by Rob de Vries, John Tonkin, and Michael Lapina


On Saturday October 30, 2021, a select and very lucky group of people who had managed to obtain tickets experienced  "World Class Opera" under the stars and under the gaze of the spectacular Indigenous artwork of the Sheep Hills Silos.


This was another great example of what can be achieved when two Rotary Clubs combine the skills and talents of their members, and harness the goodwill of their local communities towards a common goal.

People travelled to the event from Melbourne, Barwon Heads, Irymple, Bendigo, Donald, Horsham and the Warracknabeal district.

To Chris Hewitt and his team, bolstered by Michael Lapina and a few of us from Wyndham Rotary, and, not forgetting the talented Sofia Laursen-Habel, an amazing result was achieved. 


                                                                            - Rob de Vries.


Country Education Foundation.

The aim of the C.E.F. Scholarship program is to provide students from the country with a helping hand to Higher Education.  It seeks to assist country students as they move into career-based studies, many of whom will bring their skills back to the country. 

What makes our scholarships almost unique is they’re not tagged. A scholarship can (and has been) spent on textbooks, computers, fuel, computer programs, course fees, and on accommodation.  This year it even purchased a new guitar needed in an Audio Technician’s course.

Included in this year’s program is a quote from one of this year’s scholarship recipients Zach Winsall. It captures the spirit of what the Country Education Foundation seeks to do beautifully, and puts a human face on our endeavours:

“The support from the Country Education Foundation is more than just financial, it’s also the knowledge that the foundation sees you and believes in you: a country student aspiring to achieve a career and future in a field you are passionate about” - Zach Winsall.


                                                                                        - John Tonkin



It started as an impromptu duet and a promise of a hearty steak meal at the 87th Anniversary of the Rotary Club of Warracknabeal (back in April 2021), that quickly grew wings and culminated in this weekend's "Drive In Opera" event that raised $10,000 to support students through the Country Education Fund of Australia.

When I reflect on what we've achieved, and what we've experienced over the past two years of lockdown, I'm filled with mixed emotions. 

Around me, I've seen a number of my colleagues lose their livelihoods due to the impact of the pandemic on the entertainment industry.  I've even experienced the tragic loss of some who made the ultimate choice because they felt hopeless and lost. 

But the performance this weekend showed that there was a glimmer of light and hope. 

This project had so many moving parts, and I knew that we had so many passionate and committed Rotarians working tirelessly to ensure the success of our event. 

Spearheading the charge was Chris Hewitt from RC Warracknabeal, who never took "no" for an answer.  Through his persistence and uncanny knack of persuading the many sponsors and stakeholders, he was able to bring his vision of the very first "Drive In Opera" to life at the silos of Sheep Hills.  I stand in awe and appreciation of what he was able to achieve in such a short time.

Claire's extensive knowledge and expertise in producing events (with the support of Alex) ensured I was in safe and capable hands, which allowed me to focus on programming the line-up and working with Sofia to create the magic that our car-bound audience experienced.

It was an extremely fun night, memorable for so many reasons.  It was a shame that, apart from Claire, Alex and I who were part of the production, Gary Willson (along with Heather) was the only member from RC Wyndham who was able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event.  Although there will be a VERY LIMITED distribution of the video, it won't compare to having been there to experience it LIVE.

Thank you to all those that made this night "one to remember"... Until the NEXT ONE!!!!!

                                                            - Michael Lapina