In the small Wheatbelt town of Merredin last week, over 6000 poppies handmade by over 400 local residents were planted at the town entrance as a tribute to the ANZAC Centenary.
An extraordinary number of poppies had been made from recycled materials, including paper, plastic bottles, old CDs, discarded clothes, Christmas mince pie tins, wire coathangers, old dinner plates, recycled soft drink cans, used horseshoes, and old plough discs.
There were also poppies made of wood, clay, crepe paper, gift wrapping paper, felt and wool.
Shire President Ken Hooper said, “I’m blown away by how many people got involved in making and planting the poppies.
“It looks great. The residents of Merredin have done themselves proud.”
Norma Hunter Henderson, one of the volunteer poppy planters, agreed. “It’s absolutely awesome. I’ve been here for 61 years and this is the first time I’ve seen the Merredin community unite completely behind a cause like this.”
An estimated 100 people helped plant poppies throughout the day. Some stayed for the whole day, others stole a few moments out of the office or on lunch breaks to stop and plant a couple.
For many of those people, the planting was an emotional experience. Nadeshka Webb had been involved in making poppies, as well as the planting.
“My great grandfather was at Gallipoli, my grandfather served in the British Merchant Navy, my father served in the New Zealand Army and I was in the Australian Army Cadets,” said Nadeshka.
“It was important to me to participate to honour my family and my husband’s family.”
Sisters Vicki, Gail and Leah co-ordinated their lunch breaks so that they could plant the poppies they made with their mother, who sadly passed away in February.
The poppies came from every corner of the community. Local school children made poppies in class, and at school holiday craft programmes run by the Merredin Library. Members of the Merredin Community Men’s Shed fired up their saws and welders and the ladies at the Senior Centre Craft Group knitted and crocheted over a thousand poppies. CWAs from around the region got together to make poppies, and hundreds of individuals made poppies on their own, or with friends and family.
Anita Venner, visiting Merredin from Orange in New South Wales said, “I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s so spectacular.
“It’s a real credit to an obviously proud and community minded town.”
Anita had just been to visit the Merredin World War II military hospital site when she stopped to take a photo of the poppies.
“At school I learned about England and America during the war. Why didn’t they teach us about Merredin? Every school in Australia should be teaching children about what Merredin did for the war effort.”