Son’s cancer battle inspires old-fashion fund-raiser

HIS infant son’s battle with cancer and a love of old-time bush skills inspired Andrew Duyvestyn into action 17 years ago.

The 61-year-old Moyne Shire Council roads inspector’s passion for post-and-rail fencing, log snigging, wood cutting and sawbenching has seen him raise about $123,000 for the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Cancer in Kids Auxiliary (CIKA) since 1995.

And it’s a cause close to the hearts of Mr Duyvestyn, his wife Christine and their sons Richard, Dean, Scott and Brett — with Dean having survived a near death sentence when he battled kidney disease as a three-year-old.

What began as an impromptu tourist attraction has become a must-experience event for artists, old-time bush skills lovers and tourists from across Victoria and NSW who love stepping into yesteryear at the Duyvestyns’ 70-acre display of post-and-rail fencing, horse-drawn log snigging and old-fashioned dragsaw wood cutting.

Mr Duyvestyn said the Old Time Wood Days exhibition at Milltown, about 11km north of Hamilton, which is on this weekend, was born by accident.

“I bought the bush block here 20-odd years ago,” he said.

“I’d come out playing around with my draught horses dragging logs around.

“A car load of artists came along and saw me and wanted to take photos.

“They said we should do it more often so other people could enjoy it too so we decided we’d do it as a fund-raiser for the children’s hospital.

“People come along to get photos for their artwork, because we demonstrate all the bush skills.”

Mr Duyvestyn said raising money for CIKA was a natural transition. “One of our sons had cancer when he was three years old,” he said.

“He was lucky to be a survivor.

“A lot of them didn’t survive in those days — that was 37 years ago.

“He lost a kidney and about three metres of his bowel. 

“And at that stage the survival rate was about 30 per cent and now the survival rate is up about 90 per cent — because of the research they do and that’s what we do the fund-raising for.”

It’s essentially a family affair, with Dean and Scott, both chefs, cooking damper and other delights from the past for the visitors and workers, Brett lending a helping hand and even Mr Duyvestyn’s grandchildren playing a part.

“I’ve actually got a grandson that does a bit of the axe work too even though he’s only 10 years old,” Mr Duyvestyn said.

Mr Duyvestyn said he hoped to raise about $25,000 this year with the gate-takings, sale of souvenirs and cut wood and proceeds from a calendar all adding to the total.

Last year the event raised $23,500.

But it’s not just money Mr Duyvestyn hopes to raise.

He said the event also ensured old traditions would have a future.

“An old fella was teaching me when I was working for him and I just thought it was a good chance to pass it on for the younger generation,” he said.

“We’ve got a following now that comes down every year — one woman comes from Wentworth in New South Wales, one comes from Beaufort, a couple from Ballarat — and they just think it’s a terrific weekend to get out and enjoy the bush life.

“We usually get 400 or 500 for the weekend.”

smoody@standard.fairfax.com.au

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