History of WARCI

These stories were included in our 1996 Year Book and were written by Ron Harris, one of our founding members, and Pamela Haneveld, who was an early member.

From our 1996 Year Book

This year (1996) will mark the tenth anniversary of the formation of the West Australian Rabbit Council Inc. To mark this occasion I thought it would be great to go back to some of the original members and ask them about their memories of the very early beginnings.

I wrote to Ron Harris in Tasmania and his reply is included in this article along with some facts and figures and other members’ recollections.

RON HARRIS WRITES.

In the beginning the government of the day in 1985 passed a bill legalising the keeping of two rabbits. It was in 1986 this marvellous bit of news opened the floodgates so to speak, of secret multiple rabbit fanciers of WA to congregate at the Canning Show Grounds for the first exhibition of rabbits in WA.

It was impossible to move. Beryl and Colin Wilkinson were inundated with enquiries about rabbits. Beryl had had the foresight to bring along literature she had obtained from England. I introduced myself to Beryl and we managed to get quite a few people together for a meeting at the Queens Park Library. Too numerous to mention by name here but it was organised to have our first rabbit show at the All Saints Church Hall, Gosnells.

The Committee consisted of Beryl and Colin Wilkinson, Yvonne Bates, Brad Watson, Sue Heard, Jan Oosterhoff and myself (Ron Harris). The turn up of rabbits at Gosnells was phenomenal over 100 rabbits I am sure. I judged and Jacqueline Jackson was co-judge. It was a tremendous first show and the rabbit fanciers were reluctant to leave, I forgot to mention this was a night show and it was 11pm when we got away.

The first show was followed by our second at the Redcliffe Hall. I judged this one too. The caretaker of the hall was a great bloke. He went out of his way to help us, so did Paul Kurek. Paul was always there to set up the cages. Another good friend in the early days was Tom Lazenby. Knowing our predicament as far as cages went he offered us the use of the Pigeon Club cages for the shows. Tom came to our rescue many times until I found the time to make rabbit show cages for our own use.

In the beginning Yvonne Bates was the first President then came Brian Prior, Alan Hobson, Ron Harris then Chez Casotti. I became the Show Manager in 1986 and held that position until 1992. It was under Brian Prior that we became incorporated.

It was when I was President that we were fortunate enough to get Meg Brown and Ted Williams as our Patrons. Ted we all know from his judging the Osborne Park Show. He is a very respected rabbit fancier in Victoria and England, I think Ted was in his 90’s then and a very sprightly old man.

I put Meg Brown’s name forward as I had known her in England and had met her again when I went back in 1990. Meg was judging the Lops at the London Championship Show and we and a few other judges had lunch together at the Show. Meg, as everyone calls her, lives and breathes rabbits as you all would have gathered when she judged the Royal Show. She is one of the gems of the rabbit Fancy and helpful in all facets of rabbit keeping. Meg is just a nice lady to know. The WARCI is proud to have Meg and Ted as their Patrons.

I have lots of fond memories of events and people I have met and regard them as some of my best friends. One thing that stays in my mind, it was hard for us to get rings in the beginning so we started to make our own. This was a big task so we thought maybe we could tattoo the rabbits like they do in the USA. So Gina Burnett and I bought a tattooing set and started to tattoo Angoras, mostly because the rings we made were not too good for that breed. So a lovely lady named Connie Risby, whose does used to have 13 or 14 Angora babies at a time came to get her babies tattooed. I did one baby, there was a lot of blood with tattooing, and I turned around to get the next baby rabbit to find Connie just about to faint and I had 13 more babies to do so Norma took her in the house until I had finished. I still look back and smile.

When we became Incorporated we also affiliated with the BRC. They agreed to supply us with rings so tattooing was dropped.

Then there was the time I judged the Pets at Redcliffe and a doe had her babies in my hand!! That caused a sensation. Everyone came to look. The owner thought she had bought two does.

There has been a lot of money invested in rabbits in WA and members of today are reaping the benefits. Rabbits were brought in from Victoria, Tasmania and England. A few of them were lost to the Fancy like the Silver Greys, Belgian Hare, Satins and Polish. The Satin and Polish are back but the Silvers and Belgian Hares are gone for good as there are none in Australia at this time. That was one of the disappointments of the early years – the loss of these early breeds. Lets hope no more of these breeds that are not so popular at this time are lost.

The WARCI has had some very good members who have worked hard and long to make it the Club it is today. I will not name them just in case I miss someone – that would be unforgivable of me. I have been a member of the WARCI since its inception and have seen people come and go but I have enjoyed every moment of it.

The WARCI have trained all their judges without help from outside, this alone is no mean feat. Nowhere in Australia has the Rabbit Fancy been promoted more vigorously than in WA. From the start we went into shopping centres and got paid for it. I think this would be the only state where this happens.

A few of us had a meeting with the Royal Show Committee and from these meetings we held our first Royal Show. That was in 1989. Mrs Lee Murphy was the judge. The Royal Show Committee of Management, although mostly farmers, could see the big drawing power of the rabbit as a show attraction and gave us a bigger venue the next year. Then came Canning, Kelmscott and Osborne Park Show. It was the strength of the Committee in the early days that got us prize money at Agricultural Shows.

We made mistakes in the beginning which all Clubs do but we were never too proud to put them right. The WARCI was challenged by a rival Club. They thought they could take control of rabbit Clubs in WA from the WARCI when I was President but we were too strong for them and they fell by the wayside. This is all part of the history of the WARCI.

We had some very knowledgeable rabbit people visit WA like Mr Ray Montgomery and Dennis Pizzey. Ray had come all the way from Canada and gave us a workshop at Gina and Eric’s on keeping rabbits for meat and showing. He had also been to NZ so he gave us his thoughts on the Rabbit Fancy over there. It was also fortunate for us that he could stay for the show we were having at Redcliffe Hall where we talked him into judging BIS for us. He said the stock was fairly good considering the time we had been going.

It was at the first Royal Show that I met Barbara and Denis Pizzey. Dennis was mainly a Dwarf man but he has became an accomplished all rounder since judging in WA. I stayed with Barbara and Denis in the UK and we went to the London together and I also went to one of his local club shows. Nice people and good friends.

Well there must be lots of happy events I have missed out but maybe there remembers that can fill in the spaces. I hope these few memories of mine can give all the members a sense of pride of belonging to the WARCI. It has stood the trials and tribulations of the last ten years, and I am sure that the WARCI and all the affiliated Clubs will be together for another ten years. Congratulations must go to the forward looking Committee of 1995. Good luck to you all from Tasmania.

Some of the very early members!!

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Another early member Pamela Haneveld writes about her first Royal Show in 1989.

We arrived at the small rabbit shed in plenty of time to be vetted in, for that was one of the Rules we had read in the Schedule. – of course these days we aren’t quite so diligent and have been known to be late on occasion. We had an u/14 Ermine Rex doe of which we were very proud. All was well and we were given her cage number where we duly left her.

Trying very hard to look as if we had done this sort of thing for years, we endeavoured to blend in with the furniture so all those formidable people in white coats wouldn’t see us.

Time for judging. Because at that time the rabbit area was so small, the door was roped off and only the Stewards were allowed in. We left quietly and began our trek around the Showgrounds.

Because the afternoon pass stated pick-up time for rabbits was between 5pm and 6pm, we didn’t dare go back too soon. By 5.30pm we heaved a sigh of relief and decided we could go back, even though it was a touch early.

How embarrassed we were when arriving back at the shed, we found the door locked with Fred and Stella Turner sitting patiently (??) waiting for us to pick up our bunny. After a very quick apology we picked up our beautiful ‘Snowdrop’ and beat a hasty retreat.

After that I didn’t think I would have the nerve to attend another show but fortunately we did. Besides enjoying the special hobby, we have made some good friends, however we will never forget our first Royal Show.

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I am sure many of us have many  memories of the friends we have made, rabbits we have had and many happy times we have had. When you look back to our small beginnings we can all feel proud of where we are now.    Jenny Buckingham.