Lessons in local service

COMMUNITY CARE: Penola stalwarts Peter and Margaret Muller have dedicated themselves to the community for more than 40 years. Picture: Jeff Huddlestone

Jeff Huddlestone

Peter and Margaret Muller are familiar faces and well known in the Penola Coonawarra community.

Both retired educators, the couple have served their community in various capacities for more than 40 years.

Mr and Mrs Muller taught together at Naracoorte and Penola High Schools, where Mr Muller was principal for 20 years from the early 1980s.

Mr Muller, now in his 80-years-old, was born in Germany in 1945 and came to Australia with his family in 1953 as part of the post World War Two immigration wave.

His family settled in Melbourne and later moved to Naracoorte.

Mrs Muller, 78, was born in Dalby Queensland in 1946, she has lived in Hobart and Nuriootpa, and attended boarding school in Adelaide.

The couple met at Adelaide Teachers College, where they were both members of the student representative council.

Mrs Muller’s first posting was in Murray Bridge, while Mr Muller began his career in Naracoorte.

They spent a year in Germany, where Mr Muller taught, before taking some time to travel with their children Mark and Kate.

On return to Australia the Mullers lived in Adelaide and then came to Penola.

When he was principal at Penola Mr Muller fostered a strong link between the school and community.

“Whatever we did for the community we did through the school,” he said.

“We had at our disposal skilled teachers who were also community members.”

Under his guidance, the school became involved with the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival, and a vineyard was established so viticulture could be taught.

Past students also helped with the establishment of the John Shaw Neilson vineyard, where the Mullers grow 10 acres of Cabernet grapes, adjoining their home.

The vineyard supplies some 2000 cases of wine to Penfolds.

“It’s a positive return, but more difficult over the last three years, the price for the bottles goes up, but for the grapes , goes down,” Mr Muller said.

“The industry is stable at best, and is not expanding as people would like. You just have to find different markets.”

Over the years, Mr Muller has been involved with more than 15 organisations covering sectors including local government, service clubs, education, health, arts and viticulture.

He is a life member of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival, a Lions Club member, former Wattle Range Council elected member and the Australian College of Educators.

Mr and Mrs Muller have both received the Penola Citizen of the Year.

While achieving many things as a couple, they allow space for individual pursuits.

“Megs wouldn’t do some of the things I do,” Mr Muller said.

“Let him go, “ Mrs Muller replied

Local historian, author and musician Mrs Muller is actively involved with the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre.

She is a committee member and wrote the texts which grace the centre’s walls.

“It’s an absolutely brilliant place,” she said.

“We just get lots of visitors from all over the world.”

Through her work at the centre Mrs Muller also wrote a biography of her good friend Father Paul Gardiner titled A Long Journey.

“He was a wonderful bloke, a brilliant Jesuit who just stayed,“ she said.

Mrs Muller has written a number of other books highlighting Penola and its people.