Coorong OPAL program, Murraylands' last, gives last hurrah at Tailem Bend

The Murraylands' last Obesity Prevention and Lifestyle (OPAL) program wound up at Tailem Bend on Friday, ending a six-year effort to improve public health in the region.

State government funding for the Coorong district's OPAL program was due to run out on June 30, a year after the Murray Bridge and Mid Murray programs were de-funded.

The federal government had already cut its share of the funding in 2014.

Each of the three councils decided it could not afford to go it alone, and talk of a regional replacement program has not yet amounted to anything, so Friday was truly the end of an era.

Dozens of children had a final burst of OPAL-induced energy in the Tailem Bend Primary School gym, throwing balls and frisbees, playing with blocks and giant games, hula-hooping, tumbling on mats and running around as pop music played.

Healthy snacks on the sidelines kept everyone fuelled up, and woks full of chicken and rice were prepared for an afternoon tea.

A highlights video recalled the themes OPAL had pushed in the Coorong, including "peel, pour, pop"; "think feet first"; and "make it a fresh snack".

The program also contributed to Tailem Bend's River, Road and Rail Trail; the disc golf course at Tintinara; geocaching kits being placed in libraries; Meningie's nature playground; hoops at Coonalpyn and the mayor's pedometer challenge.

The council will be left with OPAL's portable skate ramp, smoothie bike and giant games.

Mayor Neville Jaensch said he was disappointed that the OPAL project had to end, but proud of what its staff had achieved.

"They've all been dedicated and enthusiastic with everything they've done," he said.

"It reflects the high level of success they've attained.

"While the funding is being withdrawn, we'll be looking to sustain the best attributes of it; but we'll have to be mindful of our budget."

The children fidgeted as the mayor explained why there would be no more OPAL events.

To them, it would not matter which level of government withdrew its funding first.

Twenty years from now, many of them might not even remember OPAL.

But, the program's original architects would hope, they ought to be healther for having taken part.


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