Richard Riordan’s vision

Opportunity is the word that best describes the Polwarth of past and future. Richard’s Polwarth story has been repeated since the mid-1800s through generations of the same story. They are stories of enterprise and risk-taking, wealth generation and thrift, times of plenty and times of struggle. These stories demonstrate a ‘have-a-go’ mentality that has prevailed, combined with a strong work ethic, while always endeavouring to leave a proud legacy children and grandchildren.

Richard’s father’s maternal grandfather is an obvious example. As a young Englishman he came to Australia, and more specifically to Polwarth, for a new start and better life. He established himself well and was actively involved in the community. Like his great-grandson 108 years later, W. T. Parker was involved in farming, education and the environment. He was by today’s standards a man ahead of his time.  As a father he excelled: his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been industrious and successful throughout the Polwarth electorate.

The opportunity that exists in Polwarth is due in most part to the stunning environment we have inherited. Over 5 million domestic and international visitors visit Polwarth every year. They come to Polwarth to drive along the Great Ocean Road, visiting iconic coastal towns such as Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Apollo Bay and the wonders of Port Campbell and Peterborough. Returning to Melbourne, these visitors meander the rainforests of the Otways and its small towns of Gellibrand, Forrest and Birregurra; or they drive through Australia’s most valuable dairy districts including Timboon, Cobden, Terang, Noorat, Camperdown and Colac. Or visitors can travel north across the world’s second-largest volcanic plain, with its lakes, craters and fertile soil providing wealth from grains and sheep and beef grazing. Mount Elephant sits like a beacon across the Western District, leading travellers to and from Mortlake, Derrinallum, Lismore and Skipton. After passing through the burgeoning town of Inverleigh, the trip might end at Bannockburn, the old and growing town near Geelong.

Opportunity in Polwarth is also defined by it’s enterprise. Polwarth is rich in productivity, home to essential food and fibre industries, also producing much of Australia’s ice-cream, yoghurt and milk. The timber industry continues to provide the materials needed to build houses across Australia, with the region’s largest operator, AKD Softwoods, winning local and national awards for excellence. New value-added food industries have developed, like Irrewarra Bakery, along with niche agricultural innovators such as Total Livestock Genetics at Glenormiston. The Australian Lamb Company in Colac can process over 45 000 sheep a week for domestic and international customers and provides employment for over 400 people.

Needless to say, our growing tourism industry is driven by characters and risk-takers such as award-winning operators Dan Hunter at Brae and Kosta and Pam Talimanidis of Lorne and Aireys Inlet, all of whom have heavily invested in the annual summer season to provide a world’s best experience for visitors and locals alike. It is all these varied industries that add to the opportunity, diversification and employment pool we are so lucky to have in Polwarth.

Polwarth is a region of opportunity and hope. I aspire to grow the opportunities in conjunction with our innovative entrepreneurs, farmers and educators.

Passages taken from Richard Riordan’s inaugural speech to the Victorian Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 12 November 2015.