On August 18 1916 people in the small town of Dungog in the Williams Valley were set to welcome home a local hero. The local paper reported “Long before the train steamed in, a big crowd thronged to the station and as the whistle shrieked and the band played, the crowd cheered the returning Anzac”. Frank Robinson had been the first volunteer to enlist in the town and had served his country on Gallipoli in the First World War. Now he was returning home invalided after losing an arm in battle. The story goes that when a stretcher bearer offered to carry him back to the dressing station he replied “I’ve got my legs and can walk, some there can’t”. A park in Dungog was named after Sergeant Frank Robinson to recognise his valiant service to his country.

And now some dedicated local people are volunteering to honour the memory of this soldier with their efforts in restoring Frank Robinson Park on Stroud Road in Dungog. Over the years the area around the Williams River has suffered a decline and invasive species have taken hold. The area is well known and greatly loved by many people in the town and the park has provided enjoyment as a picnic spot and swimming hole. The Williams River next to the park is one of the most pristine remaining rivers in the state emanating in the wilds of the Barrington Tops National Park and winding its way down to a confluence with the Hunter River.

Sustaining Williams Valley members have implemented the Weeping Lilly Pilly Riparian Rainforest Restoration project. This partnership between Hunter Region Landcare and Hunter Water Corporation has allowed a relatively new group to establish themselves and see their first project make an impact. This work has involved employing professional planning advice for clearing weeds and planting appropriate species and is an ongoing endeavour. Sustaining the Williams Valley (SWV Inc) is a community group based in the town of Dungog which itself sits on the upper reaches of the Williams River.

The gains from this project include increased biodiversity of native species of flora and fauna, increased community participation and environmental education. This project sets a shining example of what can be done with collaborative effort between organisations and individuals. It is the first step in many more to come in sustaining the Williams Valley.

In the spirit of the extraordinary effort of a soldier who, among many, recognised the need to help his country, the community has come together to make the park a fine memorial to this soldier and hopefully renew interest in that part of Dungog’s history. In all communities, the spirit and dedication of volunteers make a huge difference to the quality of life for their residents. Dungog is no exception.

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