Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Welcoming new visitors in true Aussie style - with a barbecue

A group of Mooroopna Uniting Church members have started a weekly barbecue tradition for backpackers in the area

SOPHIE MALCOLM February 15, 2013 8:00am

Kevin Chapman and Eric Halden cook up some sausages as part of the barbecue.

A group of Mooroopna volunteers are welcoming the region’s newest visitors in typical Aussie style — with a barbie and some backyard cricket.

Until the end of February, Mooroopna Uniting Church members will continue the tradition of their weekly barbecue, providing dinner for backpackers visiting the area.

But they’re not just there for a free feed — the group is intent on serving up a side of friendship.

Church member Richard Speedy said the barbecue, now in its fourth year, was about the volunteers and the backpackers learning a little more about each other.

‘‘Really we want to say thank you to the backpackers for coming to Mooroopna and doing the picking,’’ Mr Speedy said.

‘‘We would like to meet them because they’re interesting people.

‘‘We think they would also like to meet us because meeting locals is much better than passing through the town.’’

Mr Speedy said some backpackers had also come looking for a church they could attend, so the group was able to advise them of church locations and times.

Community groups, businesses and church members donated food for the barbecue, which always involved a game of cricket, Mr Speedy said.

Fellow member Joy Phillis keeps a book detailing the names and nationalities of visitors to the barbecue, along with their comments.

‘‘Joy is a hero,’’ the book reads.

‘‘Good food and lovely people. Thank you so much, you’re awesome.’’

German backpacker Jan Tenbergen, 23, said the barbecue was ‘‘a cool idea’’.

‘‘The first time we met a woman who had travelled toGermany and she wanted to talk to me about Germany,’’ he said.

Sarah Van Den Berg, 22, arrived from the Netherlands a few weeks ago.

She has been to every backpacker barbecue this year.

‘‘They’re so friendly and interested in what you’re doing and how your week was,’’ Sarah said.

‘‘They always ask, how was your week, did you get a job?

‘‘It brings all the people together and I speak to different people every week.’’

The free backpacker barbecues take place from 6pm every Friday until February 22 at Ferrari Park in Mooroopna.

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