Monday, 20 August 2018
Balnaves, Mrs Annette
Like so many in the Limestone Coast community, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a highly respected and loved member of that community, Annette Balnaves. Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Annette would tell you she was a remarkable lady, which is why I stand to pay tribute to this incredible woman today.
Annette grew up in Kalangadoo, a small town in the south-east of South Australia. After finishing school, she went on to study nursing and became a qualified midwife before going on to postgraduate gynaecology at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne where she worked under Matron Vivian Bullwinkle and later, while working as a senior theatre nurse in emergency, with the famous World War II surgeon, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop.
In 1963, at the age of 23, Annette left Australia to travel overseas on her own. Arriving first in South Africa, she worked as a nurse and midwife in Johannesburg where she experienced apartheid firsthand. In Rhodesia, she worked first as a private nurse and then in a small country hospital with the local Bantu people. From Rhodesia, she travelled up the east coast on a steamer: Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal to Egypt. From Cairo, she flew to Beirut before hitchhiking to Jerusalem and then through Iran to Kuwait.
Arriving back in Kalangadoo, after three years abroad, it wasn't long before Annette took a nursing position in Papua New Guinea. However, it was during a trip home for a temporary position as matron at the Penola hospital that she met a local sheep farmer who convinced her that he needed more care than the people of New Guinea, and they were married in 1967. Doug and Annette were married for 50 years and in that time achieved so much, including two children, Kirsty and Pete, and eventually four fabulous grandchildren.
In 1971, company Hungerford Hill came to Coonawarra and purchased their property, offering Doug a job turning it from a sheep farm into a 250-acre vineyard. Doug and Annette strongly encouraged Hungerford Hill to establish a cellar door which opened in 1970. With Annette, as manager, it operates seven days a week—the first for the Coonawarra. This was the beginning of Annette's long involvement in the tourism of the south-east. She became president of the then South East Regional Tourism Board and served on the state body. In 1988, Annette and Doug established Balnaves Vineyard Services of Coonawarra and, shortly after, Balnaves of Coonawarra wines.
Annette was also a founding member of the Stand Like Stone Foundation, a community foundation on the Limestone Coast which supports charitable projects and organisations. There is no doubt that Annette had a strong passion for the people and the community of the Limestone Coast. She was a stalwart of the Limestone Coast, which mourns her loss and is so much poorer for it but richer for her contributions over 50 years. Vale, Annette Balnaves.