Visitor centre bids a fond farewell to Fran

Fran Kenneally has retired from her role as manager of Collie Visitor Centre. She has been described as “a wonderful advocate for Collie, whose knowledge of the town and the South West is absolutely fantastic”.
Fran Kenneally has retired from her role as manager of Collie Visitor Centre. She has been described as “a wonderful advocate for Collie, whose knowledge of the town and the South West is absolutely fantastic”.

Collie Visitor Centre has farewelled Fran Kenneally, who recently retired after 23 years at the centre, the past 17 of them as manager.

Fran moved to Collie when her husband received a work transfer in 1986. She said they had heard negative things stories about Collie, but after arriving found the opposite was true.

"We decided it was a lovely town with great facilities, a reasonable size, not too far from Perth and a wonderful environment to raise our two girls - Tom could've put in for transfers but we didn't want to leave," she said.

Indeed, some of Fran's favourite memories of working at the centre involved being able to help change other people's perceptions about Collie.

"They think it's going to be full of ugly black chimneys and that they'll only spend half an hour here but by the time they leave you've told them about all the wonderful things they can do so they might even stay a few days," she said.

Fran said Collie's natural water attractions made summer a popular time to visit and spring brought many Bibbulmun Track walkers and visitors keen to see the region's beautiful wildflowers.

"They are popular, we had a wildflower display and the staff drive around looking for wildflowers to make a list for visitors," she said.

The construction of the modern new visitors centre was "one of the best things to ever happen" for tourism in Collie, according to Fran.

"The original one was lovely, and most appreciated, but the Shire came to the party and now everyone who comes in says how wonderful it is with its shower for track walkers, nice clean toilets and relaxing areas to watch videos," she said.

Royalties for Regions funding, the efforts of Collie Shire Council and the emergence of high-quality accommodation and cafes had in recent years helped boost Collie's attractiveness as a tourist destination, Fran said.

"Even fairly recently when motorists were diverted through town because of the bushfires, we had so many peole commenting how pleasantly surprised they were at what a beautiful town we have," she said.

With a bit more free time now, Fran said her future would include more travel.

"I've usually worked during wildflower season so I've never been able to go and see the wildflowers up north, which I'd really love to do," she said.

Collie Visitor Centre management committee president Rosanne Pimm paid tribute to Fran, describing her as “a wonderful advocate for Collie, whose knowledge of the town and the South West is absolutely fantastic”.

Stepping into the manager’s role is Lisa Gillespie, a Collie local who was most recently a media sales consultant at the Collie Mail.