Victorian Governor Alex Chernov was so impressed with his first visit to Warrnambool yesterday he wants to return and see more.
He gave his vice-regal tick of approval to the city after a whirlwind tour of the base hospital, Deakin University, Warrnambool East Primary School, the art gallery, Tasty Plate catering and Brophy’s Youth Foyer.
Today he will participate in the Brauer College centenary celebrations before flying back home.
“I see a great future for Warrnambool and hope to come back with my wife as tourists for more of a look around,” he said.
The former Supreme Court judge was just at ease with scientists, medical experts and community leaders as with the excited young pupils, proud new parents and teenagers he met on his extensive tour.
He was even given a rare glimpse of what are reputed to be the last two rounds from Ned Kelly’s gun which are stored away in the art gallery archive.
Governor Chernov said Warrnambool and other regional centres had much to contribute in the state’s growth.
“I’ve always said that Melbourne didn’t do enough to encourage regional growth,” he said yesterday.
“There’s no reason why Warrnambool can’t be a great leader. Your hospital can be compared with any in the world.
“One of the telling points in a community is its culture and the art gallery is a focal point.”
He paid tribute to the late Sir Fletcher Jones and said it was a great pity the iconic Warrnambool clothing factory had to close.
His greatest praise was for the recently completed base hospital complex where he mingled with staff, doctors, nurses and patients.
“You should be very proud of the achievement,” he told chief executive John Krygger and hospital board chairman Chris Logan.
“It’s not often a hospital project finishes on time and under budget.”
New parents Teanna Bewley of Warrnambool and Janifer and David Hose of Port Hedland were treated to a vice-regal visit as they watched over their premature babies.
Tiny Ned Hose was born at 30 weeks’ gestation after his parents visited family members in Warrnambool for Christmas.
He is already a frequent flyer, with trips to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne for his birth and later for a stomach operation.
Koroit’s Janice Brown also got a cheer-up when the governor visited her in the new isolation ward as she recovered from pneumonia.
He was fascinated with an electronic dummy patient that can be activated to talk, move and display real-life emergency scenarios as well as the impressive achievements of medical students studying at the hospital.
At Deakin University he climbed aboard a new $1m research vessel equipped with the world’s most modern sonar mapping equipment.
It will be used to update oceanic maps which have changed little since the work of navigator Matthew Flinders in the early 1800s.
Governor Chernov was also shown aquaculture research work, a laboratory and a glimpse of sea life, including hungry sharks, filmed at up to 120m metres deep off the south-west coastline.
Campus head, Professor Greg Wood, said it was pleasing the city council had included Deakin University in the governor’s itinerary because of its contribution to the region.
“Between here and the medical school we have 1440 students and have a net worth of $120m to the regional community,” he said.
Warrnambool East Primary School proudly showed its science study links with the university.
Eager pupils gave the governor a glimpse at their research into water quality, marine life and insects.
He was also impressed by their computer skills and gardening ingenuity.
They presented their vice-regal visitor with a unique pot plant container made from recycled metal by veteran school gardener Jimmy Boxer.
A tour of the art gallery, Tasty Plate workplace where young adults learn culinary employment skills and the Youth Foyer accommodation complex capped off his busy official schedule yesterday.
The governor said his only regret was that his wife Elizabeth was unable to come on the tour because of a leg injury.
“She would have been impressed,” Governor Chernov said.