then Federal MP Les Scott was an old school mate and he attended a school awards presentation and in the months which followed we met many times. “That was where I got a feel for the governance issues in the area and started to advocate for the local community,” he explained. This led to the formation of the Willowbank Area Group, commonly known as WAG, around 15 years ago. George was the inaugural president – a role he continues today. WAG has advocated and successfully directed change to numerous plans for the region to better suit the community.
George is also a member of numerous community groups that look at impact of actions planned at all levels of government for the region. While these days George has retired from the RAAF, he is still involved through his role as historian for the No. 23 Squadron and RAAF Amberley. But it was that surprising signage which had George recalling his memories of that particular piece of ground. n Continued page 12 n Continued from page 10 “Back during the World War II era this ridge and bush reserve was scalped of its topsoil. The dirt was used by the RAAF in the creation of an all-weather airstrip. “In fact, remnant tree stumps are still visible sitting high above the ground level – stumps that were left behind during the removal of that topsoil.” He laughed as he added that one of the activities he enjoyed at the spot years ago is in direct contrast to the wildlife conservationist he is today.
“Years ago I would use my allocated ‘sporties’ time to sign out my .22 calibre rifle from the base armoury and go hunting for hares on this very ridge,” he said with a wry grin. “These days I love keeping an eye on the kangaroos, wallabies, birds and other creatures that call this place home.” When asked his thoughts on the community, George was quick to reply. “To me, living in a community means being involved with the community and engaging with government representatives in advocating for improving the social, built and environmental amenity that makes for the enjoyable family lifestyle of our neighbourhood. “To be recognised for my contribution by the naming of ‘George Hatchman Bush Reserve’ is a depth of appreciation and feeling beyond words as I am still realising the enduring legacy it conveys. “I also ponder that a hiker through the Reserve in a 100 years time on seeing the sign will wonder who that old codger ‘George Hatchman’ was? “My love of natural surrounds and my commitment to making our community continue to be a better
place to live and the fact that the Reserve overlooks RAAF Amberley, where I was 50 years in uniform, means I could not be more appreciative of this acknowledgement,” he said.
On Sunday a group of family and friends gathered for the formal unveiling of the signage that surprised George and Christine on their morning walk. “There was no one more deserving of such a recognition than George for his commitment to the Willowbank community,” Cr Dave Pahlke said. “This is a man who has put many thousands of hours and much of his heart into making Willowbank a special place for families and for that I thank him.”