Milparinka is over 600 miles as the crow flies NW of Sydney, Australia, in the Australian outback. Ruth Sandow moved there 27 years ago with her husband Jon. She was struck by the beauty of the old courthouse which had fallen into a state of disrepair with missing doors and windows and as Ruth said, “Every man and his dog had carved a message into the plaster walls; the Baltic pine floors were imprinted with hundreds of tiny nail-holes from the pegging of fox skins; and long-cold charcoals spewed from broken fireplaces.”
Twenty years ago Sandow formed a small community action group to restore the building. They since have restored another couple of buildings in the historical downtown and turned Milparinka into a bit of a tourist town. That long abandoned courthouse is now the Local History and Family History Centre with hopes of developing it into a mining heritage interpretive center.
The group has built a park of native trees and shrubs, a heritage walking trail and a memorial wall. They’ve won numerous awards for their work.
They also have used volunteers from Sydney and other Australian cities to help them in their efforts. Last year 15 volunteers traveled out to Milparinka to assist in the restoration efforts. Sandow says of their efforts, “They bring knowledge and experience that enables us to look at our operation from another perspective. In the past they’ve handled their situation with humor and the same fine-in-the-belly passion that drives those us who have been intimately involved with Milparinka’s restoration.”
Why couldn’t we do the same thing here in the USA? Imagine the impact they could have in each of our small towns. Just think of the number of aging baby boomers who are going to be retiring soon, looking for something meaningful to do with the rest of their lives. What if we tapped into them, just like Ruth Sandow did in Milparinka, Australia?