Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Big day of celebrations at Toolleen

The small community of Toolleen gathered to celebrate Australia Day.

January 30, 2013 4:33am

Campaspe Shire councillor Leigh Wilson, Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan and Member for Rodney Paul Weller at Toolleen.

The tiny community of Toolleen gathered at Toolleen recreation hall to celebrate with a traditional Australia Day lunch.

Campaspe Shire councillor Leigh Williams joined Member for Rodney Paul Weller and Australia Day ambassador Peter ‘Crackers’ Keenan at the event, which Mr Keenan said he had personally chosen from the list of available venues as he used to drink at the Toolleen Hotel.

‘‘That was 40 years ago when I used to knock about with a bloke called Phillip Tuohey as I knew the Tuohey family well,’’ he said.

‘‘We used to stop at the Toolleen pub for a beer on our way down to the races.’’

A former AFL footballer, Mr Keenan said he felt strongly that sports clubs like Mt Pleasant Football Club were the backbone of many rural communities and communities without them were either dying or dead.

‘‘I come from a little place called Wilby and Wilby’s dead,’’ Mr Keenan said.

‘‘I played football at Wilby and one of the Keenan family’s jobs was to hunt the sheep off the oval before the seconds played.

‘‘A few years later that community football team died, it ceased to exist because people wouldn’t get off their backside to do a bit of work, so back in 2008 there was no cricket team, no netball team, no football team, so Wilby’s dead.

‘‘I really believe you must work in the community, if you want to have big community, a good community, you’ve really got to get up and have a crack, look after each other, be tolerant of each other.

‘‘You’ve got to work with each and put in because, if you don’t put in, you don’t get anything back, simple as that.’’

Mr Keenan said it was not until he started coaching children after his retirement from football that he realised how aggressive and self-absorbed he had been, forcing him to become more tolerant and turn over a new leaf.

‘‘I realise now that we were just pampered pooches and it shouldn’t be that way,’’ he said.

‘‘I often to say to blokes ‘you’ve just got to get up off your backsides and do the work, you know, you’ve got to look after yourself and you’ve got to look after your community’.’’


Mr Keenan has travelled much of the world and last year went to the US to visit his son, who is a student at Yale University, partially on a rowing scholarship.

‘‘He’s a bit of a disappointment, really, because he’s six foot nine and doesn’t like football, though he’s not bad at rowing,’’ he said.

‘‘But when I was over there they kept saying how great it was and all that, but it’s not a patch on here.’’

Embracing change was always difficult, but just as he had had to change his way of thinking after giving up football, Mr Keenan felt it was also time for Australia to embrace changes.

‘‘We have to become more tolerant of each other and of other people coming to our country, work in your community and as we get older, look after each other,’’ he said.

‘‘I really believe if you put something into your community, you get something back and that’s what it’s all about.

‘‘If you really want to achieve something, get out of the house.’’

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