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17 November 2020
The entire Lifestyle Wimmera Edition 6 is available online. READ IT HERE!
By Andrew Dowdell
It’s a long way from Horsham’s Firebrace Street to Hollywood Boulevard, Kaniva oval to the MCG and from Jeparit to The Lodge – but the Wimmera has produced some of our nation’s most successful people.
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This list of Wimmera exports is by no means exhaustive but proves that nothing is beyond reach for young people with big dreams.
The people who have started from humble beginnings in rural and regional communities and have gone on to influence various aspects of society are an eclectic mix. They range from political figureheads to Australian sporting icons and from champions of popular culture to leaders in health research.
This year’s LifeStyle Wimmera magazine profiles a snapshot of just some of the region’s famous exports.
Sir Robert Menzies
Born Jeparit, 20-12-1894
Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister was born the fourth of five children to Jeparit storekeeper James and Kate Menzies in 1894.
After becoming a well-known barrister at a young age, Menzies followed the lead of his lay-preacher father and became involved in politics in the late 1920s.
He played a key role in creating the Liberal Party of Australia and was twice Prime Minister, from 1939 to 1942, then from 1949 to 1966.
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Robert was influential in expanding immigration, bolstering ties with both England and the United States.
He died from a heart attack in 1978.
Born Warracknabeal, 22-9-1957
Australia’s king of the alternative music scene for decades, Nick Cave spent his early years in the Wimmera before studying art in Melbourne.
Since becoming an underground culture icon in the early ’80s fronting rock band The Birthday Party, Cave has worked with music royalty such as Kylie Minogue and PJ Harvey while playing nearly every instrument possible in a range of guises including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Cave is an author and created the dark but critically acclaimed 2005 film The Proposition. He lives in Los Angeles.
Portia de Rossi
Born Horsham, 31-1-1973
Entering the world as Amanda Lee Rogers, ‘Portia’ lost her father when she was nine. Leaving Horsham, she grew up in Geelong.
Teenage model Amanda boldly changed her name to Portia de Rossi when she was 15 and had her first break acting in the 1994 film Sirens alongside Elle McPherson.
Hollywood beckoned and de Rossi has appeared in films and on the small screen in Ally McBeal in the 1990s and in comedy series Arrested Development.
Now aged 47, de Rossi is married to American talk-show megastar Ellen de Generes and is known for her philanthropy.
Born Kaniva, 27-4-1968
Those who saw a young Alastair Clarkson darting around Kaniva oval in the late 1970s might have picked he would forge a career at footy’s highest level.
However, even the determined and fierce competitor himself probably could not have predicted he would become arguably the game’s greatest coach.
While working as a physical-education
teacher, Clarkson kicked the winning goal in his debut VFL match for North Melbourne and played 143 games for the Roos and then Melbourne.
He worked his way through coaching ranks to be appointed Hawthorn senior coach in 2005. He steered the Hawks to four flags, including three in a row, and has been named All Australian coach four times.
Born Nhill, 29-9-1942
Janet McDonald went to school in her home town, then to Ballarat for university, before returning to Nhill High School as a teacher.
By this time married and known as Janet Powell, the community-minded teacher became involved in the Australian Democrats political party, which developed into the third force of Australian politics.
Powell became a Senator in the late 1980s and became the party’s third leader in July 1990.
She was ousted in a party coup in August 1991 and later joined the Australian Greens.
Honoured in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday list for services to the community, Powell died on September 30, 2013.
Born Murtoa, 18-1-1912
Responsible for discovering a breakthrough treatment for the mental-health condition that became known as bipolar disorder, John Cade was the son of Murtoa general practitioner David.
After observing the effects on his father, who left the Wimmera to serve in the First World War, John Cade became a psychiatrist who helped pioneer research into the mental-health problems associated with war service.
Like his father, John Cade went to war. He was a prisoner of war in the notorious Changi Prison from February 1942 to the end of the Second World War in September 1945.
Upon his return to Australia, Dr Cade found that lithium carbonate worked as a mood stabiliser for sufferers of ‘shell shock’, or manic depression.
Dr Cade’s discovery gave doctors treating acute sufferers an option other than the extreme lobotomy and electroconvulsive therapy.
Lithium treatment was later the topic of fierce debate, but Dr Cade’s revolutionary discovery changed modern medicine across the world. He died in Fitzroy in November 1980 but his name lives on through fellowships, lectures and educational facilities named in his honour.
Born in or near Ararat, 18-7-1860
James Scobie went from humble beginnings around Ararat to become one of Australian racing’s greatest trainers – still revered alongside Bart Cummings and other legends of the sport.
Scobie left school at 12 and worked his way from stable boy to metropolitan winning jockey in the space of eight years.
His stellar riding career was a mere entrée for his meteoric rise to the top of Australian training ranks.
Scobie clinched the big bucks of rich owners and built a racing empire which saw him claim almost every feature race on the calendar.
He trained the winners of four Melbourne Cups and eight times won the Victoria Derby. He died in 1940 and in 2001 was posthumously inducted into the Racing Victoria’s Hall of Fame.