Community Connections

What do Elvis Presley, a giant railway interchange, and 1,197 children under the age of five have in common?

The answer is Parkes Shire, a 7,325 square kilometre expanse of agricultural plains, copper mines and some 16,000 spirited, salt-of-the-earth people.

Well known for its annual Elvis Festival, the role of ‘The Dish’ in the Apollo moon landing, and links to Australia’s father of Federation, town namesake Sir Henry Parkes, – this is a pioneering, innovative, never-say-die kind of community, where people work hard to support themselves and each other. And once this town digs in to support something, they support it!

Royal Far West’s association with Parkes goes back to 1939 when radio station 2PK’s Sunshine Club was established to fundraise for – the Far West Children’s Health Scheme. Based on a handshake agreement between local politician, Frank Spicer OBE, and Royal Far West founder Reverend Stanly Drummond, the Sunshine Club became Royal Far West’s largest single donor. Under the indomitable leadership of local broadcasting legend Betty Muzyczuk, Sunshine Club fundraising realised the equivalent in today’s terms of around $90,000 per year.

Typical of country town life, fundraising was a series of activities with fundraising as a goal, but with people and grassroots connections at its heart. Through raising money to support country kids, the Sunshine Club helped forge life-long friendships in the greater Parkes community.

The Sunshine Club has funded medical equipment, ear testing, ambulances and other vehicles, and supported renovations to the Drummond House home-away-from-home for visiting families, including dining room furniture.

During the last 80 years, countless children from the Parkes area have stayed at Royal Far West in Manly to access health care services or received assistance in their community from visiting Royal Far West nurses, dentists, and more.

Today, Parkes Shire children and families are being supported by our allied health professionals through visits to Manly, school and preschool support programs, and via our Telehealth services. Additionally, alongside the Parkes community, we are fundraising to bring the Healthy Kids Bus Stop to visit the shire to provide developmental health screenings for children aged three to five, to ensure all children in the Parkes shire can start their schooling life ready to learn.

For more information on this or any of our community outreach programs please email Anna Bowden at annab@royalfarwest.org.au