We had lost our highway protest, but during those colourful marches we had the beginnings of a stronger sense of community and cohesion in Ocean Shores. So began the Ocean Shores Art and History Expo in 2004. I got to know Frank Mills who was a treasure in our midst, a local elder and legend. At the Expo he gave historical talks, slideshows, small exhibitions of early artefacts; pouring his knowledge into those of us who wanted to deepen our roots into this magical part of the Shire.
Reading of Frank’s passing I felt a wave of gratitude. Born in 1928 he had fascinating stories of the early farming communities and the arrival of surfers and hippies. He talked of the interface between white settlers and the First Nations people in the district. The Ocean Shores Art Expo only dropped ‘and History’ when Frank was unable to attend anymore.
The intention of this show was to bring all of our community together, to deepen our connectivity, to learn of our past and together create an inspiring future for Ocean Shores, which had in the past a bit of a second-rate reputation. Themes of our annual exhibitions were intended to preserve what we have (the first one remembering our soon-to-be-demolished historic bridge), the river, our environment, the sense of belonging (the year of the Apology to the Stolen Generations) and to include everyone within the artistic framework. School kids had a venue for exhibiting their amazingly fresh pieces. Everyone could enter the open show. Prizes were awarded, but money took second place to the main aim of connecting us all via participation – as volunteer, performer, artist or local business. People made friends, entered art for the first time, sold or won unexpectedly, enjoyed the art, dancers, musicians and performers, and added a dab of colour to the Community Artwork.
I met so many generous volunteers who were the backbone of this show. However, I want to again acknowledge Frank Mills in the foundation of this event that will go down in Ocean Shores history as weaving a beautiful community fabric here. Frank is irreplaceable, but he has so many Mills descendants who know his love of place and know his stories. Thank you, Frank. Long may your legacy live.