June 2019

It is with great pleasure that I present this report to the meeting as it has been a year of massive growth and filled with challenges at every turn.

The first milestone was the on the 28th May 2018 when we were granted Incorporation by DMIRS.  Our Constitution had been accepted and those who had put up their hand to fill positions at the April meeting were then to be confirmed and would hold office until the AGM today. 

The latter part of 2018 was devoted to the development of the necessary guidelines and planning for the major projects that were to be undertaken, with very limited field activity happening.

From our meeting with the Shire of Leonora in March 2018, the work on the “Leonora Project” began in earnest with Mark producing a Project Plan that, when presented to a committee meeting, blew our socks off!!

The scale of the project was daunting.  What had started off as 225 graves recorded by local historians, grew to a massive 635 graves in cemeteries, on stations and other scattered locations.

The Shire of Leonora has been exceptional in its support of the Project and has continued to rally support for OGM from neighbouring Shires.

Trevor and his band of merry men have continued to produce the plaques for Leonora while Glennis beavers away to provide the detail for the inscriptions.  The pace of production has been somewhat frenetic and Glennis has been kept very busy.

The culmination of all this work was the visit to Leonora by a team of OGM volunteers at the end of March 2019 to install the first 100 plus plaques in the areas of Malcolm, Yundamindra and Mt Sir Samuel. The Shire treated us to a reception on the Friday evening and then it was off to work with the joy of seeing a fantastic result.

While all this was going on, the back-room stuff of administration such as banking, websites, Facebook, funding and the like have been happening with the decision to pursue a new website at the top of the list.

 After the success of Lorraine and Cherie’s East Perth Cemeteries website, Lorraine negotiated with the web-builders for OGM to purchase a similar site at a reasonable cost, ($18,000 – 20,000!) and the committee embraced the idea.  The new website will give OGM the opportunity to provide a fully searchable website which will include the hosting of data on Shire burials and provide an opportunity to enhance the profile of OGM.

It sounded simple at the time (!) and Noah and his team at Joomstore took up the challenge.  It was a foregone conclusion to appoint Lorraine and Cherie as supervisors of the project.

The Shire of Leonora provided $14,500 in funding for OGM, which was used as a deposit on the website.  With some generous donations from individuals and the Leonora RSL, we are nearly there but still a couple of thousand short at this time.

That was the easy bit.  The loading of data revealed the need to review and verify the data from the old website as many errors were discovered.  A mammoth task.

The OGM researchers have been diligently trolling through all the data and with the assistance  of Moya Sharp’s Outback Family History and many other resources, the job is almost complete.

I have not been given the total hours it has taken to review and upload the current information but from personal experience I would believe the verification and updating of the 500 plus entries would be in excess of 450 hours, a sterling effort by all concerned.

At this point I would like to thank all those involved in developing invaluable relationships that extend far and wide throughout the state with individuals, organisations, pastoralists, local governments and the general public. Well done all.

Trevor and his team have now passed the 500 plaque mark and are breaking all production records with the support of Adrian Holdaway, who has supplied a second engraver we have yet to pay for.  This is a fantastic effort and will also require financial resources for the engraver and the materials as the cost of materials for each plaque is approximately $8.00.

We are at the stage now, where the organisation is in need of management systems to provide the controls that will see it survive well into the future.  These include the updating of the business plan developed by Mark Bogaers, finalisation of all protocols for volunteers and a Code of Conduct for field work.  Much of this work is underway. Negotiations are also underway with Microsoft to gain access to applications that will allow the Committee to have access to, and be able to share, documents, calendars and planners.  This will enable work to be carried out in a collaborative environment which will avoid the silo effects that can hamper organisations.

Being involved with OGM is a most humbling experience and the response from the general public to the Facebook and Website posts from the Leonora trip was fantastic with in excess of 7,500 responses to all the items posted. Well done all.

I must single out Lorraine and Cherie and their team of researchers for their outstanding effort which ensures the information we post to the website is correct and as accurate as possible. For the guidance and support of our researchers, for the Research Workshop which ensures a standard protocol of research, and for the support I have been given on this journey, thank you.

Where to now?

The first cab off the rank is to secure some on-going funding.  To this end, OGM is in the process of producing a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by supporters as well as Letters of Support, for inclusion in funding submissions.

A presentation has been produced and is available to anyone who would like to use it for the purpose of gaining financial support for OGM. 

OGM will be making approaches to as many Shires, Mining Companies, Pastoral Groups and other parties with whom we interact, seeking financial support. A submission to Lotterywest will be made in the coming months.

To make a successful submission to Lotterywest, we will need all our volunteers to keep records of the time spent on OGM work.  That includes travel for installation of plaques, research, making plaques, meetings and presentations, administration etc.  These hours are used to calculate the “In kind” value of the voluntary contributions by the group.

In closing, I would like to once again say a big thank you to all for the support each and every one of you give to the cause, as it is the heartbeat that makes this organisation something very special. With your continued support, there will be great steps made in recording, researching and publishing, and the making and installation of plaques which will give to the wider community a valuable resource with which to learn about the colourful past of this great country.

Alex Aitken

President, Outback Grave Markers Inc., 2018-2019

Special thanks to...