By Tom’s son, Aidan Banfield.
From local newspaper family, to becoming an Anglican Minister, to mountaineer, to building a camping ground in a “created forest” and then surrounded by wetlands built for frogs.
All this has been done with love and passion. A life well lived, even in how he died.
Tom was born into a paper family, the Banfield’s.
His Great Grand Father Jabez Banfield started the Ararat Advertiser in 1857 on the goldfields, the first Ararat Advertiser office being a printing press in a canvas tent. By the time Tom was born on 14th January 1929, the Banfield’s were a well-established and respected paper family. Tom trained in reporting and was being groomed to take over the reins of the paper business. However Tom’s love and interests lay elsewhere and with a heavy heart he announced to his parents that he would be leaving the family business, heralding a future end to the Banfield’s ownership of the Ararat Advertiser. His parents did not take well to this and from stories told by the family, there was a two year gap where Walter and Alice – Tom’s parents did not talk with him.
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Still, Tom carried forth other precious things from the family, a love of people and environment that would become a major thread of Tom’s life.
By Tom’s mid 20’s he had found his calling, and moved to St. Michael’s House Crafers, the theological college of the Sacred Mission and studied to be an Anglican Minister, being ordained in 1957. While at college Tom took ever opportunities to follow his other passion, the great outdoors; travelling as far as he could throughout Australia seeking amazing places to hike, rock climb and adventure.
The passion for adventure and visiting amazing landscapes remained with Tom even as a Parish Priest and the two would end up intertwined with Tom running youth camps out in nature, instilling a love of both nature and community in many of those who were involved with these adventures. This would continue throughout his life, but his life’s direction took another turn when the Rectory at Murchison along with all Tom’s possessions burnt to the ground. Tom on many occasions told the story
“One of the kids from the youth group was asked to clean out the ashes from the wood stove. Not knowing better he carefully placed the ash in the wooden wood box on the veranda of the Rectory. The next Tom knew was in the middle of the Sunday sermon, one of the lay people was whispering in his ear that the Rectory had burnt down. Tom asked was it all gone? It was, so he decided to continue on the sermon as nothing could be done.”
The next six months or so Tom “camped” in the parish hall. With no sign on the horizon of a new rectory and negations between the two towns in his parish bogged down in a dispute over where the new rectory should be located, Tom jumped at the opportunity to work as a Youth Chaplin in England. As fast as he could organise, he was gone, off to the other side of the world for six years, working for the church during the week and traveling and adventuring during the weekends and holidays.
During his time overseas, Tom continued rock climbing when he got the chance and with true mountains (ones with rock and ice) accessible close at hand in Europe, Tom trained in mountaineering to facilitate his dream of summiting the Matterhorn, one of Europe’s most iconic mountains. A dream Tom fulfilled before returning to Australia.
Once back in Australia, Tom married Aileen Campbell consummating a friendship that had started back in Murchison before the rectory burnt down. Tom continued working in parish life with Aileen as his life partner and just this year they celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary.
By the time Tom and Aileen’s two sons, Aidan and Chad Banfield were born, Tom had commenced running the Anglican Adventure Family Camps. These camps brought together families from all over Victoria, into a “camp community” for few weeks over the summer holidays where they would enjoy fellowship and adventure. The Family Camps continued for around 25 years. I (Aidan Banfield) grew up with these camps and they were the highlight of my year. Tom would lead days of; rock climbing, sailing, kayaking, bush walking, overnight hikes and more. It was the most amazing time, instilling in many of those that attended these camps a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors and nature. I along with quite a number of my contemporaries from the camps can thank Tom for the directions our lives have taken.
From 1980 the family adventure camps returned to Toms roots, taking up residence on the family farm that his Grandfather had purchased in 1911. This was not the first time camps had been held on the Banfield Property, Redman Farm. Tom had held a couple of CEBS (Church of England Boys School) camps on the farm in the 1940’s and there was a Government Tourist Bureau camp held on the property in 1928.
It was in 1989 that the evolution of Tom’s life moved to the next stage, when he retired from his working life as a Parish Priest and took on expanding the family camps into a camping ground where anyone could come and stay with their tents or caravans. While a small operation in the early days, Redman Bluff Camping ground (now Grampians Paradise) kept growing to the point where up to 3000 people stay per year. But this growth did not head down the path of cabin filled holiday parks that so many camping grounds and caravan parks had headed. Instead Tom, along with wife Aileen and son Aidan, steadily nurtured the path of the camping ground down the path of creating a place where people could stay in a beautiful environment surrounded by nature and native birds and animals. The objective of creating a place for nature as well as people, really started in Tom’s early life when his Aunts and Mother started planting trees about the house paddock (now the camping ground). Tom continued these works of planting trees and native shrubs in the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s resulting in what is now a created forest and home to many, many species of native birds, kangaroos, wallabies, gliders and possums and other native creatures.
Tom’s love of nature really stepped up a notch, when his son Aidan took on creating a series of 30 wetland ponds that now surround the camping ground. A 12 year project starting in 2000 that was a partnership between Aileen as, Aidan as designer, builder and problem solver and Tom as passionate property owner and helping hand and forever back stop. The wetlands is now home to maybe a million plus frogs and other native creatures.
While Tom retired from the camping ground and environment works in 2013, his son Aidan along with wife Nessa and grandsons Douglas and Henry, continue to run Grampians Paradise and continue caring for the legacy of nature and community that Tom has played a critical role in building.
Chad, Tom’s younger son, is married to Rose and along with their daughters Emily and Jasmine (Toms granddaughters now lives in Darwin where Chad also has acareer in the great outdoors, flying sea planes.
Through all these amazing adventures Tom has lived with passion and love, caring for both people and the environment for as long as he possibly could.
Tom’s last great adventure was one of dying at home cared for by his family in the house that sits on land owned by the Banfield’s for well over 100 years, within the sight of the Ararat Advertiser building, the office and printing works where Tom spent many hours in his youth. – Past and future. Tom will live on, in the influence he had on so many lives, so much care and love given. Good begets good and on it goes.
Farewell Tom (sub heading)
Family and friends of Tom are invited to celebrate his life at two separate services.
A thanks giving service presided by Gary Weatherall, Bishop of Ballarat, will be held on Sunday 22nd May 2022 at 2pm at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, High Street, Ararat.
Afternoon tea will be served after the service
A farm gathering will be held at Grampians Paradise on the 28th and 29th May 2022
Those wishing to camp over the weekend are welcome and are invited to gather under a marquee by a campfire for a picnic type bring your own meal on Saturday evening around 5.30pm to share memories of Tom.
Saturday 2:30pm some of us will head off on a gum trees and wetlands walk around the farm.
If you would like to camp, please contact Aidan, Nessa or Douglas on the campground number 5356 6309.