MURAL LOCATION – 150 Commercial Road
Yarram, 3971  


Local Hero – Robin Smith

This mural was commissioned by The Friends of Heesco Town, designed by Wayne Tindall, painted by Heesco Khosnaran, and funded by local benefactor Eric Greenaway (with one anonymous donation).


In 1976, Edwin Eastwood (26) was serving a 15-year sentence for the 1972 kidnap of a teacher and six students at Faraday, near Castlemaine in Victoria. In December 1976, he escaped from Geelong Prison and only two months later decided to repeat the crime.

On February 14th, 1977, Eastwood with a stolen Dodge truck drove to the tiny Wooreen school, near Leongatha in South Gippsland where he kidnapped the teacher, Rob Hunter, 20, and nine children, aged seven to 11, at gunpoint. It was Valentines Day and Rob’s ninth day at his first school.

The ransom note he left demanded the release of 17 dangerous criminals from Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison, an arsenal of weapons, $US7 million, and large quantities of cocaine and heroin.

Leaving the school, he drove recklessly through the Strzelecki State Forest on the Grand Ridge Road, crashing head on into a logging truck with two occupants, Robin Smith and his brother. Eastwood’s vehicle ended up precariously balanced over a precipice. Eastwood hauled the two men out of the truck at gunpoint, then stopped two more men in a second truck owned by Robin and driven by Greg Peterson.

Eastwood chained his hostages together in a ditch out of sight when a Kombi campervan with two female occupants turned the corner. He then stopped the vehicle, chained them with the others and bundled all 16 hostages into the back of the Kombi van and drove them to a pre-prepared campsite in the Mullungdung State Forest near Yarram.

The five adult male hostages were chained around a tree, with Eastwood sitting close by with his gun. The women cared for the children. Eastwood released the men one at a time to go to the toilet, accompanying them at gunpoint. When Robin (being a seasoned truck driver and logger) returned from a toilet break, he knew that if he left some slack in his chains, he could secretly free his wrists when Eastwood was not looking.

Around 4.30am, with Eastwood asleep, Robin made a break for it, damaging his thumb to get free. It was a daring and life-threatening escape. Eastwood had previously threatened to shoot dead anyone who tried to escape.

Robin removed his shoes and crept out so as not to wake Eastwood, then ran 10 kilometres until he found a remote farmhouse where he was able to raise the alarm by calling the police.

By then Eastwood had gotten wind of Robin’s escape and had bundled the remaining hostages into the Kombi Van. The Police were soon in hot pursuit down the South Gippsland Highway firing directly at the Van attempting to disable the engine in the back, with Eastwood firing directly back at the Police. Several bullets penetrated the Van with the hostages still trapped inside.

The tyres were finally shot out near Woodside, and Eastwood was shot below the right knee and re-captured by police.

All the hostages were saved, and most were uninjured, including Robin’s brother.

While Robin doesn’t acknowledge it, the other hostages, as well as the police, have long called Robin a hero for his actions that day.

In 2020, 43 years later, Robin became the recipient of an Australian Bravery Award, which honours citizens who in a moment of danger or threat have acted selflessly and courageously.

The Yarram Community Church kindly stepped up to have this mural painted on their wall, recognising along with many of the victims that this incident is not only a story of personal heroism, but also of Divine intervention and God’s grace in returning all hostages to their loved ones safe and sound, despite several miraculous near misses and narrow escapes.     

THE MURAL DESIGN“This mural idea was initially put forward by Margaret Scammel who just wanted to honour Robin Smith for his bravery. It has taken some time to find the right wall for this challenging image but Janice and Peter from the Yarram Community Church could see it as a perfect for for their wall straight away. The image of a gun in a large public mural raised some eyebrows at the start, but as Robin himself has said on several occasions. ‘If we don’t show the gun then we are saying there was no kidnapping. The fact is we were all held at gunpoint and all our lives were threatened. That’s just a fact’.

I played around with the historic photos and then took a photo of Robin just after he had received his award. I think it tells the story really well and Heesco has done an amazing job with difficult subject matter”. Wayne Tindall – Artist/film maker