Whitsunday Region Community News

Taking Home The Trifecta!

Taking Home The Trifecta!

BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort brought home its third gold award at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards over the weekend, and they are celebrating being crowned our nation’s best in the Caravan and Holiday Parks Category once again.

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Tourism operators across Queensland and the Whitsundays are celebrating this week following the 2022 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which were held in Sydney last Friday night. This year, the sunshine state managed to take home the biggest scoop of national awards since 2018 and four of them came from businesses operating in the Mackay and Whitsunday region.

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Chopper Crewman Honoured

Chopper Crewman Honoured

The rescue officer who risked his life by jumping into the water, just metres from a recent shark attack, in order to save the life of the victim, has just been honoured with an Australian Bravery Decoration. RACQ CQ Rescue rescue crew officer Ben McCauley said he was “just doing his job” when he attended a series of three shark attacks in Cid Harbour on Whitsunday Island in 2018.

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Tools For Life

Tools For Life

When the kind-hearted gentlemen at the Airlie Beach Men’s Shed heard about the special delivery of supplies heading over to help families in Fiji and Vanuatu, they jumped at the opportunity to help out.

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Editor's Note

March 24, 2023

Hi Everyone,

This week it has been wonderful to see so many of our local tourism operators receive national acclaim and recognition for all their hard work at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards which were held in Sydney last Friday night.

Our region brought home two golds, one silver and one bronze award, representing 25 per cent of the total awards given to all Queensland operators – this huge contribution helped enable our state to top all others and be crowned best state for tourism in our country.

Well done everyone!

We spoke with many of the operators this week (see our special feature on pages 10-13) and each was asked what it took to top Australian Tourism.

The four central pillars of success that the owners of these incredible businesses mentioned most were – passion, consistency, innovation and resilience.

I can see how these admirable qualities helped these businesses stay on track as they battled through challenging times such as Cyclone Debbie, Covid 19 and the restrictions that followed.

It was resilience that got them through and saw them come out smiling on the other side.

It was innovation that allowed them to pivot their business model and adapt to a changing tourism landscape.

It was consistency that saw them show up every morning and deliver a quality product no matter what.

And of course what ties it all together is passion – with enthusiasm, motivation and a genuine love for their jobs promoting the magical holiday destination of the Whitsundays – anything is possible!

Once again, a huge congratulations to everyone involved in the local tourism industry – from crew to cleaners, owners to skippers, the wonderful team at Tourism Whitsundays and of course each of us in the community for providing a warm welcome.


Quote of the week:
“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” (Marc Anthony)

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Housing In Crisis Council Take Action

March 23, 2023

Calling for immediate action and a “crisis response” to the housing situation in the Whitsundays, Council has moved into strong advocacy mode by calling on the Australian Government to extend the deadline for the operation of the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

At Wednesday’s ordinary meeting in Bowen, Mayor Julie Hall and Councillors voted unanimously to submit a motion to the Australian Local Government Association for potential inclusion in the National General Assembly 2023 Business Papers.

“As an elected advocate for our Whitsunday community, I am committed to creating a region where everyone should have access to safe, secure, and affordable housing,” said Mayor Hall.

“Unfortunately, many families and individuals in our community are currently struggling to find affordable rental accommodation, and this is a problem that needs urgent attention from the top tiers of government.”

Mayor Hall was recently contacted by a resident who said he would be homeless in June as well as his 82-year-old neighbour because the NRAS will end for them, and they can’t afford the 30 per cent increase in their rent.

The NRAS scheme helps people afford housing by providing incentives to property investors to build and rent out affordable housing, helping to increase the supply of rental properties and lower rental prices.

When the program begins its staggered shut-down soon, it will affect many households right across the region.

Mayor Hall says she is determined to advocate strongly for its extension.

“Families, couples and singles are counting on the Federal and State governments to act and it breaks my heart that homelessness is on the rise,” she said.

Homelessness in Queensland has increased by 22 per cent, and a recent report by the Queensland Council of Social Service revealed 300,000 people across Queensland are experiencing housing insecurity amid soaring rental prices and inadequate social housing supply.

“This is a crisis, and it deserves a crisis response,” said Mayor Hall.

“In the decade leading up to 2017, there was "minimal" investment by state and federal governments in affordable and social housing.”

Mayor Hall said the housing shortage and rental crisis are not issues that emerged overnight so there are no “quick fixes” that will see the problem disappear.

“Advocacy on behalf of my community to ensure they are not forgotten will be key as it is going to take a whole range of short, medium and long-term solutions to fix this crisis,” she said.

“By extending the NRAS, we can continue to create opportunities for our residents to secure affordable housing, and we can also support our local economy by encouraging investment in our region.”

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Silent Auction For Sunrise School

March 23, 2023

The whole community are invited down to Cannonvale State School on Monday for a social evening with food vans, good company, and a silent auction to keep everyone entertained.

All proceeds will go to Sunrise Nursery and Primary School in Uganda and the money will go towards helping them build the necessary toilet blocks which are required in order for them to stay open.

On the night, attendees can bid for a range of artworks which have been donated by students, parents and the broader school community.

A sociable event for families, there will be two food vans on-site – Fussea Buggers serving up a hot dinner menu and Rilo real fruit ice-cream which will make a delicious dessert.

Bidding begins at 5.30pm and the winners will be announced at 7pm.

WHAT: Sunrise Silent Art Auction

WHEN: Monday, March 27 from 5.30pm

WHERE: Cannonvale State School

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Goorganga ‘Pains’: Politicians Fume At “Empty Promises” On Flood Plains

March 23, 2023

Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox and State Member for Whitsunday Amanda Camm were “shocked” by Queensland Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey’s “political spin” when questioned about the Bruce Highway – Goorganga Plains Upgrade project in early March.

The Queensland Member of Parliament announced last week that planning was underway to floodproof the flood-prone sections of the Bruce Highway at Goorganga Plains and Myrtle Creek, as well as Hamilton Plains, in a coordinated approach.

Minister Bailey made the announcement despite the fact the three projects have been in the planning stages since late 2018.

“By addressing Myrtle Creek, Hamilton Plains and Goorganga Plains together, the Department of Transport and Main Roads will be able to improve flood resilience in the area,” he said.

Ms Camm called it an “announcement that doesn’t announce anything.”

“Minister Bailey should have been honest with the people of the Whitsundays and just said that the $12m, that the previous Federal Coalition Government put on the table since 2018 to start the planning for Goorganga has sat idle,” The Member for Whitsunday said.

“The Queensland Government has prioritised projects in the South East over the safety of regional Australians.”

The Goorganga Plains upgrade, alongside the Hamilton Plains project, received funding from the previous Federal Government in 2018 and 2019 through lobbying efforts of past Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.

Mr Willcox said in his time as Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council, he worked alongside Mr Christensen to secure funding from the Roads of Strategic Importance Program.

“All this money already committed thanks to the previous [Federal Government], yet our Queensland Government allow us year after year to be flooded in with residents unable to get to loved ones,” Mr Willcox said.

“Labor’s had 5 years to design and develop a plan to flood mitigate Goorganga Plains, yet in this new re-announcement they’re still seeking community consultation.”

Ms Camm questioned whether Mr Bailey re-iterating an almost five-year-old project was to "hide the fact that Hamilton Plains Upgrade project is being delayed”.

Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox said he was “appalled” by what he said was a “politics-before-people tactic”.

“[The State Government] are using a 2018 Coalition Government commitment to run an ad hoc political campaign at the expense of the Dawson people,” Mr Willcox said.

“We’ve seen year after year that this Government only prioritises the Southeast Corner and we are tired of it.”

A business case for the Bruce Highway upgrades at Goorganga Plains and Myrtle Creek was “expected to be completed by early 2023” according to a Transport and Main Roads spokesperson.

Minister Bailey said the flood immunity upgrade project is “currently in the detailed design phase with construction expected to commence next year.”

Whitsunday politicians are upset by a lack of movement on the Goorganga Plains flood resilience upgrades

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Show And Shine This Weekend!

March 23, 2023

Car enthusiasts will gather in Cannonvale on Sunday to show-off their dazzling automobiles, offering the community a rare opportunity to wander around the display and interact with the owners.

Organised by the Whitsunday Old Iron Restorer’s Club, the Show and Shine Event will exhibit some of the region’s much-loved cars, four-wheel drives, and motorbikes from the 1950s through to the 1970s.

Anyone is welcome to come and join in the fun, bring along their vehicle to exhibit or simply come along to view the display.

WHAT: Show and Shine

WHEN: Sunday, March 26 from 10am

WHERE: Banjo’s Bar and Bistro carpark

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Wildcat Wins Best New Tourism Business

March 24, 2023

The team at Red Cat Adventures are celebrating as their sister company, Wildcat Mackay, brings home the gold award for Best New Tourism Business in the country at the Qantas Australia Tourism Awards held in Sydney on Friday night.

Red Cat Adventures were inducted into Queensland Tourism’s Hall of Fame, after winning best Major Tour and Transport Operator and Best Adventure Tourism Operator for three consecutive years.

Owners Julie and Asher Telford say that, after such a successful 10 years, it has been a pleasure to launch a new business that showcases Mackay “in a way that didn’t exist previously.”

Upon accepting the award on Friday night, Julie said she felt humbled by the unexpected win.

“To say the cards were stacked against us would be an understatement!” she said.

“To be recognised as Australia’s best new tourism business is testament to the innovation and tenacity involved and proof of our ability to design and develop new tourism experiences that people want.”

Wildcat launched in December 2021 and since this date has offered daily tours to either Scawfell, Cockermouth, Brampton or Keswick islands, with the location handpicked to suit the tides and weather of the day.

Tours depart the Mackay Marina at 9.30am, returning at 4.30pm and include snorkelling, paddleboarding, beachcombing and informative eco-history commentary, as well as morning and afternoon tea and lunch, with drinks from the licensed bar.

Trip advisor awarded Wildcat Mackay the 2021 Certificate of Excellence and in November 2022 won Gold for New Tourism Business at the Queensland Tourism Awards.

Wildcat Mackay owners Julie and Asher Telford, pictured with Operations Manager Dan Gabbert, holding their award for Best New Tourism Award in Australia. Photo supplied

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Queens Beach Tourist Village Win Gold At Grey Nomad Awards

March 23, 2023

Bowen are proving that they are the top pick for travelling retirees from around the country thanks to a local caravan park winning a national accolade, taking home gold at the recent Grey Nomads Awards.

Queens Beach Tourist Village (QBTV) won the Best Grey Nomad Large Caravan Park category for the third time at a virtual awards ceremony which was held in February.

Park Caretaker, Gerry Tomsett said that the awards recognise and reward businesses and services that provide exemplary products or experiences for mature-aged travellers in Australia.

She believes that QBTV won gold because they look after the comforts of the over 50s and provide a warm, friendly service to all.

“We have a nice community here,” she said.

“We have wonderful accommodation which is level and flat, no hills, so it is easy for the over 50s to access.

“We also have entertainment every fortnight, water aerobics and craft afternoons where everyone has a lot of fun.”

Owners Peter and Jennie Greer said they were thrilled to win for the third time.

“Thanks to all our Grey Nomads who choose to stay with us on their extended holidays, we look forward to welcoming you back to the village very soon,” they said.

“Thanks also to the staff and judges at the Grey Nomad Awards for hosting an incredible event from start to finish.”

QBTV won gold at the Grey Nomad Awards in 2019, 2021 and 2022 – if they win next years’ 2023 award they will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Queens Beach Tourist Village team celebrating their big win. Photo supplied

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A Rafting Success At National Awards

March 23, 2023

Ocean Rafting has another trophy for their cabinet following last weekend’s Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, which saw them take out silver in the highly competitive Adventure Tourism Category.

With over 25 years in business, Ocean Rafting has been awarded multiple gold, silver and bronze accolades on a national level over the years, and owners Peter and Jan Claxton say that each award is a credit to consistently delivering a quality product.

“We really want to thank our incredibly dedicated and passionate staff, which includes a team of four recognised Master Reef Guides, who do an amazing job not only showcasing the wonders of the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef, but in protecting these precious assets and educating our guests about what they can do to make a difference,” said Peter.

“After over 25 years of operations, we will never stop appreciating every single one of these awards.

“We also certainly couldn’t have done it without our guests, who we love to see on the ride of their life!”

Ocean Rafting has eight semi-rigid inflatable vessels and one 7-seater Australian-built Airvan which took to the skies almost a year ago.

This new dimension to the business means that, along with other partner aircraft, they can now offer the ultimate Whitsunday experiences from above, on and below the water.

A true multi-generational operation, Ocean Rafting has three generations of the family actively involved in daily operations, making it connected to its humble beginnings, while being famed for its innovative approach and for acting as a leader in Whitsunday marine tourism and aviation operations.

Offering two exciting day tour adventures, Ocean Rafting has special permits that enable it to showcase one of Australia's most iconic beaches, Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, as well as flights over the world-renowned Heart Reef, on a daily basis.

Guests can choose from the Northern Exposure and Southern Lights, with an exhilarating ride to Whitehaven Beach, the ultimate access to Hill Inlet and special snorkelling sites, as well as the Fly and Raft package, 60-minute scenic flights, charter options and the Reef Seeker environmental educational program.

The fleet of eight semi-rigid inflatable vessels allows guests to experience an adrenalin-fuelled ride amongst the beauty of the Whitsundays, while a maximum of 32 passengers per vessel, allows for a personalised experience in the pleasure of a small group.

“We sincerely thank our many industry partners and tourism bodies, with whom we work, both within Australia and the world over,” said Peter.

“It’s a team effort and we have all worked cohesively to place the Whitsundays on the map as the ultimate Whitsunday holiday destination.”

What does it take to top Australian Tourism?

It takes hard work! But it also takes innovation, which as you can imagine, is imperative when you have the length of operations we have, so we continually reinvest in the business and just don’t take our finger off the pulse. It also takes passion, but we love what we do, our family loves it and our team love it.

Our culture is aligned to strong values that are reflective of a family business committed to best practice standards. And very importantly, we always aim to provide the best possible experience we can for our guests, which is reflected in our number one position on TripAdvisor, while protecting our precious Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as proud reef ambassadors!

Ocean Rafting owners Jan and Peter Claxton at the national awards last Friday

It’s a team effort: Peter and Jan Claxton with team members Tiffany Brett and Nathan Fleming

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Soft-Skills – It’s over!

March 24, 2023

Are you guilty of poking fun at soft-skills? For decades they’ve been harassed and bullied “who are you – you’re not as important as skills!”

They’ve been name called ‘warm and fuzzy’ and sent packing when it comes to recruitment selection and competencies and skillsets.

But at last, 2023 is their year and they’ve come roaring to the forefront wearing the superhero cape of ‘Power Skills’!

Why power skills? We can purchase and download systems, processes, structures and policies – we can also find an infinite amount of knowledge and wisdom at the ends of our fast-tapping fingertips - but we can’t download or purchase the emotional intelligence and people skills that creates a productive, motivated, engaged and happy work team.

Organisations – from family-owned small businesses to large companies – are embracing power skills and finally identifying, and investing in, the informal leaders in their workplace who people naturally look to and follow.

Here are our favourites power skills this month:

• Self-awareness - the ability to self-assess for growth

• Empathy – stepping into and supporting the challenges experienced in your team

• Vulnerability and courage – trust and be trusted

• Team-building – parking your ego and empowering your team to shine

• Communication – adapting to your audience to improve the clarity of your communication style

• Curiosity – the constant quest to learn more rather than form judgements

• Active listening – being willing to have your mind changed

• Growth mindset – adapting and building resilience

• Humility – identifying and parking our unconscious biases

• Observing what’s not being said – reading your audience, their body language, tone, mood

If this all sounds too much for those of you who lead with skillsets try a simple self-assessment Q&A when you drive home at the end of the day.

Ask yourself:

• What could I have done better today?

• What do my team-members need from me?

• What do I need to stop doing?

• What do I need to start doing?

Just the act of self-assessing will help you on the journey to developing your power skills. Enjoy the ride!

Contributed with thanks to Judy Porter from SHIIFT.

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Bringing Back “The Old Handshake Deals”

March 23, 2023

Liberty Rural Bowen employs both the best of modern and old-fashioned methods to serve its rural community – and they’ve been doing it for close to a decade in the Whitsundays.

With their new premises on Peter Delemonthe Road, the business is keeping alive the traditions of the long-gone milkman with their deep connection to the community and friendly-face style service, merging the past with the backing and technology of a present, modern major wholesaler.

Depot Area Manager Scott Prosser said the company - which services the region’s railway with bulk fuel, distributes oil to farms across a massive swath of land, and is a proud supplier of businesses across Bowen – has quickly become a pillar of the local community.

“Of our employees here, every one of them lives locally,” Mr Prosser said.

“For Liberty, it’s a case of supporting the town that is supporting us. Professionally, what we have to offer is that top level of service you can have from the biggest companies, but then we maintain the community-minded approach of a small business.

“I’ve lived here for 16 years, and as long as I've been with Liberty, we have made sure to give to Bowen with sports sponsorships and event sponsorships and more. For us, it's just common sense."

Driver Coordinator Ken Pankhurst said the outlet is the only oil stockist in Bowen, covering Ayr down to Proserpine, and is planning to expand from its already substantial 43 thousand litres of oil on hand to provide for its massive distribution radius.

“There’s not a lot of oil you need that we don’t have in stock,” Mr Pankhurst said.

“When we speak to farmers and they need something A.S.A.P, then we’re your guys. No one knows when they’ll blow a hydraulic line or something like that, and we can get it to you anytime with our 24-hour on-call service. “

Whether they be providing wholesale for retailers, or helping your average Joe, Liberty Rural Bowen act as the “old-school style distributor,” Mr Prosser said.

“The way I describe it is the style where you’re talking to someone on the phone from Liberty Rural Bowen, or popping in to see us, and you know it’s a person with knowledge of the local area,” Mr Prosser said.

“You know that they're the ones directing the trucks, making sure they get to where they're going. And it also extends to in-person; if you drop by to have a cuppa and a chinwag with us, that’s the traditional way we like to do business.

"Someone might ring and say: 'Bob needs a bit of oil,' and we know exactly who and where Bob is because we're as local as they come."

Liberty Rural Bowen Depot Area Manager Scott Prosser and Driver Coordinator Ken Pankhurst outside the Liberty Oil – Bowen depot

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Worried about the share market?

March 24, 2023

Investing in growth assets like shares and property is a long-term game.  Growth assets always average out better then defensive assets like cash and fixed interest in the long run.  The reason you need to look long term is that growth assets fall in value as well as rise, so you need to give them time to average out.  

Investing in growth assets is like buying a farm.  You know there’ll be years where you go backwards.  The reason you buy the farm is that if you don’t panic, hold on and run your business well, in the long run the good years will more than compensate for the bad and you’ll come out with a good average.

The key here is trying to take the emotion out of it and think rationally.  If you hold a quality asset of long-term value and suddenly it’s price drops, emotionally you want to sell.  Logically, this is the worst time to sell.  Ideally, you should try to buy more whilst the price is low.

To relate this to super, if you monitor your balance regularly you will have seen some significant falls since late 2021.  If you’re still working and have five years or more to go until retirement it is nothing to worry about as you are a buyer of investments.  Think about buying some more by making some extra contributions whilst the market is down.  If you’re close to or in retirement, then you are a seller of investments as you regularly withdraw your pension.  If you don’t have a protection strategy built into your super pension, you should talk to someone.  With no strategy in place your options are to draw less pension to ensure your money lasts or accept that it will run out quicker if you keep drawing the same.

The key to retirement planning is having a plan.  Talking to an expert means you’ll understand the big picture of how long your retirement pot will last and how much income you can draw.  You’ll also know you’re maximising your Centrelink entitlements.  Whilst protection strategies have a cost for retirees, every one of our retiree clients have one in place in their super pensions.  They all decided that when the inevitable crash happens, they don’t want to be forced to draw less pension or worry their money will run out early.  They want to protect the ability to draw a good income and enjoy those hard-earned retirement years no matter what the share market is doing.

If you’d like to find out more about protecting your hard-earned super nest egg, contact us for an obligation free discussion.

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A “Cuppa” With QCWA

March 23, 2023

It is a different landscape in the Whitsundays than it was 100 years ago when the region’s oldest chapter of the Queensland Country Women’s Association (QCWA) began in Proserpine - and times are still changing.

Along with the new era, the local branch is changing, too, and has added what it calls “Social Cuppas” to its itinerary.

Hoping to bring families, friends, and community into its fold, the Proserpine QCWA held the first Cuppa of its kind on Tuesday, March 14.

Local ‘Country Women’ assembled at Village Café & Restaurant Airlie Beach to enjoy each other’s company, form connections, enlighten non-members about the QCWA, and discuss the branches’ upcoming 100th birthday.

“What we’re doing with these new social meetings opening our group up to the community,” QCWA Proserpine member Kerri Southee said.

“For all of us at this branch, QCWA has given us something special. The kind of people that I have met here, you would never expect. Intriguing people who are so kind and thoughtful and care about this community.

“We want others to have that opportunity to meet us and be part of something bigger than themselves."

The local branch plans to host Social Meetings on the second Tuesday of every month, and Ms Southee said non-members and their families were encouraged to attend.

“Bring your kids along – a lot of us here are already grandmas, so we’re used to it!” she laughed.

The next will be held at the Proserpine CWA Hall at 4 Faust Street, Proserpine.

The Proserpine QCWA is also in preparations for a high tea for its 100th birthday celebrations in July (with dates to be finalised soon).

The Proserpine Queensland Country Women’s Association had its first Social Meeting of the year at Village Café & Restaurant Airlie Beach

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Young Musicians Play At Dingo Beach

March 23, 2023

For the second time in recent months, a group of young aspiring musicians are coming to the stage and are set to perform at the Dingo Beach Hotel this Saturday.

An initiative of the not-for-profit group, Music Evolution Project, these events represent a platform for local performers to shine.

“We will have a couple of adults performing this time as well,” said organiser Lisa Stanley.

“This is a great platform for up-and-coming musicians and it is really important for the whole community to come and show their support.”

A cornerstone of the Music Evolution Project is the positive impact that playing music and performing has on your mental health.

“We provide a completely free program to the community and actively help people with their mental health,” explained Lisa.

“These performers are truly amazing, and this is a great opportunity for the community to follow them through the year, see how they improve and watch them as they become professional musicians.”

The Dingo Beach event will include a range of vocalists, pianists and of course bands.

Performers include vocalists Meg McKeon, Ella Kelly, Tanika Lulham, Destiny, Chloe Kaddatz, Amber Hinschen, Sue Nami and Dominik James.

During the evening, it’s time for the bands to shine – The Microns, Sparrow Sisters, Trouble Makers, Myenvy and Category 5 will all play.

WHAT: Young Whitsunday Musicians

WHEN: Saturday, March 25 from 12pm to 8pm

WHERE: Dingo Beach Hotel


Young and aspiring musicians will be performing live this weekend. Photo supplied

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Did You Know?

March 24, 2023

The Airlie Beach Bicentennial Boardwalk has allowed walkers, joggers, bike riders, segways, tuk tuks, prams and Park Run devotees to wander on the water’s edge overlooking the Coral Sea since 1988.

The boardwalk was built as part of the Australian Bicentennial celebrations and initially it consisted of a simple walking track which connected Shingley Beach to Cannonvale.

Now, the boardwalk encompasses over 630 metres of timber structure and is a much-loved trail which allows residents and tourists to walk all the way from Airlie Beach to Cannonvale Beach.

Council will be undertaking an upgrade on the section of the boardwalk between Coral Sea Marina and Coral Sea Resort from April 24 – June 9 (weather dependent).

This closure will allow us to replace the current tired timber boards with a composite fibre material, and to widen the boardwalk by up to a metre.

These works will make the boardwalk more resilient to traffic, increase its longevity and significantly reduce annual maintenance costs.

The upgrade will ensure that residents and visitors to the amazing Whitsundays will continue to enjoy this wonderful asset for many years to come.

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Councillor Column

March 23, 2023

With Clay Bauman

I’m very happy to say that other Councillors and Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC) staff have supported my idea for a Cannonvale Community catch up which will be held at the restaurant in TAFE Cannonvale (190 Shute Harbour Rd) on Wednesday, March 29 from 9am till 11 am.  

If you can’t make it in person, you can ask a question now through the WRC Yoursay webpage. There is even a chance to win an Easter Hamper if you register or update your details on Yoursay this month. Visit yoursay.whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au for more information.

I fully support the Mayor’s initiative to connect directly with the community through these events as they move around the region and I look forward to talking with as many people as possible.

As part of Council’s current Community Engagement Strategy, we are investigating creating a network of ‘Community Champions’. These people would collaborate with Council early in project development and channel information back and forth between Council and their networks.

If you have the time and passion to participate in forums, workshops and other consultation activities relevant to your areas of interest, or if you have a strong connection to social networks that you represent or share information with, being a Community Champion might be a role for you. Head to Yoursay Whitsunday for more information.

For those that haven’t heard, Council has voted against the approval for a Transport Depot near the intersection of Rifle Range Road, Mt Marlow and against a proposal for commercial storage sheds next to Tropic Rd, Cannonvale. 58 submissions and a petition played a role in Council’s decisions and shows me how important having your say is.

Working towards planning that allows new residential, industrial and economic growth, while maintaining our liveability and amenity will always be very close to my heart. It is not just the current decisions that are important, but the long term forward thinking that sets us up for a successful and prosperous future which is a key aspect of our job.

Amongst lots of meetings and reading, I’ve been following up on people’s concerns and complaints and had the pleasure of visiting the Scouts, SES, PCYC Sports Expo, the AFL Preseason Carnival and even had the opportunity to crew in the lady skipper’s sailing race on International Women’s Day.

My role as your Councillor certainly is varied and I am trying my best for everyone who has put their trust in me.

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50 Years Of Boating Enjoyment

March 23, 2023

With just two owners overseeing its entire 50-year history, Cannonvale Marine is celebrating not only an impressive personal milestone but also the outstanding achievement of being one of the most stable and longest-running businesses in the Whitsundays.

Established in 1973 by retired engineer Ron Dorman, Cannonvale Marine was the first stand-alone marine dealership in the region.

Ron’s two sons operated the business and after six years a young Darrell Hinschen started his marine engine apprenticeship with the team.

Darrell soon became an integral part of the business and, 14 years later, he was offered the opportunity to purchase Cannonvale Marine with his wife Leanne.

The couple partnered with another Cannonvale Marine apprentice, Matthew Telford, who was a partner in the business for 15 years.

Darrell and Leanne have now operated the business successfully for the last 30 years.

Both Whitsunday locals, Darrell and Leanne are originally from well-known cane-farming families.

“I grew up fishing because our farm was on the O’Connell River,” said Darrell.

“My oldest, happiest memories are fishing – going down the river with Dad – or we’d go to one of the creeks and fish, so it was only natural for me to get into this.”

Over the years Darrell and Leanne have witnessed many changes within the industry.

Technology has been one of the most significant - from the introduction of GPS and electric trolling motors to the reduction in the use of two-stroke motors which have now been replaced with modern, technically advanced, cleaner engines.

“Another big change is that up to 10-15 years ago we were selling boats, primarily for people to go fishing. We are now selling boats for people to go boating and enjoy the Whitsundays,” explains Darrell.

“We’ve still got those people that want to fish, but we’ve now also got others that probably wouldn’t even carry a rod on the boat! ”

The Whitsundays now has the highest number of boat registrations per capita in Australia – but while the nature and the scale of their boating business have definitely changed, it is the good old-fashioned service at Cannonvale Marine that has remained the same.

“Our focus has always been on doing the best job possible,” said Darrell.

“When we first started there wasn’t a big population so if you didn’t get repeat business you wouldn’t last – the fact that we’ve been here for 50 years means that we must be doing something right!”



Cannonvale Marine was opened by Ron Dorman and his Sons


Darrell Hinschen started his marine engine apprenticeship


Darrell and Leanne Hinschen, Matthew Telford purchase Cannonvale Marine


Cannonvale Marine becomes the exclusive Quintrex dealer


The business diversifies to include Honda power equipment


Darrell and Leanne become sole owners of Business


Cannonvale Marine celebrate 50 years in business


Service, Parts And Repair

Cannonvale Marine is just as busy servicing the needs of boaters as they are in selling its impressive range of Quintrex aluminium boats and trailers.

Whether you are bringing your boat in for its 12-monthly service or you need a troublesome engine fixed, their service team offer expert workmanship, and is both fast and efficient in getting your boat back on the water.

Their chandlery also offers a range of gadgets, spare parts and accessories.

Power Equipment and Cyclones

For the last 15 years, Cannonvale Marine has also supplied power equipment to the community as a Honda supplier, offering everything from mowers and brush cutters to generators.

This side of the business operated quietly for a long time but it was when Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the Whitsundays in 2017 that it became an essential part of the immediate recovery.

“During that time, we were open 12 hours a day just fixing generators and we didn’t charge anyone,” said Leanne.

“Everyone was in shock; everyone was just trying to cope – we rang our supplier and of course, every business has a credit limit – but they told us we could have whatever we wanted!

“I nearly cried! We were able to provide the community with the generators they needed.”

Costs Then And Now

A 25 horsepower engine – was $785 – now $5,900

A 3.7 metre boat trailer - was $180 - now $2,300

A 115 horsepower outboard - was $2,055, now over $21,000

Owners of Cannonvale Marine, Leanne and Darrell Hinschen. Photo credit: Declan Durrant

A young Matt Telford and Darrel Hinschen in 1985. Photo supplied

25 years as a Johnson/OMC Dealer (1998). L-R: Leanne and Darrell Hinschen, Matt Telford and Paul Hamer (OMC Rep). Photo supplied

Darrel, Jack and Geoff Hinschen. Photo supplied

Airlie Beach Rotary Boat Show in 2010. Photo supplied

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We’ve Got Half A Century To Celebrate!

March 23, 2023

To mark their half-century of trading, Cannonvale Marine is inviting the community to a special evening of celebrations at their showroom at 14 McIntosh Drive on Saturday, April 1.

A night of light entertainment, food, drinks and great conversation, Darrell and Leanne are excited to welcome regular customers, friends and those in the community who would like to join in.

“After 30 years of ownership and 50 years of Cannonvale Marine in total, I think it’s something worthy of celebrating,” said Darrell.

“It’s a good catch-up with like-minded people, that’s what it’s about – we all have that one thing in common, boating and fishing, so there is always plenty to talk about.”

On the night local talented musician Jenny Borellini will be providing entertainment, a local food van will be cooking up delicious pizza for all to enjoy and the esky will be brimming with cold drinks to say cheers to 50 years!

During the evening guests are also welcome to browse the boats, trailers and other boating merchandise – with many special deals on the night, for your opportunity to snap up a bargain.

Anyone who spends over $50 will automatically enter into a draw to win a boat valued at $13,000.

“This night is our way of saying thank you to everyone who has helped over the years,” said Darrell.

“We hope you can make it!”

WHAT: Cannonvale Marine 50 Years celebration

WHERE: 14 McIntosh Drive, Cannonvale

WHEN: Saturday, April 1 from 5pm to 8pm

Go Boating With Quintrex!

It was 26 years ago that Darrell and Leanne made one of their best business decisions by becoming the Whitsunday region’s dedicated Quintrex dealer.

An elite brand, the decision to sell Quintrex at Cannonvale Marine allowed them to provide the best products for the booming local boating community.

“Quintrex are the number one aluminium boat brand in Australia by a country mile,” said Darrell.

“I think their sales account for around 70 per cent of all boats sold in Australia – the 30 per cent is then everybody else so they are a massive company.”

For Darrell and Leanne, however, the size, quality and market share were just one part of the picture – they also value the way Quintrex listen to their dealers and are open to taking on suggestions.

“At our annual conferences they ask us for our opinion and customer feedback,” explains Darrell.

“And then within a very short space of time, Quintrex would be changing certain features to suit the current market.”

Darrell experienced this firsthand when he got together with a few other dealers and suggested that the Renegade’s unique concave hull shape, which had previously only been available with premium painted boats, be used on a more affordable model.

“They started making one with a straight-sided hull but with this unique concave shape underneath which brought the price down and they are now one of the most popular models!” he said.

Cannonvale Marine has been the Queensland Dealer of the Year twice for Quintrex – once in the 2005-06 financial year and then in 2012-13 - they are now hoping they can celebrate 50 years by winning the award for the third time.

“That would be magic!” said Leanne.

Cannonvale Marine is celebrating their 50 years in business by giving away a 370 Outback Explorer with a 20-horsepower Honda engine that is valued at around $13,000.

Customers simply need to spend $50 in-store to be entered into the draw.

“We have $50 gift cards, so if you don’t know what you want to buy at the moment you can always grab a gift card and then if you get a service later on in the year, we can take your $50 off that!”

Apprentice Jack Grigg, apprentice Lachlan Gray and service manager James McDonald. Photo credit: Declan Durrant

Owner Darrel Hinschen holding the 2012/13 Quintrex Dealer of the Year Award. Photo supplied

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Kicking Butt And Taking Names

March 23, 2023

A local teenager has relearned to walk thanks to a local boxing gym after undergoing two reconstructive surgeries to manage a congenital disorder.

Bowen-born Hugh Hanneman’s cerebral palsy had pulled his left foot to an almost 90-degree angle to the ground before two ankle and foot reconstructions this year remedied the issue – and left him wheelchair-bound for four months.

Hugh’s mother, Sally Hanneman, said her son had to “virtually relearn to walk” after the successful surgery, which was when they turned to a local personal trainer, Wes Bau.

“Hugh has been seeing Wes for the past two years now,” Mrs. Hannaman said.

“In that time, physically, he has improved enormously, and not only that but he loves it – he’d come every day if he could. This surgery took Hugh back somewhat, but what Wes has done for him in helping him while he was in the wheelchair is astounding.”

Mr Bau, owner and trainer at Wes Bau Personal Training, said the overall journey in those two years is just as astounding as Hugh’s efforts in relearning to walk.

“Over time, with the help of the operations and what I could contribute, Hugh has gained strength in his legs,” Mr Bau said.

“That’s given him confidence; he beams in here now, he's full of humour when he walks in. It's a good feeling for me, to have helped any kid. We never had this when I was growing up here, in Bowen. There wasn't an opportunity for kids to find help through something like boxing.

“He’s never whinged, never gives in - he just gives me cheek.”

Hugh’s physical disability, cerebral palsy, pertains to movement, presenting in various symptoms, including exaggerated reflexes, floppy or rigid limbs and muscles, involuntary motions and poor coordination.

Each of these makes it difficult to pursue any kind of exercise – though not impossible. Mrs Hanneman said training with Mr Bau had been given the “green light” by doctors.

“They said to us, whatever he is doing, keep doing it,” she said.

“What he has been able to accomplish with this help is extraordinary, and what Wes helps him and other kids achieve is truly special.

"He should be an inspiration to other kids out there who haven't had to struggle as he has."

The most impressive progress Hugh has made is going from a two-kilogram dumbbell life to six – improving 300 per cent.

Hugh said, with how quickly he was advancing, he was closing in on being able to take Mr Bau on, toe-to-toe, in the ring.

“I tell him to put the gloves on every time we go in the ring,” Hugh said.

“I get him on the ropes already, so it’s not looking good for him.”

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March 23, 2023

A Man among Men

“Breadalbane”, “Cricklewood”, “Abydos”, and “Therallie” were the names of properties in Glen Isla owned by the district’s early settlers. The Waite brothers, George Augustus (Gus) and Charles Beveridge, owned Breadalbane, a name still in use today.

George and Charles were graziers who were amongst the first men to take up land in the area, their initial purchase being in 1873. The Waite brothers’ holding comprised all the land between the river and Main Street, back towards the show-grounds.  It was densely covered in scrub and included the area where the water tower now stands.  The Waites were big land holders, also taking up Crystalbrook and Cannon Valley runs.

The brothers played a pivotal role in establishing the sugar industry in Proserpine. When the Proserpine Central Sugar Mill finally got underway in 1897, after a decade of disappointment following the collapse of the Crystal Brook Sugar Company, the cost far exceeded the amount of security the farmers could provide. It was largely due to the generosity of Gus Waite that the problem was solved in an exceptional way.  He made 3000 acres of his own estate available to be surveyed and sold for farm blocks thus securing sufficient debentures to meet the required government valuation and he chaired the meetings which requested government assistance. What an achievement on that memorable occasion on September 16, 1897 when Lena Waite, wife of G.A. Waite, cracked the proverbial bottle of champagne.

While both Gus and Charles Waite were civic minded, it was Gus who made the most notable contributions to the district. He took part in anything to improve the town.  Before there was a hospital or a dentist, his services were often called upon, particularly to pull teeth, as he had had some medical and dental training in his youth. He was President of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Show Association, Hospital Board, Ambulance Committee and the Proserpine-Bowen Tramway Board.

Gus Waite was Chairman of the Wanagaratta Divisional Board 1888-1891; 1893-1894 and 1898-1899. In 1910, he was on the first Proserpine Shire Council when it separated from Bowen and from 1913-1914, he was Shire Chairman.  During his first year, he informed councillors that many angry men had threatened his life if a road was not put through to the show-grounds.  Councillors Waite and Biggs moved that a road be formed as speedily as possible and the motion was carried unanimously.  In later years, this road was named Anzac Road in remembrance of our fallen soldiers from World War One. In early 1914, Gus Waite was again on the Council in Number 1 Division.

It was not only farmers who benefitted from Gus Waite’s magnanimous gestures.  In 1912, the Show committee leased property owned by Gus – the value of the land was £140 with rates £4/1/8d yearly. Dr Anderson, our first resident doctor, bought land from him on which to build the homes, Parkfields and The Grange.

George Augustus Waite was a man among men.  By the time of his passing on September 28, 1914, the town had a hospital, a good school and many businesses, in no small measure due to his efforts. It is fitting that his tombstone sits at the entrance to our cemetery and is inscribed with the words “The Father of Proserpine”.

The descendants of the two Waite brothers now live far away from Proserpine but we are reminded of their influence and contribution to the district by Waite Street which is named in their honour.                                                

Story courtesy Proserpine Historical Museum and photo courtesy Whitsunday Regional Council.

George Waite

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Jubilee Trees To Be Planted At New Cooinda

March 23, 2023

Bowen Community Council and Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox planted the first of a garden’s worth of trees at Cooinda Family Centre last Thursday, March 16.

A small contingent of local families and dignitaries gathered for the tree planting ceremony which commemorated Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second’s Platinum Jubilee and was funded through a Queensland State Government Program.

The single tree planting event took place at the Centre’s current home on Williams Street, Bowen, with subsequent trees from the project to be planted at the new Bowen Community Centre towards the end of this year.

Chair of Bowen Community Council Christine Coventry said that the day was dedicated to the Queen’s 70 years of service to The Commonwealth.

“This tree planting honours her legacy,” Ms Coventry said.

“We are extremely grateful to be recipients of this grant, which has spent $15.1 million across Australia in the planting of trees in Her Majesty’s honour.”

Ms Coventry said the garden of trees at the new Cooinda – to be located at the Bowen Community Centre, and which she has been assured by State Government will be completed by the end of this year – will be a spectacular garden for young families.

Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox said he was extremely pleased to see another successful planting in memory of Her Majesty in Bowen and congratulated Bowen Community Council on being awarded the much-deserved $13,636 grant.

“This round of planting was extremely special and was a reminder to this community and its businesses of our amazing Queen Elizabeth the Second,” Mr Willcox said.

“Her Majesty was a tireless advocate for the regenerating through tree planting, and this new forest will be a reminder to Bowen of her spirit for years to come.”

Previous Queen’s Jubilee Tree Planting events in the Whitsundays have taken place at the Bowen Sporting Complex, where 160 Australian native trees are to be planted this year, and at Cannonvale State Primary School, naming their 27 trees the ‘Queen’s Jubilee Fruit Forest’.

Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox helped to plant the first of many Queen’s Platinum Jubilee trees at Bowen’s Cooinda Family Centre last Thursday

The MP had a few helping hands to dig in the dirt and plant the new tree

Bowen Neighbourhood Centre, Community Council, and Cooinda Family Centre members gathered for the commemorative ceremony

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The Grand View’s Greatest Shave

March 23, 2023

Staff members from Bowen’s The Grand View Hotel shaved their noggins and chins last Sunday for the World’s Greatest Shave annual charity event which raises funds for Australian families currently facing blood cancer.

The ‘Shavees’ – Peter O’Toole, Brett Crich, Aaron “Pumba”, Andrew Jackson, Stephen Knight, and Stephen Sherriden – were joined by a few brave patrons who donned the cape and went under the blades, shaving their heads for the good cause and raising a $1077.

The pub’s general manager Brett Crich said he and his duty managers have always strived to fundraise for charities and this cause was no different.

“The staff here are really, really good with charity – they’re always eager to support a great cause,” Mr Crich said.

“Aside from the fundraising side, just shaving our heads and beards shows the support to those going through battles with cancer, which is just as important.”

Staff at the Grand View Hotel shaved their heads and bears last weekend for the World’s Greatest Shave, pictured here are hairdresser Tanielle Hunter, Grand View Hotel General Manager Brett Crich, and hairdresser Jayde Rogers pre-shave

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Your Final Chance To Win

March 23, 2023

Locals and visitors still have the chance to win $2100 worth of holiday vouchers.

The Visitor Information Centre passport competition being run by Tourism Whitsundays in conjunction with Bowen Tourism and Business and Mackay Isaac Tourism is coming to an end.

Locals and visitors have until the end of March to visit the information centres in Bowen, Proserpine and Sarina to have the chance to win.

You can collect the passports at any of the three centres and all you need to do is visit all three to have them stamped and go in the draw to win.

Manager of Bowen Tourism and Business, Leanne Abernethy said this was the second year that the competition had been run and it had proved popular again.

“The staff at the three information centres in the Whitsundays and Mackay regions have worked together to encourage more people to visit both regions,” she said.

“It provides an incentive for travellers to visit all three information centres and also encourages locals to check out their own backyard.”

Please note that the competition finishes at the end of March so get in quick for your chance to win!

Kerry Meier of Bowen Tourism and Business is encouraging everyone to visit the information centres in Bowen, Proserpine and Sarina before the end of March for the chance to win. Photo supplied

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Enjoy Your Easter With Pilchers

March 24, 2023

Pilchers Mitre10 in Bowen is pulling out all the stops in preparation for the Easter Holidays, particularly for those planning family camping trips.

The local store has pulled together some ‘Easter Festivities’ for youngsters alongside their ‘Adventure Kings Center’ – a new display for the store’s large selection of outdoor and camping equipment.

It’s a double whammy of entertainment with things for the kids and the parents: Bring the youngsters in to be entertained over the holidays with the ever-popular Pilchers Mitre10 Easter Colouring-in Competition, Giant Easter Egg Photobooth, and the ‘Easter Wall,’ then check out the Adventure Kings range of holiday camping kits to deck out the rest of your time off.

The kid's photo booth in the Pilchers Garden Centre will have parents capturing that Easter excitement and sharing that memory with family and friends.

Then grab one a Colouring-in sheet for the Pilchers Mitre10 Competition, with three age categories able to enter their best artwork to win three amazing Kids Outdoor Adventure Easter Packs – which include children’s paddleboards.

Enter in-store, bring back your child’s masterpiece, and proudly display it on the Pilchers Easter wall for all to see, with winners to be drawn Wednesday, April 5, at 3 pm, just in time for the easter long weekend.

And, when all the festivities are said and done, the Adventure Kings Centre will be beckoning with fishing gear, drones, paddle boards, camp chairs, and fridge freezers. As well as swags, sleeping bags, gazebos, firepits, and camp kitchens, if a little glamping in the holidays is on the cards.

There’s also a range of items in Kings Kids, Kings Adult, and the latest Kings Hot Pink selection.

There are plenty of fun and excellent offers for these Easter Holidays at Pilchers Mitre 10 – so bring the kids and have a little Easter Fun!

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Find Your Whitsunday Winterwear

March 23, 2023

In summer, the Whitsundays becomes a condensed thermal spring. It seems like three-quarters of the earth's water has leapt up from the sea to join the air, and being outside is measured in the time between air conditioning units.

So, when the winter wind finally arrives in the Whitsundays, it is as if the rest of the country’s beautiful summer days have reached the region – and with them, all of summer’s frills and bows.

Cloudless skies let the sun’s heat in and mornings spent with friends stretch into long afternoons and what are summer clothes in the Southern States become the Whitsundays’ winterwear.

At Coral’s City to Country in Bowen, the businesses' Queensland-sourced One Summer and Relax are the quintessential affordable dress ranges for the region.

“It’s always summer up here and you’re always wanting to wear something airy and beautiful,” Coral’s City to Country co-owner Wendy Bickhoff said.

“This range is suitable for all our Whitsunday climates because they’ve been created by a dressmaker who has lived in the region for decades.

There are four ranges sister of summer dresses available at the Bowen store - Relax, One Summer, Orientique, and Escape. Each varies in its level of curated craftsmanship – never losing its excellent standard - offering something for every pricing scale.

“These dresses are perfect for enjoying that transition into the cooler months,” Ms Bickhoff said.

“Having a picnic with family or friends, there’s no nicer feeling than wearing a gorgeous dress in the sunshine.”

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State School Proud To Continue History Of Indigenous Scholarships

March 23, 2023

Ten Indigenous Whitsunday students celebrated their successful receipt of school scholarships as part of continued reparations to the First Nations people of Australia.

The cohort of 10 Bowen State High School students were successful in Round 14 of The Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation (QATSIF) scholarships this year.

QATSIF was formed in 2008 to give Queensland’s Indigenous families increased educational choices and life opportunities, and was developed from the unclaimed stolen wages of Indigenous Australian elders.

The program offers scholarships worth $2000 each to help support senior First Nations students in attaining their Queensland Certificates of Education/Queensland Certificates of Individual Achievement.

Over the past 4 years, Bowen State High School has had several senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students receive their QATSIF scholarships, with 16 QATSIF recipients currently studying at the school.

At a morning tea held in their honour, the students were reminded by QATSIF Coordinator Deb Belyea of the responsibility of being awarded this scholarship and the importance of valuing their education.

Bowen State High School Principal Rob Harris said recipients now have a “newfound status as role models to junior students and as such they needed to be upstanding.”

“We look forward to watching these students flourish in their new leadership roles,” Mr Harris said.

Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation (QATSIF) School Leaders badges and certificates were also presented to student leaders Danzel – School Captain - and Jordan - Student Council Treasurer.

Both students are Round 13 Recipients of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Foundation Scholarship.

Back row: Bowen State High School Principal Rob Harris, Talithia, Brock, Clarice, Wade, Jamarcia , QATSIF Coordinator Deb Belyea, and Community Education Counsellor Mrs Raylene Van Veen, and in front: Dakota, Olivia, Alexia, Graeme, and Rahkiya

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“Rhythm Of Life”

March 17, 2023

Prossie High In The ‘Swing Of Things’ For Broadway

Proserpine State High School students will take to the stage in the upcoming Broadway romantic musical ‘Sweet Charity’ in early May.

In the school’s first musical since its highly successful play, ‘We Will Rock You’, in 2021, 100 students will take roles behind, below, and on the stage in what will be an “ambitious production.”

Following the eponymous Charity Hope Valentine, a taxi dancer living in New York City in the swinging sixties, Sweet Charity is brimming with groovy love, counterculture, and gaudy fashion.

Students Ready To Groove In Upcoming Play

Proserpine State High School students will perform the musical ‘Sweet Charity’ in early May at the school’s Drama Centre.

The musical’s Artistic Director and Proserpine State High School head of Drama, Jenny Napier said the students were ecstatic to be performing Sweet Charity – a celebrated, long-running Broadway musical which premiered in 1966.

“Sweet Charity is about a girl who is looking for love,” Ms Napier said.

“She has spent her entire life trying to find the one person for her.”

The Broadway show revolves around the life of Charity Hope Valentine, a dancer for hire living in a bustling New York City in the 1960s.

Ms Napier said the show is famed for its Fosse jazz and pushes students on technical fronts in its set design as well as its performances, allowing them to get a taste for the dramatic profession.

“A lot of our students from previous productions have gone on to work in the profession,” Ms Napier said.

“Three of our leads from Oliver are professional actors now and a lot have gone on to technical, sound, and staging. To do big, professional Broadway shows is important for the students. It gives them a great opportunity to show their skills – and to even put those on their CVs.”

Ms Napier said Sweet Charity is complex musically and choreographically for any performer, asking them to be somewhat of a triple threat.

“It is probably beyond normal high-school students,” Ms Napier said.

“But these performers are seasoned actors now, having been in We Will Rock You and some Cannonvale State School performances – we know they have the skill.”

A 28-piece orchestra will accompany the show and is comprised entirely of students who are being mentored by professional musicians.

Sweet Charity leads Xavier Johnson, who plays Oscar – a shy tax accountant - and Allegra Bradley –Charity – said they were extremely excited to be a part of the spectacle.

“I fell in love with musicals when I saw Cannonvale’s Peter Pan at six years old,” Ms Bradley said.

“I knew I had to be a part of them and to be in the lead has been amazing. It is such a great opportunity.”

The show encompasses students from Grades 8 to 12 and runs with a ‘double cast,’ meaning some characters will be played by a new set of actors on alternative nights.

Sweet Charity will run at the Proserpine State High School drama centre from May 3 to 6 with tickets available soon.

Proserpine State High School students at the first dress rehearsal for their May performance of ‘Sweet Charity’

Proserpine State High School Students will perform a Broadway-style play following the character Charity Hope Valentine, played in half the performances by student Allegra Bradley

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An 18 Second Incident And “They Shot My Son Five Times”

March 17, 2023

The grieving mother of Luke Gilbert, who was tragically killed in a police shooting in Airlie Beach six months ago, is calling for an independent inquiry to bring the officers who she believes should be “charged with murder” to justice.

Nicola Gilbert believes that investigations so far have centred around Luke and his role in the incident, rather than the officers who she believes used unnecessary force.

“We have to fight to get any information at all and then when we do it’s very one-sided and vague,” she said.

“You cannot have a police force being allowed to get away with the most abhorrent crime in the world, taking the life of another, simply because they wear a uniform.

“It’s too late to save our son, nothing we do will bring him back, but we can try to save other lives from being lost needlessly.”

On October 1 last year, Luke Gilbert, who resided in Townsville, had been visiting the Whitsundays on an unplanned trip to help a mate who had been experiencing car trouble.

Nicola said that Luke was not expecting to travel that day and was still wearing his work uniform which included a small pen knife on his belt which he used as a tool.

He decided to stay in Airlie Beach for the night and was walking to another pub just after midnight when the fateful incident occurred.

Nicola has since been told that when Luke saw two police officers, he covered his pen knife with his hand so that he wouldn’t get stopped.

She believes Luke then passed another two officers while still covering the knife with his hand and, because he was intoxicated, almost bumped into them.

“The officers asked if he was ok and when Luke didn’t respond, they noticed he was covering something,” said Nicola.

“Luke then unclipped the pen knife to show them, only walking slowly towards them.”  

In contrast, a Queensland Police report stated that Luke “allegedly threatened officers advancing on them”.

Nicola said that officers then drew their firearms and pointed them at Luke which “escalated the situation very quickly” and likely caused him to be “terrified and confused”.

She asks why a taser or pepper spray was not used in the first instance, rather than a firearm.

“Luke had been walking slowly, they were backing away quicker than him, he did not launch at or threaten the officers at any point,” she said.

“Luke had his arms down by his side approximately 20 feet from the officers when they opened fire only 18 seconds after they stopped him.

“Luke was shot at five times by both officers, three went into his chest and two hit nearby cars.”

When Luke fell to the ground, Nicola says that the police officers turned him onto his stomach and handcuffed his arms behind his back.

“It was seven minutes before the police attempted to give Luke CPR,” she said.

Luke died a short time after arriving at Proserpine Hospital.

Luke Gilbert with his mother, Nicola, in happier times. Photo supplied

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Stingray Saviours

March 17, 2023

On Saturday evening, Chantelle Jensen and her friend Bek Sinclaire were enjoying a picnic down at Cannonvale Beach with Chantelle’s mum when they saw a couple trying to free a stingray which had become trapped in the nearby stinger net.

Eventually, the couple gave up trying to set it free so the girls walked over to see if they could help.

When they arrived the baby sting ray was clearly distressed as it had likely been stuck in the net for hours due to an extremely low tide.

The girls found a couple of sticks which they used to untangle the ray and lever it free.

“We were a bit worried about its barb at first,” said Chantelle.

“We were really cautious about where we were holding him and made sure we knew where the barb was at all times.”

Using her mum’s scarf, Chantelle and Bek were able to move the stingray into a makeshift stretcher with the help of two young girls who came to assist.

They then carried the ray to safety, carefully making the long trek to the shoreline which was over 100 metres away.

Eventually, they got to the water and placed it in the shallows.

“It took some time to move as it was quite stressed,” said Chantelle.

“But it was definitely breathing, I think it just needed a bit of time to chill out as it had been stuck out there for a few hours.”

Chantelle said she was really pleased to help an animal in distress and that she believes everyone should do the same if it is safe to do so.

Chantelle and Bek with the two young girls, Kaidence and Becky, who came to help

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Editor's Note

March 17, 2023

Hi Everyone,

The Mayor invited me out for a coffee last week and it was great to catch up.

As soon as we sat down, she told me it was just a casual meeting to connect and find out how Council could better assist us with delivering their news to the community.

How refreshing! What a lovely thing to ask.

We spent an hour discussing topics about the local community – everything from bridges to boat ramps, the housing crisis and the tough few years that could lie ahead with rising living costs.

At the Council meeting earlier that week, the Mayor announced she would be declining the standard annual pay rise because she couldn’t, in good heart, accept it while so many others in the community are doing it tough.

This really is putting your money where your mouth is!

And, I think it is selfless acts like this that make Julie Hall stand apart from others and show us all how she is coming good on her promise to be the ‘People’s Mayor’.

Good on you Julie!

Now for a completely separate matter, I would like to apologise to readers about the missing crossword in last week’s paper – I was absolutely amazed how something so small could be such a big part of so many lives!

It certainly proved that it’s not until you leave something out that you realise how popular it is.

We had several phone calls from disappointed readers, one lady in particular who told me that she and 10 of her friends sat down every week and do the crossword together.

I felt terrible that we had deprived them all of that joy.

Sorry everyone - the crossword is back in this week, and we will endeavour to ensure it never gets missed again.


Quote of the Week:
“How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone” (Coco Chanel)

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Laguna Quays – A Community Reborn

March 17, 2023

A fledgling community is developing at the once highly acclaimed Laguna Quays with residents accepting the challenge to determine their own future within this large rural paradise.

The new movement to reinvigorate the community is being led by Vic Schembri, a retired builder and property developer who owns two Cascade Condominium units and a piece of land at Banguru Creek.

Over the past year, Vic has brought the Laguna Quays community together.

He initiated the formation of the Laguna Quays Progress Association, now an association of hundreds of Laguna Quays’ lot owners.

A successful appeal on an insurance claim for damage caused by 2017 Cyclone Debbie, saw Laguna Quays’ Cascade Condominiums receive a well-deserved settlement.

The Body Corporate used the funds to make repairs and beautify the residential areas.

Roof tiles have been replaced with new Colourbond roofing, timber balustrades have been removed and a weather enduring material sits there instead.

Flood overflows have been redirected and timber mulch has been replaced with stone pebbles.

Taking on the role of Project Manager, Vic has personally overseen contractors and ensured that every cent of the insurance money has been put to good use.

He believes that the work done at Cascade Condominiums will now have a trickle-on effect and could breathe new life into other areas.

“All you need is for one house to be built here and it will encourage others,” he explains.

Driving around Laguna Quays today, you can see promise and potential starting to return; the gardens are trimmed, the blocks of units look smart, and the laneways are maintained.

Currently, there are three main residential areas at Laguna Quays, each with its own body corporates; 80 units at Cascade Apartments, 38 at the neighbouring Hillside Apartments and 15 large Club Villas.

There are also 250 privately owned plots of land which represent prime real estate opportunities for discerning investors to be part of a community on the cusp of flourishing once again.

These are located within seven precincts and many of these have now agreed to clear their building blocks and restore services making way for owners to build.

Vic hopes that by continuing to reinvigorate the area, this could in turn increase house prices and stimulate demand.

Located just 20 minutes from Whitsunday Coast Airport, Laguna Quays was the vision of Japanese businessman and avid scuba diver, Shinichi Sawada, who opened a luxury resort there in 1992.

He invested $250 million into Laguna Quays and, upon opening, it was considered a jewel of Queensland’s luxury tourism crown – it boasted an 84-berth marina, an 18-hole International-standard golf course and a 15-hectare, pump-filtered, seafront lagoon, complete with islands and a five star "beach club".

Unfortunately, the business went into receivership in 1995 and was bought by Melbourne developer, David Marriner a year later.

Despite efforts to rejuvenate the resort, it went into receivership again and was bought by its current owner, Chinese company Fullshare Holdings Group, in 2012.

Since then, any further development has stalled and the promise of significant development never eventuated.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for the Chinese developers to invest in this place - and it hasn’t happened yet!” said Vic.

“So, I said ‘well hang on, let’s do it ourselves, let’s turn it into a thriving residential community’ - all it takes is to make a start and the rest will follow!”

The residents that own property on the site have now grown to establish a strong and connected community.

The tranquillity of a bushland setting with an abundance of native animals and bird life makes Laguna Quays, a true paradise.

Despite the odds, Vic’s passion and dedication, and that of the Progress Association’s owners, are already paying off - there is a real sense of community at Laguna Quays.

“It’s a great place to live,” said Vic, who will begin building his five-bedroom dream house on-site at Banguru Creek later in the year.

“All the people who live here love the place and I just wanted to let the community know about the positive change we are seeing – hopefully they will come down and have a look for themselves!”

Residents take revitalisation efforts into their own hands, with Vic Schembri at the helm. Photo credit: Rachael Smith

Some of the plots of land available to build upon are located on the beautiful scenic lake

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Supreme Court On Cards For Port Of Airlie High Rise Dispute

March 17, 2023

Further delays in mediation have prompted Save Our Foreshore (SOF) to vow that they will “go all the way to the Supreme Court” in their fight with Port of Airlie and the Whitsunday Regional Council.

SOF are challenging the decision to approve a 47-metre high-rise hotel at Port of Airlie when the town plan caps all development in that zone at 18 metres.

Since the Council decision to approve the development last year, SOF has taken the matter to the Planning and Environment Court where they have been fighting a legal battle ever since.

It is estimated that their legal fees will cost over $150,000 and SOF say they are grateful for all public donations.

“We can’t thank our supporters enough,” said Suzette Pelt, President of SOF.

“Every donation, small and large, adds up to being able to fund nearly 12 months of legal action to date and ongoing.”

Last Friday SOF appeared in a court-directed mediation session with Port of Airlie/Meridien and Council.

“The message we took was that the maximum height is 18 metres and the town plan must stand,” said Suzette.

“And that’s what we will continue to take, all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.”

“We are committed to representing the community and public interest in this shameful development proposal that not only conflicts massively with the town plan but also puts our iconic Whitsunday and Airlie Beach low-rise, village character at risk.”

Developers are planning to construct a luxury five-star hotel complex and large conference centre on the site and they believe that the height level is necessary to attract a prestigious hotel brand name.

Airlie Beach has not had a significant hotel development in many years and the counter-argument on the subject is that the town needs this sort of development in order to compete with places like Hamilton Island.

At the moment Airlie Beach has a maximum function room capacity of 110 people, whereas Hamilton Island can cater for up to 700.

Therefore, by increasing our mainland function room offering, Airlie Beach could attract an entirely new form of corporate client.

The question is, however, with the local airport already bringing in over 500,000 passengers per year – does Airlie Beach need to entice a new demographic when it is already popular in its own right?

SOF certainly believe this is the case, asserting that it is the “village feel” that attracts people to the town and stating this would be destroyed if a high-rise hotel is built at Port of Airlie.

“People live and invest in the Whitsundays because of its unique lifestyle and character,” said Suzette.

“There is no issue with aspirational plans to develop five-star hotel accommodation but in the right place, in the right style and according to the town plan is not too much to expect.  

“There are massive flaws in this proposal.”

Suzette stated that the court case may cost ratepayers between $250,000 and $350,000 and pointed out that the Meridien group behind the development is in receivership.

‘We can’t understand why the council would be backing a company already in receivership,” she said.

Whitsunday Regional Council were asked to comment and stated that “as the matter is currently before the Environmental and Planning Court, Council is unable to comment”.

Demonstrators protest at the site of the approved 47-metre high rise development last year

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Quota Hosting Dementia Research Fundraiser

March 17, 2023

A local not-for-profit will host a Morning Tea for Dementia fundraiser at the end of March to support families and residents of Proserpine Nursing Home.

The Quota Club of Whitsunday Inc. invites the community to Father Tom Gard Centre, St Catherine’s School on Sunday, March 26, to raise monies for resources and equipment at the local nursing home and for Dementia Australia research.

The local branch of the International Quota organisation is comprised of volunteers seeking to make an impact in the community, with this morning tea fundraiser’s focus being the progressive neurodegenerative condition of dementia.

Quota Club of Whitsundays Morning Tea event coordinator Jacqui Barrett said almost everyone has “their connection and story that goes with the mention of dementia.”

“I find it difficult to engage in conversation with people who have just heard a family member is at the beginning of this journey as I remember not quite believing this decline would happen to my mum,” Ms Barrett said.

“We need to find a cure so this can stop happening to our mums and dads, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters.”

The morning tea will feature local musicians the Momma’s and Poppa’s and Dazey Chain; local school children performing a dance routine; and Susan Blyth, General Manager of Proserpine Nursing Home, as the event’s guest speaker.

As well, three lucky door prizes, games and competitions, meat tray raffles and a rolling Cent Sale throughout the morning with over $2000 in prizes contributed by local businesses will provide entertainment for the day.

Tickets are available to purchase for $20 at Café One 3 in Airlie Beach and CE Smith Accountants in Proserpine.

WHAT: Morning Tea for Dementia

WHEN: 10 am on Sunday, March 26

WHERE: Tom Gard Centre, St Catherine’s School

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Get Face To Face With Your Council

March 17, 2023

One of Mayor Julie Hall’s most prominent election promises was to increase the connection between Council and the community, and this is a vision she is now delivering upon in a series of community face-to-face catch-ups.

The first event of this type took place at Dingo Beach and it proved to be a huge success with over 50 interested locals attending to share their views and open discussion.

Subjects on the day included raising awareness of Yellow Crazy Ants, managing 4WD impacts on coastal habitats and turtles, and the Dingo Beach bollard project.

The next catch-up will take place at Cannonvale TAFE at the end of the month and everyone in the community is invited to come along.

Ahead of time, residents are encouraged to help build an interesting and relevant agenda by sharing ideas for discussion via Council’s Online Engagement Portal Yoursay - https://bit.ly/Communitycatch-ups.

Mayor Hall said she is a huge advocate of face-to-face engagement with residents in the Whitsunday region.

“The vision of the Community Catch-ups are to provide an informal setting to discuss topics important to the local community,” she said.

“These catch-ups provide Councillors the opportunity to better connect with our smaller communities, build relationships, share information, and gather feedback on local issues.

“Face-to-face catch-ups allow us to facilitate a two-way flow of information, updating residents on Council projects relevant to them and listen to issues affecting the local community.”

After each event Council will provide participants with a detailed report of the discussion, key outcomes, and future actions from the meeting via email.

All catch-up reports will be posted on the Online Engagement Portal Catch-ups project page for interested residents that were unable to attend.

Other upcoming catch-up locations for 2023 include Collinsville, Mt Coolon, Conway and Wilson Beach, Proserpine, Bowen, Scottsville, Shute Harbour and Gumlu and Cape Upstart.

Dates and locations for the next three months of catch-ups will be announced soon.

WHAT: Community Catch-Up With Council

WHEN: Wednesday, March 29 from 9am-11am

WHERE: Cannonvale TAFE

Mayor Hall engages with the Dingo Beach community at the first in a series of Council catch-ups. Photo supplied

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Disaster Recovery Donations Wanted

March 17, 2023

The superyacht community and Coral Sea Marina are joining forces to help communities in Fiji and Vanuatu that are recovering from two recent cyclones which have caused a significant impact.

Hearing of their hardships the yachting community decided to utilise their vessels to transport useful items to the worst-hit areas at the end of this month.

What started as one superyacht soon increased to four and the crew are ready to transport any donations where needed.

Coral Sea Marina has been working with the local community and so far, they have been overwhelmed by the positive response of many.

Local junior sporting clubs have donated boots, balls and shirts, and many others in the community have contributed bags of clothes.

They are now hoping for other essential items such as nails, tarpaulins, hand tools, large cooking pots, laundry soap for cold water hand washing, female hygiene products, plastic bins with lids and first aid items.

Donations can be received at the Coral Sea Marina Office located above the Garden Bar Bistro.

All items must be clean and in good working order.

The deadline for all donations is March 31.

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“This Is Just Bulls**t, It Really Is”: Councillor Fined For Facebook Flub

March 17, 2023

Whitsunday Regional Councillor Mike Brunker was fined $500 at last Wednesday’s ordinary meeting for the “misuse of Council resources” during the previous Mayoral Election.

Mr Brunker was found to have breached Council Policy by listing his Council email address on his mayoral candidacy Facebook page during the by-election of July – August 2022, equating to an “unauthorised use of Council resources”.

Councillor Brunker sincerely apologised for the actions that were brought to Council, “unbelievable as they are”.

“People would come up to me and say, what have you done? I’d say, I expect to do five years in Etna Creek [Referencing the Capricornia Correctional Centre on Etna Creek Road] for what I’ve done,” Mr Brunker said.

“I tell them I had a Facebook page titled Mayoral Candidate and I had a Council email address on that Facebook page and they start laughing.

“They say, are you joking? I should have done something about it [the email address], and for that I’m very apologetic. But this accusation, although technically right, is absolutely laughable.”

Mr Brunker said he was “embarrassed for the failed mayoral candidate who has lodged this complaint.”

“To think that the only thing you can do through the whole Mayoral race is look around and sling some mud on someone,” he said.

“To think this is Watergate and you’re going to bring down the entire Council and the State Government.

“I hope the next time something as simplistic as this comes up, that we don’t spend ten-thousand dollars on such an investigation.”

Mr Brunker was referring to the initial complaint launched by then mayoral candidate Phillip Batty, who said he was “neither embarrassed nor ashamed”, having lodged the issue against each of the three Councillors running for the position and had simply hoped to “level the playing field” and follow legislation.

Mr Batty said discussions began in July 2022 when he emailed previous Whitsunday Regional Council CEO Rod Ferguson about the issue, hoping Council would raise it with the Councillors – which they did.

Mr Ferguson then deferred the complaint to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA).

“I did not make a complaint at the outset,” Mr Batty said.

“[Council] advised Councillor Brunker on two occasions in writing in July 2022 of his obligations under the act [to not utilise Local Government assets during an election]. Whitsunday Regional Council elected to have the complaint heard by the OIA.”

Independent assessors PFK Integrity, contracted by the local Council, then substantiated the claims that Councillor Brunker’s Council email address appeared on his Facebook page titled ‘Michael Brunker – Mayoral Candidate for Whitsundays’ during the election campaign.

The findings from the independent assessors – which cost $11,500 to ratepayers - were presented for decision to Whitsunday Regional Councillors at the Wednesday, March 8, Ordinary Council Meeting.

Whitsunday Mayor Julie Hall said, although the misconduct was administrative in nature, it was still a breaking of the Local Government Act.

“Unfortunately, it is the rules,” Mayor Hall said.

“The Local Government Act, whether we agree with it or not, that is the legislation and the Act. If we go against it, are we setting a precedent to say we will not abide by legislation and the act?

“Councillor Brunker is one of our longest serving members of Council and therefore I feel that he possibly should have known better. He was also warned.”

Councillor Clay Bauman agreed: “We’re here to cross the t-s and dot the i-s according to legislation. I’m not happy with the expense but I’m happy with the report on the investigation.”

Councillors, aside from Michelle Wright and John Collins – with Councillor Collins calling the entire misconduct claim “Bulls**t” - agreed to fine Mr Brunker $500 and that he attends training related to his misconduct.

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Cracking The Code With Bowen Zonta

March 17, 2023

The women of Bowen were celebrated at the local Zonta Club’s International Women’s Day celebrations last week, with over 100 guests attending a lively and entertaining evening held at the Grand View Hotel.

The President of the Zonta Club of Bowen, Hortense Ingram, said it was a fantastic evening that concentrated on women in business, specifically in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

“It was a really inspirational evening, and it was great to see a lot of young people attending,” she said.

Abbott Point sponsored 20 tickets which were given to school students and girl guides.

Guest speakers on the evening were three young achievers who shared their stories and Mayor Julie Hall sent a personal video message.

The keynote speaker was Keziah Furnell, a 20-year-old university student, Ninja Warrior and owner and founder of STEM Sisterhood.

Keziah is in her third year of a double degree studying Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (Honours)/ Bachelor of Information Technology at James Cook University.

In 2022 she was the recipient of the Phillip Leong Bursary which enabled her to start her business, STEM Sisterhood, which aims to help reduce gender inequality in STEM fields through the provision of female-centric workshops.

She is also the second-ranked female Ninja Warrior in Australia and will head to compete in the World Titles in America in July.

Doctor Arania Sivasubramaniam also spoke at the event.

She is a local girl who recently returned to Bowen and now works as a GP at the Queens Beach Medical Centre and the Bowen Hospital.

She has a strong passion for women’s health, with a hope to provide these services to rural communities and developing nations.

Bowen local Shannon Willcox spoke on the evening as well.

Shannon was awarded a Zonta Club of Bowen bursary and went on to complete a degree in Business, majoring in Marketing in Townsville.

She now works as a Property Sales Agent who specialises in supporting families on their property journey.

During the festivities, eight local women were recognised for their contribution to the community.

These included Angela Stevens who is a District Girl Guide leader and Newsagent Manager, Gayle O’Keefe who is a Teacher’s Aide at Queens Beach School,  Angela Arbury who is the first female tugboat deckhand in Cairns and Bowen, Horticulturalist Sue Heisswolf and Kate Mee from Abbot Point.

Project Manager of Hillery Group Melissa Simpson was also recognised, along with Stephanie Cora from Bowen Community Centre and Verni Sivasubramaniam who works as an Agricultural Scientist for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

International Women’s Day speakers: Shannon Wilcox, Keziah Furrnell and Arania Sivasubramaniam

Left to right: Jacinta Bezgovsek (Zonta Vice President), Stephanie Cora, Kate Mee, Angela Arbury, Melissa Simpson, Sue Heisswolf, Verni Sivasubramaniam, Angela Stevens, Hortense Ingram (Zonta President), Gayle O’Keefe. Photos supplied

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“Attention Parents”: Is Your Child Ready for Work?

March 17, 2023

Parents are invited to the Get Set for Work information night next week to learn more about the upcoming intensive employment and training assistance program for 15- to 19-year-olds commencing in April.

The initiative is aimed at youth who may no longer be enrolled in schooling and are struggling to find employment and was run successfully in November 2022 with four graduates achieving certifications.

Whitsunday PCYC will again facilitate the skills program to continue assisting in the development of “disengaged teenagers struggling for employment” in the Whitsundays.

Get Set for Work staff will be on hand at the information night on Thursday, March 23, to speak with parents about the program in a Q&A-style presentation, as well as provide local employer engagement opportunities.

The state government project runs for 10 weeks, allowing participants to gain valuable skills and work experience.

In the last Get Set for Work program, Program Coordinator Scott Lynch said his graduates undertook several work placements at businesses across the Whitsundays, including on Hamilton Island and Bredl’s Wild Farm, Woolworths, volunteering at Whitsunday Neighbourhood Centre, Master Butchers Whitsunday, and more.

Mr Lynch said the course is already open for its next intake - planned to begin on April 17 - and is hoping to field an even larger group, including from Proserpine with conversations for transport undergoing.

Parents seeking more information are invited to attend the Get Set for Work Information Night on March 23, starting at 6.15 pm.

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Did You Know?

March 17, 2023

The Council owned Whitsunday Coast Airport services five different airlines which offer direct flights to seven destinations across the country: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Newcastle, with our brilliant airport team currently negotiating for a further three new routes.

As a gateway to the Whitsundays, the airport is set to hit a new record with 550,000 passengers expected travel to the region from all over the world this year. Pre-Covid, Whitsunday Regional Airport welcomed on average 32 flights per week, we now receive up to 65 flights per week during our peak periods!

The Whitsunday Coast Airport not only transports excited holiday makers, it will soon be home to a freight distribution centre which will deliver perishable and non-perishable items to each of its serviced destinations. This is a win, win situation for the region, allowing our agricultural sector to easily export their produce whilst also facilitating the importation of essential goods to the region.

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Chamber Chat

March 17, 2023

Quiet season – what quiet season?

Visitation to the region is booming and businesses are reaping the benefits. Whilst increasing full and more frequent flights are bringing a steady stream of longer term visitors, 17 cruise ships in the last few weeks have inundated Airlie Beach with day trippers coming ashore and spending up big. The combination has resulted in a fantastic February trade for the many small businesses in Airlie who traditionally suffer a significant downturn at this time of year.

Red tape is something that smothers all businesses great and small and for more than a decade CCIQ has been gathering data to better understand the impacts of regulatory burden. The majority of businesses want to see red tape reduction as a priority across all levels of government.

Chambers across Queensland are encouraging businesses to complete CCIQ’s survey in order to produce representative data for their Red Tape report 2023. This report is presented to key government departments to influence change. Don’t just complain about red tape, google CCIQ red tape survey and complete the survey.

The chamber will hold an informal networking breakfast on Thursday, April 20 with a well-known business wellness coach invited and a couple of big announcements to make. In addition, we will be holding a significant panel event as part of small business month in May  – keep an eye out for more details, be great to see you there.

Contributed with thanks to Allan Milostic from Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce.

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Councillor Column With Councillor Jan Clifford

March 17, 2023

It has been a fabulous start to the year in Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays as we welcomed 21 Cruise Ships and over 33,800 passengers and crew ashore across the region.

Not only did these visitors come into our towns and spend money with our local shops and restaurants, but many also took the opportunity to visit some of our wonderful natural attractions such as Whitehaven Beach, the Conway Ranges and the Proserpine River with our local tour operators.

Each passenger and crew member that enjoys a positive experience in our region has the potential to come back again in the future, bringing their friends and family with them. I would like to say a massive thank you to those of you who work tirelessly to make sure their stay with us is as enjoyable as possible and that they leave the Whitsundays with fond memories.  

In other news, upgrades are scheduled to commence on the Bicentennial boardwalk between Coral Sea Marina and Coral Sea Resort from 24 April – June 9 (approx. 6 weeks, subject to weather), resulting in the temporary closure of this section. The work will see the Boardwalk widened by approximately 1 metre, increasing its capacity for future growth and improving safety for users. The project will also see the current natural timber replaced with timber composite material to significantly reduce maintenance costs and prolong the life of the asset.  

This upgrade is essential to renew the asset, plan for our future growth and will greatly enhance access for all in the long term. The Bicentennial boardwalk is an important structure and a great asset to our community. It is imperative that we maintain the safety of the boardwalk so that we can continue to enjoy it for years to come. We hope to undertake similar upgrades to remaining sections of the Boardwalk as grant funding comes available in the future.

I understand that these works may be inconvenient for some people in the short-term, but the end result will be worth it. We will provide appropriate wayfinding signage for users to utilise a detour via Shute Harbour Road and are investigating opportunities with Whitsunday Transit to secure services to the bus stop at Coral Sea Marina. Please check out our Online Engagement Portal project page, Your Say Whitsunday for more information. I appreciate your understanding and patience during this time.

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Local Students Join Reef Ambassador Program

March 17, 2023

Reef Catchments Youth Ambassador Program allows local students with a passion for conservation a chance to design and deliver their own projects.

These projects provide the ambassadors with experience in project management and leadership while increasing awareness around common threats to islands in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).

The program also allows the students to engage and empower our local community to make a difference.

Since its beginning in 2018, students from around the region have created and designed their own projects relating to the conservation of our marine and coastal environments.

Projects have included the production of educational biosecurity videos, creation of community surveys and hands-on projects to assist coral reef restoration.

Now in its fifth and final year, the Youth Ambassadors from Proserpine State High School are working on a sea turtle conservation project in the Whitsunday area.

The project will centre around the protection of turtle habitat, with the details of the project still in the design phase.

The ambassadors also hope to produce a community awareness video based on the threats faced by sea turtles and what the community can do to help.

Indus Fisher, a Youth Ambassador from 2020-2021 alumni says the program was a fantastic experience that has given him skills that he will use for life.

“I have always had a passion for conservation but found it difficult to find opportunities to further my knowledge and skills,” he said.

“The Youth Ambassador Program helped me to achieve this and I’m now using the experience I gained to help me in my Marine Science degree at JCU.

“It was great to meet the current ambassadors and see how passionate they are about their project, and to be able to show them how following the program can lead to plenty of avenues to pursue conservation as a career choice.”

For more information on the Youth Ambassador Program, visit www.reefcatchments.com.au or watch past youth ambassador videos on Reef catchment’s Youtube channel.

Indus Fisher, a Youth Ambassador from Proserpine State High School. Photo supplied

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Sorry Tree To Be Planted For First Nations Of The Whitsundays

March 17, 2023

A First Nations commemorative fabricated tree and plaque are planned for installation at Bowen’s Front Beach after receiving Whitsunday Regional Council approvals.

Aged care and disability service provider Feros Care, an Australian not-for-profit with operations in Bowen, plans to install the 'Sorry Tree' for National Sorry Day on May 26 in a three-stage project.

First Nation Community Development Coordinator at Feros Care Bowen, Jean Andersen said the project is centred around the mental health and well-being of the Whitsundays’ indigenous community, particularly the families of the Stolen Generation.

“Trees are a symbol to stand strong and branch or reach out to someone you trust for help, the roots symbolise connection and belonging to country,” Ms Andersen said.

“With the approval of the project, Council will be supporting the First Nations People of the Whitsunday Region and demonstrate to the community that Council has an understanding of the history along with remembering those past and present survivors of the stolen generation.”

The fabricated tree is planned for installation at a site on the lawns of the Bowen Soundshell, pending construction of the tree by engineering firms.

Whitsunday Regional Councillor Michelle Wright said the large, fabricated tree will serve as a place for the First Nations People of the Whitsundays to have commemorative services ceremonies for years to come.

The three-stage project is anticipating a start date of March 30 when it is proposed that Stage One will consist of a Cross-Cultural Awareness Training Workshop open to the community held at Bowen PCYC.

The workshop will be held with the intent to improve knowledge of community and mainstream organisations around the importance of understanding the Educational and Cultural Experience of First Nations People through their stories, histories, struggles and triumphs.”

Stage Two will consist of integrating knowledge and understandings into workplace policies and procedures through a workshop open to businesses, organisations, schools, allied health services and providers, other mainstream services and the general community.

Ms Andersen said this workshop - to be held at Bowen PCYC as well – is “intended to provide an increased understanding of how to integrate knowledge into the policies, procedures and practices of organisations, schools and businesses.”

“Stage Three will consist of the Ceremonial Opening of the Tree with Traditional Owners, Mayor, Councillors, and attending Members of Parliament.

“There will be traditional dancers performing, live entertainment, kids’ amusement and a sausage sizzle.

“The intent of the Community Day will include all other services and providers to promote their services in the region. This will allow the community to have an insight into how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders manage social and emotional wellbeing through different forms of healing practices.”

A fabricated Sorry Tree will be planted at the Bowen Soundshell to commigrate National Sorry Day and the First Nations people of the Stolen Generation

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Willcox Digs Into Labor On “Unfair” Farmer Tax

March 17, 2023

Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox grilled the Federal Government in last week’s Question Time for “grossly misunderstanding their own policy” in its inadvertent targeting of farmers.

Mr Willcox is hitting back at suggestions that only “fat cats” would be affected by the Federal Government’s decision to double the tax rate from 15 to 30 per cent for earnings in $3 million-plus super funds and warned that “the small end of town” would suffer because of good faith decisions to put their farms and businesses premises in their super funds.

Mr Willcox asked the Assistant Treasurer whether the Superannuation changes would be just “another unfair new tax on family farms and family businesses” -- the Assistant Minister was unable to answer the question directly.

“Unfortunately, this is what we are seeing under this new Government […] weaselling out of questions so they don’t have to front up to ordinary Australians,” Mr Willcox said.

Peak farming bodies have raised similar concerns, such as the National Farmers Federation, who explained how the announcement “throws up significant uncertainty for family farms -- with scant detail on things like grandfathering, treatment of revaluations, or how this might impact lending in a climate of rising costs and interest rates.”

The Dawson MP, once a tomato farmer himself in the Whitsunday town of Bowen, made it clear last week that he will keep shining a light on this “poor policymaking” and “city-centric approach” to government.

“I’m just appalled,” Mr Willcox said.

“Time and time again we are seeing that the Albanese Government do not consider Rural and Regional Australians when making their policy decisions.”

“I will keep listening to our hard working rural and regional men and women that keep this country moving.

“Labor need to be held accountable for hurting those who feed our country.”

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Love Is In The Air

March 17, 2023

Delta Goodrem has been enjoying the glorious North Queensland weather while in the Whitsundays filming the romantic feature film Love Is In The Air.

The film is produced by Brisbane-based company Jaggi Entertainment and supported by the Queensland Government through Screen Queensland, starring Ms Goodrem as Dana Randall, a seaplane pilot flying in the tropics who finds herself falling for the man sent to sink her business, played by Joshua Sasse.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be shooting here in the Whitsundays,” Ms Goodrem said.

“We’ve been made to feel so welcome by the local community.

“I’m enjoying being back on set, portraying a go-getter like Dana and I’m looking forward to sharing the film with audiences.”

Love is in the Air is the latest production to take place in the Whitsundays and Screen Queensland CEO Courtney Gibson said the film will be completely made in Queensland, with the support of the Screen Finance program, Regional Incentive and Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Incentive.

“We are proud to provide end-to-end support for this latest production by Jaggi Entertainment — a Logie and AACTA-nominated company, whose Queensland creations have been hits for industry leaders such as Disney and Hallmark, and topped global Netflix charts,” said Ms Gibson.

“From the first day on set to the last day in the editing suite, Love is in the Air will generate approximately $2.25 million for the state economy and 70 jobs for Queensland cast and crew.”

Ms Gibson highlighted a recent string of productions filmed in the state’s northern regions, including Stan Original series Black Snow and Universal Pictures’ Ticket to Paradise, both filmed in and around the Whitsundays.

“Screen Queensland’s Regional Incentive was created to ensure the benefits of screen production reach communities right across the state, particularly for businesses operating in accommodation, catering, transport, tourism and more,” she said.

Joining the cast of Love is in the Air is Roy Billing (Underbelly, Jack Irish) and comedian Steph Tisdell (Total Control, Class of ‘07), with the film directed by Adrian Powers (Forbidden Ground, A Royal in Paradise).

With the crystal-clear waters and lush landscapes of the Whitsunday Islands the setting, production for Love is in the Air is based in Airlie Beach.

Far North Queensland Screen Champion and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt MP said the push for regional filming in the state’s northern regions is being backed by significant investment from the Queensland Government in programs and facilities.

Love is in the Air is written by Adrian Powers, Caera Bradshaw and Katharine E. McPhee and directed by Adrian Powers.

Producers are Steve Jaggi, Kelly Son Hing and Kylie Pascoe with Executive Producers Lee Matthews, Janine Pearce, Michael Gray and Jip Panosot.

L-R Roy Billing, Steph Tisdell, Director Adrian Powers, Delta Goodrem and Joshua Sasse on the set of Love Is In The Air. Image supplied.

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Charity Trekker Arrives In Airlie

March 9, 2023

A 23-year-old Newcastle woman, who is walking from Australia’s most southern point to its most northern tip, is passing through the Whitsundays this week as part of her mammoth 5,000-kilometre trek.

Bailey Seamer departed from South Point in Wilsons Promontory National Park in May last year and is aiming to reach her destination at the top of Cape York Peninsula in July.

The total trip will take around 15 months with Bailey walking roughly 30 kilometres a day, which takes between six and seven hours.

She is in no rush to get to her destination and says that her priority is connecting with communities and advocating for mental health along the way.

Bailey was 14 when she was diagnosed with depression and 19 when she was told she had Bi-Polar.

For a long time, she didn’t know how it would be possible to lead a normal life, hold down a job or maintain relationships.

She spent a lot of time in the mental health ward of a hospital and for days she could not get out of bed.

Then, she “woke up one day and thought – that’s it!” – she left the hospital and walked the full 30 kilometres back to her family home.

This was the first of many steps for Bailey who uses walking as a form of medicine for the mind.

“I was looking for a healthy outlet and I thought – I am really good at walking!” she explains.

Eventually, a love of walking prompted her to embark on this challenging trek that has tested her mettle, endurance and grit.

Bailey has been using her savings from working as a Covid tester at the mines for a year to self-fund her trip and is also sponsored by her dad’s small business.

Over the past nine months, she has also raised $45,000 for the Black Dog Institute which helps make positive change in mental health research, education and innovation.

When she first started, Bailey walked solo, spending seven months sleeping on sofas, camping in backyards and in the occasional free hotel room.

When heat and access to water became bigger issues her partner, Sean, joined her and has been driving a support vehicle ever since.

“When I first started, I found it really hard to accept help from others,” she said.

“But it’s been amazing seeing the generosity of people along the way.”

During her journey Bailey has stopped to engage with communities, connecting with schools, community groups and individuals to help to inspire better mental health.

“When I was sick in hospital, I made a promise to myself that I would become the person I needed,” she said.

By talking with people who are living through their own challenges with mental health, she hopes to show them how it is possible to live a fulfilling life with Bi-Polar.

While in the Whitsundays, Bailey is open to talking with any individuals in the community.

She is here until Saturday and contactable on her Facebook page ‘Wandering Minds’ if you want to catch up with her.

To donate, go to wandering-minds.org.

If this article has brought up anything for you or triggered any challenging emotions, then remember you are not alone.

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14

Whitsunday Suicide Prevention Network 4945 2858

Bailey Seamer, who is walking 5,000 kilometres for mental health, standing with her partner Sean Fox in Airlie Beach. Photo supplied

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Editor's Note

March 9, 2023

Hi Everyone,

On Sunday I took the family along to Clean Up Australia Day down at Coral Sea Marina and it was wonderful to see how many people participated this year.

Parents with strollers, families with brimmed hats and sunnies, couples enjoying a morning walk, individuals who wanted to be part of the movement.

To think that thousands of other people right across the country were all doing the same thing made me feel warm inside and proud to live in a great nation where people contribute, and take responsibility for cleaning up their own backyard.

On Sunday no one was saying – “that’s not my litter, why should I clean it up?”

Everyone was saying: “This country is beautiful, let’s do our bit to make sure it stays that way!”

We decided to venture off to Cannonvale Beach and on the way, we saw some dedicated adults scouring the sides of Shute Harbour Road with their big hessian sacks in-hand.

They were doing a fabulous job.

As we had children with us, we opted for the safety of parks and beaches.

We trawled along in the hot sun and the younger two children were distracted, ambling along and making small, very occasional attempts to pick up litter.

The 10-year-old, however, was on a mission to save the planet!

She jubilantly cried out whenever she spotted a bit of colourful plastic or bottle top and left no stone unturned.

It was wonderful to see her enjoying time with her dad who loved following her around with the hessian sack ready to fill.

In the end, we had a good collection, but I have to say it was not as much as I thought we would collect.

The reason for this is that our parklands and beaches are just too clean!

And this pristine backyard is thanks to everyone putting litter in bins and of course Parks and Gardens for cleaning up so well.


Quote of the Week: “To leave the world better than you found it, sometimes you have to pick up other people’s trash” (Bill Nye)

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There For You When You Need Us

March 9, 2023

What was a routine call out for VMR Whitsundays was nothing of the sort for a local 10-year-old.

The local Volunteer organisation provided a medical evacuation from Nara Inlet in late January after a young boy was injured when a fishhook became deeply embedded in his hand – an experience that was undoubtedly traumatic.

But the young fisherman was set at ease by the local Crew and let them know how much he appreciated their assistance by sending them a thank you card weeks later.

“As a 10-year-old boy I felt so safe onboard VMR and the crew who went above and beyond,” the youngster wrote.

“Thank you for coming to my rescue for what felt like the scariest time of mum and dad’s life. I appreciate all of the crew, the skipper, and all involved braving that massive swell those huge waves and poor visibility.

“I will never forget that crazy afternoon fishing for a red snapper but instead I hooked myself. I was so happy to see those lights on the VMR rescue boat.

“The smiles from the crew gave me reassurance it’ll be okay.”

VMR representatives said receiving the letter at a local barbecue gave them a great deal of satisfaction and emphasised that they were “there for you when you need us.”

“It was so nice for our Crew to know he had recovered well,” a VMR spokesperson said.

“It made the trip in squally, rainy and generally unpleasant conditions on that particular evening worthwhile.”

A 10-year-old's thankyou card to VMR Whitsundays for helping him when a fishhook became embedded in his hand

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Marine Sting in Busy Weekend For Rescue Helicopter

March 9, 2023

RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter airlifted a man stung on the face by an Irukandji jellyfish in Whitsunday waters in one of seven missions across last weekend for the region’s dedicated air rescue service.

The 41-year-old New South Wales man was stung on the face by the venomous jellyfish while swimming at Hamilton Island on March 3.

The RACQ CQ Rescue onboard medical team were tasked by Queensland Health with retrieving anti-venom for the patient from Mackay Base Hospital at about 9.45 AM on Friday before flying 90 kilometres north to Hamilton Island airport.

The patient, who was holidaying in the Whitsundays, was in “considerable pain” and suffering symptoms of the potentially deadly Irukandji syndrome when the helicopter crew arrived.

He was quickly transferred to Mackay Base Hospital in a serious condition.

In a further Whitsunday mission, the first on Sunday night, the helicopter rescue crew were tasked by Queensland Health with the transfer of a seriously ill patient from Proserpine to Mackay Base Hospital with a respiratory condition.

In nearby Ayr, an elderly man was airlifted after falling from a roof at 11.45 AM Monday.

The 73-year-old Ayr man was flown to Townsville University Hospital with suspected broken bones and serious internal injuries and is now in a serious but stable condition.

The RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter landed at Hamilton Island airport to airlift a marine sting victim to Mackay Base Hospital

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Proserpine Youth of the Year Wins Zonal Crown

March 9, 2023

Scarlett Foti, the Proserpine Lions Club Youth of the Year 2023, continued her winning ways at the ‘Zone Final’ of the organisation’s annual program in Home Hill last weekend.

The Proserpine State High School student was awarded the Zone Youth of the Year at Home Hill Lions Club on Saturday, March 4, as Lions Club members from Whitsunday, Proserpine, Collinsville, and Bowen watched on.

The annual Lions Australia Program invites 16- to 17-year-old students to test their public speaking and interview skills in front of a crowd and panel of judges.

Contestants representing each of the Zone’s Lions Clubs were asked two impromptu questions and were given two minutes to respond. The first: Assuming Aliens exist, how would you explain earth and humans to a visitor? The other: If you could invite any guest speaker living or dead, who would it be and why?

After answering these questions, the students were then allowed to give a pre-prepared speech with a time limit of five minutes.

Proserpine Lions Club member Horace Lowbridge said all contestants were excellent and “are a credit to their schools.”

Ms Foti will now represent the Proserpine Lions Club in the District Final in Townsville on Saturday, March 18 of this year.

Lions Club Youth of the Year 2023 Winners across the district zones: Teagan Rodriguez, Whitsunday; Hannah Moore, Bowen; Zone YOTY winner and Public Speaking Award winner Scarlett Foti, Proserpine; Rilee Mackie, Collinsville; and Martina Bojack, Home Hill

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Airlie’s Beach – Dirt Or Debris?

March 9, 2023

High tides and wild weather are a fact of life in the Whitsundays and these natural phenomena often cause marine debris to wash up on our shores.

With Airlie Beach considered the gateway to the Whitsundays and many tourists’ first impression of our region, some locals believe that the ‘beach’ in Airlie Beach could do with a clean-up.

“Why can’t we have a machine that cleans the beach every morning, just like they have in the Gold Coast,” said one local who asked to stay anonymous.

While the Whitsundays is known for its sparkling turquoise ocean and picturesque bays, it is the main-land beaches that often suffer the brunt of tidal surges that deposit debris on the sand.

Director of Infrastructure Services for Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC), Adam Hagy, said that local beaches are cleaned on average six to eight times a year.

“The Parks and Gardens teams conduct beach clearing at Airlie Beach, Boathaven Beach, Shingley Beach and Cannonvale Beach, and the multiple beaches in Bowen on an as-required basis,” he explained.

“Parks and Gardens monitor the condition of all the beaches in our region, especially after storms or the wet season and when the northerly winds blow and bring in the debris of leaf matter and driftwood.”

WRC strategically plan beach clean-ups to be most effective and to coincide with when they are needed most, such as following high and king tides.

“Parks and Gardens wait until the tides are low then conduct the cleaning works,” said Mr Hagy.

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Cannonvale Woman Wins $127,000 On Lotto

March 9, 2023

A local family is celebrating this week following a life-changing lotto win that will enable them to buy their first home.

The mum, who has chosen to remain anonymous, said that initially she’d thought they’d won $16,000 and was astounded when she discovered it was so much more.

“I didn’t realise how much it was at first and was jumping around thinking it was $16,000,” she laughed.

“When it dawned on me that it was more than $120,000, I was speechless.

“I called my husband and he was shaking! He didn’t even believe me at first!

“This will change our lives, it’s absolutely amazing.”

The winning woman said that she had been manifesting their win.

“Everything revolves around the number 6 in our lives, it’s our lucky number,” she said.

“I told my family last week that I was going to try Super 66 and to put into the world thoughts about winning so we might be able to buy our first home.

“Lo and behold, it seemed to work and we’re going to be able to find our family home after all!”

The family’s winning numbers in the Super 66 draw were 9, 9, 3, 6, 9 and 8.

The ticket was purchased online.

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Housing Shortages Connected To Teacher Cuts

March 9, 2023

A Whitsundays school has restructured classes and lost teachers due to a lack of student enrolments that it believes are connected to families moving away from the area because they can no longer find somewhere to live.

“We have not had the numbers of children enrolled that was anticipated,” said a statement from the school.

“Unfortunately, many of our families have not had anywhere to live and have had to move, one of the sad realities we are finding in the post pandemic world.”

As a result, an agreement was reached with some of the teachers to either relocate entirely or transfer to other schools within the region.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education said that staffing allocations are based on enrolments, and as enrolments fluctuate the state-wide teacher transfer system places teachers where they are most needed while ensuring class sizes remain at the right level.

“The Department undertakes comprehensive workforce planning to ensure there is a sustainable supply of teachers to meet the demands of state schools across Queensland,” said the spokesperson.

“This process does not affect the employment status of teachers under permanent contracts.

“School leaders also have autonomy and access to additional funding to invest in workforce as required.”

It is understood that all staffing changes at the local school were forged on an amicable agreement between the school and the teachers involved.

The Principal said they hoped the restructure did not cause too much disruption to the school community and thanked the multitude of staff who made it possible.

“I want to reiterate that it has only happened due to necessity,” they said.

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Plans for $200,000 Airlie Beach Place of Refuge

March 9, 2023

Whitsunday Regional Council has taken the first steps towards the construction of a $200,000 Airlie Place of Refuge.

Council’s Director of Infrastructure Services Adam Hagy said that Council is seeking a contribution of 50 per cent of the funding for the project through the Disaster Ready Fund Round 1.

“This funding will allow us to pursue concept designs and feasibility studies,” Mr Hagy said.

“It is envisaged that the end product of this project would be located on Waterson Way, but that is yet to be determined through a feasibility study and further community consultation as the project develops.”

The project will encompass project planning to deliver a place of refuge in Airlie Beach, eventually providing a place for residents in Cannonvale, Jubilee Pocket, Airlie Beach, Mandalay, and Shute Harbour to evacuate to in the event of a severe weather incursion.

During these initial stages, the project will include original project scoping with community consultation through concept and detailed design and cost estimation.

Mr Hagy said the project is two-fold, with a chase for it to serve both the area as an emergency shelter and also as a car parking facility.

"Whilst it is a place of refuge, we're also considering a report in March 2022 that identified by 2036 Council would need an additional 486 car parks in Airlie Beach CBD," Mr Hagy said.

“That is due to population growth and tourism influx.”

Currently, in the event of a major weather event, whether that be fire, flood, or storm– such as Cyclone Debbie in 2017 – residents were only able to utilise a place of refuge in Proserpine and Bowen.

The initial steps for the construction of an Airlie Beach Place of Refuge have begun as Whitsunday Regional Council seeks funding

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Hillery Group Win State Award

March 9, 2023

One of our region’s largest private employers is celebrating this week following the announcement that they won the Queensland Telstra Best of Business Award for Indigenous-led, owned and operated businesses succeeding through entrepreneurialism, innovation and inspiring the next generation of all Australians.

Hillery Group triumphed over 20,000 other applicants to bring the State award home to Bowen and Chief Executive Officer, Luke Hillery, said he is thrilled with the outcome.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said.

“We are not in business to get accolades; we do it because we enjoy it and want to create a future for everyone at Hillery Group – but it is a nice feeling to have won this award.”

“We are extremely passionate and proud to create employment pathways for many young people in our community and we have high regard for the young Indigenous.

“We believe in equal opportunity and that everyone deserves a chance.”

The Hillery Group is a second-generation civil construction and quarry company that employs 120 local staff and is operated by brothers, Luke and Liam Hillery.

The business was founded by their parents who started out with just one truck for hire back in the 1980s.

The group now run five quarries, have multiple sand leases, deliver large civil projects and own over 300 assets which include trucks, excavators, loaders and graders.

In an impassioned speech on the awards night, Luke thanked his parents for their legacy and for wanting to create a better life for their family which is now thriving into another generation of Hillery’s.

He also thanks his parents for the mentorship he and his brother have received which has helped immensely since they took over and expanded the business further.

Special mention was also made to all past and present employees at Hillery Group who are the reason behind Hillery Groups success.

The Hillery family have indigenous ancestry stretching back to the Kalkadoon Tribe and have incredible stories of survival that date back through their father’s line to 1885.

As a result, the Hillery Group has always been proud of, and deeply connected to their indigenous roots.

Winning the Indigenous Excellence Award at State level gives the Hillery brothers automatic entry into the National Telstra Business Awards which are due to be held in Melbourne at the end of the month.

On the first day, they will make a presentation to a board and answer a series of questions.

They will then attend the award ceremony the following night to discover whether they have won.

Either way, Luke said they feel like winners and that the experience has been a great opportunity to reflect on the success of their business and the contribution made by everyone who is part of the broader “Hillery family”.

Owners of Hillery Group, Luke and Liam Hillery, accepting their Telstra Better Business Award for Indigenous Excellence in Brisbane last week. Photo supplied

The Hillery Family and management team attended the awards in Brisbane last week

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Councillor Column - With Mayor Julie Hall

March 9, 2023

Excited to say Councillors and I kicked off our 2023 Community Catch-ups last week with over 60 people turning up to the Dingo Beach Progress Association.

I am a huge advocate of face-to-face engagement with residents in the Whitsunday region and topics discussed at the first catch-up included land and natural resource management, local projects, disaster preparation resources, town planning, the upcoming budget process and community consultations relevant to the Gloucester community.

The community catch ups provide Councillors the opportunity to better connect with our smaller communities, build relationships, share information, and gather feedback on local issues.

Face to face catch ups allow us to facilitate a two-way flow of information, updating residents on Council projects relevant to them and listen to issues affecting the local community.

Upcoming catch ups are planned for Gumlu/Cape Upstart, Collinsville, Conway, Scottville, Shute Harbour, and Mt Coolon.

To keep up to date with upcoming catchups or if you have any ideas or topics you would like to discuss, checkout our online engagement portal Your Say.

I am aware that the new Shute Harbour boat ramp’s fixed walkway design has caused angst within our local boating community due to changing tidal levels.

The boat ramp is a state-owned government funded asset and they advised that the boat ramp needed to be constructed to withstand another cyclone and a walkway didn’t exist prior to Cyclone Debbie.

Shortly after being elected, I raised community’s concerns about the boat ramp issue in talks with Minister Mark Bailey late last year.

I am grateful that the Minister had given an assurance that he would arrange a meeting onsite with Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) later this month.

Our aim now is to work with DTMR and MSQ to explore possible solutions to make the current boat ramp more user friendly based on community feedback.

Our hard-working road crews are currently completing the last of our re-sealing works program which includes $1.7 million dollars’ worth of works across 26 roads.

Our road network that Council maintains is huge as we look after more than 1780km of roads across the diverse Whitsunday region.

When severe weather events occur, we activate the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements from State and Federal Governments. It works as insurance for our roads to alleviate costs to ratepayers, but the process takes time.

Since October 2021 we’ve had multiple severe weather events impact our roads here in the Whitsundays. We’ve repaired over 80 damaged roads, costing over $23 million of disaster recovery funding.

Council is currently working with the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) to secure funding for the last weather event in January, with an estimated $65 million dollars in claims being applied for.

We are also in constant talks with QRA and the District Disaster Management Group to find a solution for the Ted Cunningham bridge repair and to restore better access for residents.

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A Mana Magnificent Day Spa Experience

March 9, 2023

The newly rebranded Mana Skin, Body & Soul at the Port of Airlie launched its new and timeless branding last week, introducing an exciting era of blissed-out packages and indulgent experiences as Airlie’s only Day Spa.

For the past five years, Vartamana Yoga & Spa has been operating from the site, but when its new owner, Jess Kent, took the helm late last year she decided it was time for a refresh.

“I wanted something that was still related to the previous name but suited our new concept” she explains.

“Mana came to me for a few reasons – it has many meanings in different cultures relating to healing, inner strength and Prestige”.

“The meaning behind the word just seemed to really resonate with what we are trying to do.”

With the name decided, Jess engaged her sister to design a new logo and the brand was officially launched at a special event last week.

As part of the re-brand, Jess said that Mana Skin Body & Soul is stepping away from yoga so it can focus entirely on Spa Experiences that range from luxury couple’s massages to float tank relaxation and advanced skin treatments. A place where you can rejuvenate your Skin, Body & Soul.

Their new Oxygeneo Treatment is perfect for this climate because there is no downtime afterwards. It offers Radiofrequency Skin Tightening, Oxygenation and Ultrasound Infusion, leaving your skin glowing.

While other Advanced Skin treatments are conducted in a more clinical setting, Mana Skin Body & Soul offers the same advanced options but in the comfort of their relaxing spa surrounds.

“You can come in and get your skin needling but at the same time you can also get a neck and shoulder massage, hot towels on your feet and all the other little things that make it more of an experience,” said Jess.

The OxyGeneo machine is a three-in-one super facial that tightens skin.

“It’s a really amazing machine!” said Jess.

“Technology has come such a long way from where it started – it used to be painful and uncomfortable, now it’s like a warm face massage that stimulates and reorganises your collagen.”

Mana Skin Body & Soul will also focus on its Day Spa experiences for locals celebrating special occasions, holidaymakers visiting our region and everyone in between.

With 15 staff and six large treatment rooms, two of which can be transformed into an indulgent couple’s massage areas, there are plenty of massage styles to choose from.

Many clients like to add a Float Tank to their experience, completing their relaxation ritual with the ultimate indulgence.

With the only Float Tank in Airlie Beach, it is easy to simply book the extra add-on.

“It has so many health benefits,” explains Jess.

“We have people come in with injuries and then others with anxiety and depression – you walk in and float out!”

A Float Tank is an enclosed bath full of room temperature water and Epson salts so you ‘float’ when you get inside.

It works by providing complete sensory deprivation, allowing the individual to drift into a calm state of relaxation.

One hour in a Float Tank has the same effects on your body as eight hours of sleep.

With a broad and thoughtful selection of experiential treatments, Mana Skin Body & Soul is delivering both a progressive and indulgent service to the Whitsundays.

For a full list of their services and to book Airlie’s only Day Spa head to manaspa.com.au.

Owner of Mana Skin Body & Soul, Jess Kent, with her team. Photo credit: Rachael Smith

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Star Car Comes To Town

March 9, 2023

Coral Sea Marina hosted Star FM’s Star Car this week thanks to a promotional drive operated in partnership with Tourism Whitsundays to gain exposure for Sunday’s Clean Up Australia Day.

Tayla Hughes from Star FM has been driving the Star Car for almost three years and she says it is always a pleasure to come to the Whitsundays, especially when it is for a good cause.

“It’s great to be here and really important we all support this worthy cause,” she said.

“Especially because we live so close to the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve all got to work together to keep the reef clean and this community event will help us do just that.”

Tayla and her Star Car were crossing live from Coral Sea Marina on Thursday last week.

During the broadcast she was giving away vouchers, merchandise and anyone who called in could put their name on the list to win a $500 voucher.

Broadcasting live from the Whitsundays every few months, where will you see Tayla and the Star Car next?

Tayla Hughes from Star FM

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On Location With Cait Fleming From Tourism Whitsundays

March 9, 2023

Discovering the best parts of the Whitsundays and promoting them to media all over the country is a major part of Cait Fleming's role at Tourism Whitsundays.

This week she hit the road and spent a day in beautiful Bowen where she met with the team from Bowen Tourism and Business.

Manager Leanne Abernethy and her two staff, Kerry and Ellie, were eager to show Cait the wide range of mango-inspired products they have in store.

With plentiful merchandise and an enthusiastic team creating the best of first impressions, the Big Mango Tourism Information Centre is sure to be top of the list for incoming tourists as they get their bearings.

Cait also met with Addy from Rose Bay Resort and the team at Queens Beach Tourist Village who had recently won gold for the Best Large Caravan Park category in the Grey Nomads awards.

Touring the accommodation in person gave Cait a first-hand insight into the tourist experience at each location and the standard of facilities offered.

“It was such a great day!” said Cait.

“I now have a new appreciation for Bowen - the beaches are spectacular and the service was outstanding everywhere I went.

“Bowen is a destination for so many now, from grey nomads right through to young families and it’s easy to see why it’s the perfect relaxed beachside holiday.”

Cait is originally from Airlie Beach but spent a lot of her childhood visiting her grandparents in Bowen.

Her immediate family still live in Airlie Beach making it a very hard place for Cait to leave – not that she would ever want to!

Spending much of her working career in tourism and marketing, Cait has operated her own business, worked with Flight Centre and also Cruise Whitsundays.

She started her current role with Tourism Whitsundays last August and says she loves the depth and breadth of her role promoting every part of the Whitsundays to media and travel agents all over the world.

Cait Fleming, Publicity and Communications Executive at Tourism Whitsundays with Kerry Meier from Bowen Tourism and Business at Flagstaff Hill. Photo supplied

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A Creative Community

March 9, 2023

Just over a year ago, when a Proserpine local opened a pop-up shop during the Christmas period she discovered a community of creatives that had an abundance of stock but nowhere to sell it.

This inspired her to transform her pop-up into a permanent store which now hosts the creative products of almost 40 small retailers, giving them a home in the “shop within a shop”.

Jade Richardson opened Proserpine Crafty Gifts over Christmas 2021, putting her husband’s empty tile shop project to good use by filling the leased space with hand-made colourful gift ideas.

Closing the shop in January, Jade soon realised she missed the community connection and soon decided to re-launch, but this time as Whitsunday Creatives.

“I have five children and I’d spent 11 years at home as a stay-at-home mum,” said Jade.

“It was great being back with the people, connecting with others and having fun!”

For the past 12 months, Jade has been carefully curating the ultimate gift store that is bursting with unique, often handmade treasures.

From homemade candles to leather purses, intricately designed jewellery, unique wooden chopping boards, colourful artworks, skin care products, soaps, local honey and sock savers.

“There are lots of little shops with the shop,” she said.

“We give people who wouldn’t usually be able to sell items through a shop the opportunity to be part of something.”

“They can play around with their product range, have fun with it and sell it easily so they can focus on the joy of making it.”

There are now over 35 local small businesses showcasing their products at Whitsunday Creatives and customers enjoy the diverse range of gift ideas, with the extra bonus of knowing each purchase supports a local.

Whitsunday Creatives was recently recognised for their efforts when they won an award for the Most Outstanding Whitsundays Retailer at the 2022 Whitsundays Tourism Awards.

Jade is now looking forward to expanding her offering by introducing a floristry to the store.

She also hosts a range of school holiday workshops including dream catcher making, flower arranging and jewellery making.

Jade Richardson, founder of Whitsunday Creatives. Photo credit: Rachael Smith

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Lions Welcomes Entire Family To Its Ranks

March 9, 2023

Four members of the same family were welcomed into The Proserpine Lions Club at the organisation’s dinner meeting at the Grand Central Hotel, Proserpine on March 1.

Proserpine Lions Club representative Horace Lowbridge said this is the first time the Club has inducted an entire family at the same time.

Kim, Misty, Rob, and Eddie Bland were officially “brought into the fold” by members Lisa Atkinson and Club President Joe Little in a small ceremony, and welcomed them with open arms.

The non-for-profit club is a collection of people who are “involved in humanitarian efforts locally, nationally, and internationally” with the Lions International organisation having a more than respectable reputation.

The Club is on a worldwide “Mission to Serve” with the goals of empowering Lions clubs, volunteers, and partners to improve health and well-being, strengthen communities, and support those in need through charitable services and grants that impact lives globally, and encourage peace and international understanding.

Club President Joe Little said he was proud to welcome an entire family in one ceremony, welcoming these “ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

“Supporting people with a disability, community greening, fundraising for worthwhile cause, that is what being a part of the change and the Proserpine Lions Club is about,” he said.

Lions Club members strive to make a difference in their local community as well as in communities worldwide, volunteering their time to go beyond to address unmet health and education needs worldwide.

For more information on joining the Proserpine Lions Club, contact the local organisation on Facebook.

The entire Bland family was inducted into the Proserpine Lions earlier this month. Pictured are Lisa Atkinson, Kim Bland, Misty Bland, Rob Bland, Eddie Bland, and Charlie Atkinson

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Clean Up Whitsundays

March 9, 2023

Over 100 Whitsunday locals participated in Clean Up Australia Day on Sunday, collecting litter from both land and sea to contribute to keeping our local environment cleaner for all to enjoy.

The official Clean Up Day in the Whitsundays was hosted by Coral Sea Marina and organisers were thrilled to see such a big turnout.

“We were thrilled to see an incredible number of volunteers, including so many families and children, who braved the heat and joined us this Clean Up Australia Day to pick up litter,” said Joscelyn O’Keefe, Head of Marketing and Business Development.

“It proved once again that Clean Up Australia Day is a fantastic opportunity for the local community to band together and collectively work towards protecting our beautiful backyard.”

Much of the on-land litter consisted of soft plastics and cigarettes, but other items included food containers, fishing nets and even a swag.

Local charter company Whitsunday Escape led the sea component of Clean Up Day, taking 30 family and friends out to Double Cone Island on two vessels.

They collected an impressive 250kg in one morning and items included toothbrushes, thongs, lighters and bottle tops.

Their message to the community is to be mindful of what goes overboard while sailing as, despite the islands looking clean from the distance, a lot of litter is washed up with the tides.

Tangaroa Blue/Reef Clean will now audit the collected litter and record findings in the Australian Marine Debris database.

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Bowen Family Awarded Farmer Of The Year

March 9, 2023

A long-standing Bowen farming family has been awarded 2022 Farmer of the Year in the Weekly Times which is Australia’s biggest rural news publication.

The Jurgens family operate VJK Produce and their efforts in innovation, sustainability and technology were recognised when they took home the award in the Horticulture category.

The family have been farming in Bowen for 100 years, with Jamie Jurgens’ parents starting out with just 20 acres of tomatoes.

VJK Produce is now farming close to 3,000 acres and for the past 12 years, since his parents retired, Jamie has been operating the farm with his wife Melita.

Their two adult children, Jessica and Jacob, are now also working back on the farm having returned with Agricultural Business Degrees.

VJK Produce grows a range of vegetables including green beans, sweet corn, pumpkin and mini capsicums.

This works alongside their organic range of green beans, sweetcorn, melons, tomatoes, pumpkins and mini capsicums.

Jamie Jurgens said he was thrilled to be recognised with the award, but that it is a reflection of the whole workforce of nearly 200 employees.

“It’s nice to be recognised for our whole team’s efforts,” he said.

“These awards aren’t won by an individual; it takes everyone to make it work. It’s really rewarding to have people around who share our passions and make a difference in agriculture, it makes you feel good about going to work.”

When asked what features of the business he believed warranted the award, Jamie said that he thinks it is their ability to innovate and the way they operate as a business.

“We have a sustainable approach to growing and use non-chemical fertiliser,” he said.

“We’ve also built an insectary which breeds insects to eat other insects, we’ve had it for four years now and it is the backbone to our organics.”

Jamie said their other successes include their ability to adapt to technology and also their ongoing partnership with Kal Fresh, a company in the south that also farm 3,000 acres.

By teaming up with the other farm, they can produce vegetables all year round.

“Being able to create the farming system we have, is a huge achievement,” said Jamie.

“To hand it over to the next generation in as good, if not better, condition than how we got it is one of my biggest goals.”

“Food is always going to be put on the table – farming is one of the biggest renewable resources and with every new crop there is a new opportunity and a positive future for agriculture done right.”

The Jurgens family – Jacob, Jamie, Melita and Jessica – who own and operate VJK Produce. Photo supplied

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Monty Embury Helped Put the Whitsundays on the Map

March 9, 2023

Continuing his story …

On his first expedition, Monty Embury visited Hayman Island and decided there and then that he would make this island his headquarters in the future. He acquired the lease from Boyd Lee and set up a permanent base there, hosting two trips a year.

Most of the tourists came by train to Proserpine and launch from Cannon Valley but some came by a coastal steamer which also brought day trippers. The deal was £1 a day with BYO bedding, dishes and cutlery. Naturally, Embury made sure the island was highly organised with a doctor, a post office, a sheep pen and later its own bakery on site and kerosene lighting throughout. Electricity did not reach Proserpine until 1929. In 1932, he advertised Hayman as having tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, a shark proof swimming pool, a field research station and a port for interstate steamships.

In all, Embury organised eleven expeditions to the Whitsundays, all of which were marketed in NSW. Accounts of the trips appeared in the state newspapers and reunion parties were held. Monty himself published a booklet “The Great Barrier Reef” and numerous articles. In addition, links with the Australian Museum, surveys and specimen displays all publicised the reef as both a scientific and tourist destination.

Embury had plans to expand his operations by obtaining the leases to Hook, Langford, Black and Arkhurst Islands but found the government condition to spend £10,000 in seven years on tourist development too onerous, particularly as the Great Depression was putting restraints on tourism.

He stopped organising his Whitsunday expeditions after 1934 but continued to support his successors, the Hallams, as a publicity and booking agent in Sydney. The Whitsundays was not the only destination for Embury’s organised trips. In total, he coordinated thirty-seven expeditions to serious locations including arranging bird watching trips for the Gould League of Bird Lovers with his brother, Arch. Another interesting expedition he arranged was to Alice Springs for a party of forty people, all of whom travelled in a convoy of eight Model A Fords.

In the mid 1930s, Monty returned to teaching and remained in the profession until his retirement in 1956 with a break during World War Two when he rejoined the army. He had three children with his first wife, Honora and four more with his second wife, Dorothy. Edwin Montague Embury died in 1961.

In the words of eminent local historian, the late Ray Blackwood: “Thus ended the career of a man who in his own way helped to put the Whitsundays on the map while bringing knowledge and enjoyment to many hundreds of participants. His reward obviously was personal satisfaction with a job well done and little, if any, thought or realisation of financial return.”

Story courtesy of Proserpine Historical Museum and “The Whitsunday Islands – An Historical Dictionary” by Ray Blackwood.  Photo sourced from John Oxley Library.

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Tourism Whitsundays Networking Night

March 2, 2023

At Kipara Tropical Rainforest Retreat

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Editor's Note

March 2, 2023

This week when I was running on the treadmill at the gym, I saw a woman doing a fitness class in the next room with her 12-month-old baby in her arms.

I was amazed at how determined she was to continue with her class despite her restless baby demanding her attention.

Instead of giving up, she simply scooped the bubba up and carried on.

The baby was delighted and didn’t even mind the jogs and jostles of her mum working out.

What a hero!

This week we are celebrating International Women’s Day with a special feature that profiles 15 different women in our community from a variety of industries.

I had the pleasure of meeting many of them at the front-page photo shoot earlier this week and I was amazed at how quickly these complete strangers became friends.

Within minutes of their arrival, they were chatting animatedly about their businesses and handing business cards to each other – it had become somewhat of a networking event!

When you see them linking arms in the photo, it reflects this genuine feeling of kinship.

I loved watching this instant camaraderie and it reminded me of our female superpowers – that of love, empathy and connection.  

One other woman I know who brings these qualities to the world in everything she does is my own mother – Jan – who is (as I write this) on her way to the Whitsundays from England.

Thanks for travelling all the way over here by yourself mum, you are my truest role model and I love you so much.


(my childhood nickname!)

Quote of the Week: “Your graciousness is what carries you. It isn’t how old you are, how beautiful you are, or how short your skirt is. It’s what comes out of your heart. If you are gracious, you have won the game” (Stevie Nicks)

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“Anything To Get Out Of Packing!”

March 2, 2023

When Judith Miller Backway was woken by a “big crash” at 3 am, she raced out of her bedroom to find her husband on the bathroom floor in terrible pain.

She immediately called an ambulance to their Cannonvale address and was relieved when it arrived some minutes later.

They rushed him to Proserpine Hospital where it was initially thought to be a heart attack but after further investigation, they discovered he had a Ruptured Aortic Arterial Aneurism.

He was then taken by the RACQ CQ Rescue helicopter to Townsville Hospital where he was treated by a vascular surgeon.

Afterwards, his wife found out that eight out of 10 people who suffer from the same condition do not survive the trip to the hospital.

“We’d like to say a huge thank you to all the medical teams involved,” said Judith.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know their names, but everyone from the paramedics to every doctor, nurse, pilot and the helicopter doctors were just amazing!”

Since the incident, which took place earlier this month, Judith said they found out that this type of aneurism has no symptoms and no warning.

“Most people find out when it ruptures and by then it is too late,” said Judith.

“But you can ask your doctor to refer you for a routine ultrasound which would pick it up and I wish more people knew that.”

Judith says her husband is now doing well and that they have been able to complete their move down to Hervey Bay, but he has been on very light duties.

“He said he’d do anything to get out of the packing,” said Judith.

“But this was a step too far!”

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Near Drowning, Incredible Rescue

March 2, 2023

A four-year-old is lucky to be alive after he nearly drowned at a resort pool on Hamilton Island late last month.

If it were not for the quick-thinking holidaymakers that were first to arrive at the scene, and spent three crucial minutes resuscitating him, then he may have died.

Jason Chivers and his wife, Dr Britt Christensen, who are from Melbourne were holidaying with a group of other families and their own three children when they heard screams.

They turned around to see a mother carrying her child from the pool, he was blue and not breathing.

The mother turned the boy over and tried to smack his back, but Britt, who was 31 weeks pregnant at the time, jumped into action.

They managed to calm the mother down and lay the boy on his back, ensured his airway was clear and then began CPR.

“At first it was not working as there were too many people, but we managed to get everyone out of the way and get the sequence right,” recalls Jason.

“Seeing the child’s chest go up and down – I still see it so clearly today – we have a nearly four-year-old and it was just so much to take in.”

There was a large crowd of families watching, but after about three minutes Jason said he saw a flicker.

“His eyes moved, and we continued CPR and then I saw emotion come on his face, in twitches,” said Jason.

“All of a sudden, we heard a big scream come from the child and I was just waiting to hear his voice so that we knew he had brain function and that’s when he screamed – Mum! Mum! Mum! – and he did a massive vomit of water and then a huge burp.”

A few minutes later the fire brigade arrived and so did the ambulance service.

When Britt got to her feet, she had severe burns on her knees and the family will always remember the traumatic day.

Jason managed to speak to the boy’s mother afterwards and she explained that her son had been wearing his floaty and that she had gone to a sun lounger to get his goggles so they could practice swimming in the deep end.

Somehow, in those few minutes, he had gotten out of his floaty and into the deep end of the pool.

The pool was very crowded at the time and the mother could not see her son at first, but after a frantic few minutes, she found him submerged.

“It’s amazing how quickly they can slip under the water without a noise, in a crowded pool and for nobody to notice,” said Jason.

Fortunately, there is a happy outcome to this incident but it acts as a stark reminder that children need constant visual supervision in the water.

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Mayor Makes Headway On Shute Harbour Boat Ramp

March 2, 2023

Last Thursday, Mayor Julie Hall announced that she had been speaking with the Department of Transport and Main Roads (DTMR) and has arranged an onsite meeting at the Shute Harbour boat ramp in late March.

The boat ramp has been a point of contention for boat-owners within our community since it opened in 2021.

The $1.8 million state-owned structure has been called an “engineering disgrace” and becomes submerged at hightide, with many boaties calling it dangerous and not fit for use.

Mayor Julie Hall and Director of Infrastructure Services Adam Hagy have been in talks with DTMR and are now pleased to inform the community that an inspection of the site has been approved.

“Council has received plenty of criticism that the new boat ramp is not practical, but the boat ramp is a state-owned government funded asset,” said the Mayor.

“I initially raised our community’s concerns about the boat ramp issue in talks with Minister Mark Baily late last year and we are grateful that he gave an assurance that he would arrange a meeting onsite with Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ).

“Our aim now is to work with DTMR and MSQ to explore possible solutions to make the current boat ramp more user friendly based on community feedback.”

Shute Harbour Coordinator Shaun Cawood, Mayor Julie Hall and Director of Infrastructure Services Adam Hagy at the Shute Harbour boat ramp. Photo supplied

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Willcox Worried By Lack Of Tourism Funding

March 2, 2023

Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox is concerned about funding cuts that he believes could result in a lack of international tourists visiting the Whitsundays.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have released a report that stated international tourist visitation is only 25 per cent of pre- pandemic 2019 levels.

Despite domestic tourists at a record-breaking high, Willcox believes that the government should be forward-thinking and allocating funding to attract global tourism now that the world’s borders are fully open.

He is frustrated that $35 million of funding has been cut from Tourism Australia this year and worried what the implications will be on our nation’s ability to reach global markets.

“The Prime Minister needs to start backing our tourism operators and regions like Dawson who are reliant on the international market,” he said.

“Tourism Australia is the agency responsible for marketing Australia as the destination of choice to international holiday makers.  

“The decision to cut $35 million from their funding in the budget was exceptionally poor.”

Willcox pointed out that local Whitsunday operators have dealt with a “double blow” when the COVID 19 Recovery for regional Tourism Fund ceased in December last year.

The Whitsundays and Mackay region had received $3,500,000 from the Federal Government which helped assist businesses and tourism operators who were heavily reliant on International Tourism.

“We are now competing heavily against the rest of the world to attract international travellers. It makes no sense for the Government to cut $35 million from the agency tasked with rebuilding our international tourism market,” he said.

Tourism Whitsundays CEO, Rick Hamilton said he is also concerned with the reduction in funding.

He stated that domestic tourism has been strong but as Aussies head overseas, there will be a lag in international visitation as Australia is a long-haul market booked a year out.

Federal Member for Dawson Andrew Willcox at the Shute Harbour Marine Terminal. Photo supplied

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Bowen Big Mango

March 2, 2023

Half Cut For Small Business

Just over a week ago the iconic Big Mango in Bowen mysteriously disappeared, only to reappear on Thursday morning cut in half with a giant seed protruding from the middle of the 10-metre structure.

While many locals stood back in wonder, Bowen Tourism and Business were ‘in the know’, their Manager Leanne Abernethy announcing that it was part of a stunt coordinated by Australia’s small business platform, Xero, to highlight the plight of small business owners who lose money through unpaid invoices.

Small business owners face 50 per cent of their invoices being paid late.

The startling statistic originated from a 2022 study commissioned by Xero, in conjunction with Accenture, and found that on average, late payments cost small businesses $1.1 billion per year.

By replacing the Big Mango with a replica that had been cut in half, organisers hoped to increase awareness of the challenges small businesses face.

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Julie Hall said she was proud that the iconic Bowen Big Mango was being used to help highlight such an important issue.

“The Bowen Big Mango temporarily looked like a job half done to draw a focus to the real issues that small businesses face when their invoices are paid late,” she said.

“Small businesses are the backbone of communities in regional Australia, and we hope this stunt brings about a much-needed change in attitude towards paying invoices on time.”

While on the ground, Whitsunday Regional Council took the opportunity to install new legs and an internal refurbishment to make the Big Mango more durable.

The real Big Mango has now been returned to the site and work will continue at the location for the next few weeks.

Manager of Bowen Tourism and Business, Leanne Abernethy said this big thing of ours would be ripe again in time for its 21st birthday in May and the makeover would ensure it would be an icon of Bowen’s landscape for many years to come.

She also added that Bowen Tourism and Business had been paid by media agency, HelloSocial, on behalf of Xero, to take part in the campaign.

The inflatable half-mango, valued at $30k, has also been gifted to Bowen Tourism and Business for use at future events.

The 10-metre Big Mango was lifted by crane and taken away last week. Photo supplied

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Councillor Fined For Misconduct

March 2, 2023

A Whitsunday Regional Councillor is required to make a public admission of guilt, pay a fine of $500, and attend training or counselling after engaging in “inappropriate conduct” relating to a Council employee.

Councillor Jan Clifford’s actions were scrutinised by an independent assessor over six months, with the findings presented for decision to Whitsunday Regional Councillors at last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting.

Three allegations of misconduct were brought to the table against Ms Clifford, the first two of which she was found guilty.

Councillor Clifford is required to publicly admit her guilt, be fined $500, and attend on-course training.

The initial, substantiated claim was that she had approached an unnamed employee and said words to the effect that “it appeared there was nepotism within the council with the appointment of Employee Y to Council position,” documents stated.

The second substantiated allegation stated that the Councillor attended a Council event last year, where the Councillor said to another attending employee about Employee Y, "I would rather speak to myself" and "I am still disgusted that [she] has got that position".

A third allegation was removed from discussions for being "school-kid stuff" had alleged Councillor Clifford ignored Employee Y at several previous Council meeting morning teas.

Under current policy, Local Government Mayors are held responsible for handling investigations and reprimand of Councillors.

Another Councillor Conduct Investigation against Councillor Mike Brunker was to be addressed at the meeting but was tabled due to Councillor Brunker being absent.

Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Julie Hall said that hiring independent assessors was not a regular procedure in these matters yet was deemed the "right course of action" considering the timing of the allegations.

“When these were brought to my desk, I had been in the job for less than a week,” Mayor Hall said.

Before discussions, Councillor Clifford spoke to her case: “I said to someone that it did not pass the pub test [the hiring of Employee Y], in broad terms,” she said.

“Am I sorry I said that? Maybe, maybe not. Because it does not in my opinion pass the pub test and this is nothing personal against the employee. A lot of people in this town would have applied for [that position].”

Councillor Jan Clifford was fined $500 after findings substantiated her inappropriate conduct in treatment of a Council employee

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Plans For Proserpine Basketball Court Moving Ahead

March 2, 2023

Proserpine is expected to receive its first public Basketball Courts as Whitsunday Regional Council requests funding for the project at Halpannel Park.

The $175,000 project hopes to address the current lack of a community sporting fixture of its type in the Whitsundays township.

Whitsunday Regional Council Project Officer Economic Development and Major Grants Elouise Lamb said the sports facility will be built at an established park facility in easy proximity to three schools.

Currently, local enthusiasts not attending one of Proserpine’s schools must make the drive to Airlie Beach to utilise facilities.

The court is projected for completion by December 2024, with funding still being sought through the DTIS Minor Infrastructure Program Round 1, with no construction start date announced.

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Second Man Convicted Of Brogden Murder

March 2, 2023

The family of Jay Brogden, who disappeared without a trace in 2007, are relieved that a second man has been convicted of manslaughter, the final piece of news that they hope will help them find closure.

Braddon Butler was charged with Jay Brogden’s murder in 2019 and has been detained, awaiting trial for the last four years.

His trial was scheduled for this week, but several days before it was due to begin, Butler pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

On Monday, at the Supreme Court in Mackay, he was sentenced to eight years.

The judge took into consideration the time he had already served, and Butler is now eligible for parole.

Last year Gavin Parnell was convicted of murder for shooting Jay Brogden in the head while the three of them were on a fishing trip off the coast of Airlie Beach.

It is understood that Butler was a drug dealer and had been selling drugs to Brogden when a discrepancy arose about money.

Butler and Parnell then took Brogden out on the fishing trip with the intent to seriously assault him, and Butler claims he had no idea that Parnell had a weapon.

Butler lied to the authorities twice about his involvement, once in 2007 and then in 2014.

Jay Brogden’s mum told the court that her son had been planning to move back home to his family in New South Wales before he was killed.

She said that not knowing what had happened to her son had been devastating for her family and that now she hopes they can put this behind them and one day focus on the good memories.

A road sign calling for witnesses following the disappearance of Jay Brogden in 2007. Photo supplied

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$10M Lindeman Sale Collapses

March 2, 2023

One of Queensland’s largest private property development companies has withdrawn from its contracted $10 million purchase of Lindeman Island.

Shaun and Samantha Juniper, founders of The Juniper Group, have retracted their plans to purchase and develop the long-abandoned island off the shore of Airlie Beach.

Chinese cable TV operator White Horse Group had agreed to sell Lindeman – once the site of a luxurious Club Med resort – to the major private property developer in November of last year.

White Horse had purchased the island which sits 40 minutes from Airlie Beach a decade ago for $12.5 million and was seeking a $20 million return -- a figure which The Juniper Group had negotiated down to $10 million.

The Chinese company wished to divest itself of the island asset due to struggles with Queensland State Government approvals, despite having completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) component to redeveloping the island.

That EIS was for a $583-million-dollar masterplan to redevelop the abandoned site - but those plans are now once again up in the air, and it is unknown whether a future owner would continue with the already drawn-up scheme or come in with their ideas.

The announcement of The Juniper families' plans to develop a resort on the island was welcomed with open arms in the Whitsundays, but Lindeman now returns to its state of "development limbo".

It re-joins the likes of others in the Whitsunday Archipelago like Long Island, which was recently purchased by Oscars Hotels, as well as the Meridian Australia purchased Hook Island, and South Molle Island – an island owned by China Capital Investment Group.

The proposed $10 million sale of Lindeman Island to Queensland developer The Juniper Group has fallen through as the company withdraws its offer

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Vale Lynn Larkin

March 2, 2023

Kind-Hearted School Staff Member Remembered

The Proserpine community is mourning one of its own following the passing of much-loved mother-of-three, Lynn Larkin, who will be remembered as a caring person who was highly respected for her work at the local State High School.

Lynn was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer seven years ago and fought a brave battle which involved numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.

She passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones on February 18, aged 60.

A service was held at the Showgrounds Pavilion and the ceremony was led by Reverend Suzy Sitton of the Uniting Church.

Lynn enjoyed a very modest and fulfilling life, she was born in Proserpine, and lived there all her life.

Born to Reg and Ethel Muller she was the second child of four.

After school, Lynn was employed by National Australia Bank, then Blue Nurses and Proserpine Hospital.

She went on to have three children – Jack, Hannah and Darcy – and for the last 10 years she worked as part of the Administration Team and Uniform Store at Proserpine State High School.

Lynn will always be remembered for her smile and highly organised workspace with great attention to the smallest detail; her positive outlook; loving personality and fantastic memory for creating procedures and implementing them.

Lynn was baptised and married in the local St James Uniting Church.

Her faith, empathy and compassion for others meant she was a tireless worker in our community.

A dedicated team member at Proserpine State High School, Lynn’s pride and passion for the job and broader community could never be questioned and she made it her business to welcome new families to the school.

“As a school community we extend our sincere sympathies to her family friends and loved ones at this difficult time,” said Principal Don McDermid.

Please remember that breast checks for anyone over 40 are free and can be arranged with Breast Screen Queensland by calling 13 20 50. Early detection can save lives. If you are worried about any changes in your breasts see your GP straight away, no matter your age.

Lynn Larkin with her three children, Jack, Hannah and Darcy. Photo supplied

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Triathlon Festival Welcomes New Sponsor

March 2, 2023

The Airlie Beach Triathlon Festival is celebrating its 23 consecutive annual event this year by introducing its new naming rights sponsor, Coral Sea Marina Resort.

Organisers say the new partnership represents a “sensational fit for our multi-sports event consisting of swim, cycle and run.”

“The entire Whitsunday community will benefit with this new lease of life partnership as our naming sponsor,” said President of Whitsunday Triathlon Club Michael Kimpton.

“This year we have a passionate committee and enthusiastic group of members who have decided to run the event in-house.

“Over the years we have collected the infrastructure and equipment which gives us a great base structure to set up the event.

“Everyone from the novice, the age grouper, the team player, pro and elite athletes will have a race to fit their style.”

The Airlie Triathlon Festival will take place over two days, with the kids and juniors competing on Saturday 29 July and adults on Sunday 30 July.  

Michael Kimpton said that a highlight this year will be the juniors’ races on the Saturday afternoon.

Youngsters from the age of 5 to 15, will receive race bags including their race apparel, and will then be encouraged to swim, splash or walk in the safety of the lagoon.

They will then run on the safe boardwalk to Coral Sea Marina Resort, and transit to their bikes (trainer wheels, BMXs, handlebar streamers all accepted) to be cheered along a similar route.

“The smile on their faces as they are cheered on through the finisher’s arch to be presented with their Finishers Medal, is just mind-blowing,” said Michael.

“No First places or disappointments; just massive achievement and encouragement for participating and finishing!”

The Race Precinct will be set up in the Broadwater Avenue carpark with as little disruption to the public as necessary.

The races will be a great spectacle for the public, with food vans and exciting activities for spectators during the event.

For any further encouragement or information, please visit the website or feel free to ring Michael, President of Whitsunday Triathlon Club on 0417 717 818.

This year will be the 23rd annual Airlie Beach Triathlon Festival. Photo supplied

President of the Whitsunday Triathlon Club, Michael Kimpton and Joscelyn O’Keefe, Head of Marketing and Business Development for Coral Sea Marina Resort celebrate the new partnership. Photo supplied

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Chamber Chat

March 2, 2023

Rising interest rates and the inflation monster continue to make headlines whilst renewable energy reliability has also started to be questioned, at a time when government is pouring billions into renewables.

Undoubtedly, we need to focus on cleaner power but are renewables the absolute answer? Renewable powerhouses like Germany have reluctantly started to bring coal back. Germany's goal had been to phase out all coal-generated electricity by 2038, but last year, swallowed the bitter pill of allowing coal-fired power back onto the grid partially due to the cost of gas but also as it needs more power.

The grid also needs a massive infrastructure upgrade and investment as we transition with new generation, transmission lines and energy storage are needed to keep the lights on in homes and businesses as ageing coal power plants shut down.

Why the focus on power? Recent CCIQ survey data details new sets of challenges in the post-Covid business environment. And cost and reliability of power are high on the business agenda.

Unsurprisingly, attracting and retaining employees, wage and insurance cost and interest rates are listed as the top growth constraints in Queensland in the last 12 months. Operating levels have returned or exceeded pre-Covid levels, especially in the Whitsunday region, however despite steady business performance, there is a degree of uncertainty with macroeconomic issues and high operating costs undermining business confidence.

For the third quarter in a row, businesses have reported growth with 37 per cent of businesses indicating their sales and revenue improved during the December quarter. However, in contrast, close to half of businesses surveyed expected the Queensland economy to perform weaker over the next 12 months and 53 per cent expected the national economy to perform weaker.

Is it just business focussing on the negative? Hopefully not. Locally, the ground work has been done and the future looks positive.– operate smart, efficiently and be ready to take advantage of every opportunity. After all, luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation.

Contributed with thanks to Alan Milostic, President of Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce.

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Councillor Column

March 2, 2023

With Councillor Mike Brunker

Hello everyone!

The projects that I will be focusing on for 2023 will be all about lifestyle choices and improvement of liveability for all residents in my Division 6.

It’s exciting that Bowen’s iconic scenic walking from Horseshoe Bay to Rose Bay is being upgraded to a new track.

For many years Council have used job schemes to develop and maintain this beautiful track that meanders between our three iconic beaches of Horseshoe Bay over through Murrays Bay down to the picturesque Rose Bay and then doubling back through sub-tropical bush land to the start.

Planning for the future, Council has engaged a walking track specialist to design and construct a new and improved track that will be safer for walkers and include more photo opportunity locations to allow locals and tourists to take that beautiful hero shot as an everlasting memory of your trek.

Council also plans to add rest areas for those who want to take a more leisurely stroll and sit back and enjoy the tranquillity.

The design is ready to go out to the public for feedback, we are just waiting for support and sign off with Native Title and we should be able to get underway.

The other project I am interested in is the legendary Mullers Lagoon with its hundreds of bird species that call this Botanic Garden home.

We are currently working on a master plan which will see Stage 1 result in the kilometres of dirt pathways cemented to make the track accessible to all.

This means locals and tourists will be able to spend an afternoon walking around Mullers Lagoon absorbing the serenity of our jewel in the crown, smack bang in the middle of Bowen.

This lagoon was man made many years ago by the previous owners of the property and sold to Bowen Shire Council for the specific use of a Botanical Garden and Bird Sanctuary, which has been upheld to this day.

Upgraded pathways and more entertainment facilities will go a long way to introducing more locals and visitors alike to appreciate the truly beautiful open space this is.

On a personal note, I will be continuing to support my wife who volunteers for Bowen and Collinsville Pet Rescue to ensure that our furry friends can always find a home in troubled times.

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Taylor’s Goes Back-to-Back in National Awards

March 2, 2023

A local real estate agency raked in the rewards at a national level last week, bringing home Agency of the Year for Airlie Beach, Cannonvale, Jubilee Pocket, and Proserpine.

Taylor’s Property Specialists were recognized for their exceptional service at the 2023 RateMyAgent Awards for both buying and selling within the region.

RateMyAgent collates sales-per-suburb Australia-wide before factoring in testimonials for its prestigious national awards.

Principal of Taylor’s Property Specialists Rob Taylor said this was the first time they had received the award for Proserpine but the second year running in Airlie Beach, Cannonvale, and Jubilee Pocket.

“We’re not the biggest company out there which makes us proud to receive these awards again,” Mr Taylor said.

“But it’s not about us, it’s about our customers; if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here. I can’t thank them enough for the recognition of our team’s work.”

One of Taylor’s agents received major recognition as well: Sales Agent Melinda Butcher became a three-time winner for Agent of the Year in Airlie Beach - winning in 2018, 2022, and now 2023 - and a further back-to-back Agent of the Year for Cannonvale, winning in both 2022 and 2023.

In the past twelve months, the award-winning agent sold 66 properties for a total of $32.4 million in sales, all while maintaining her impeccable five-star review rating.

Ms Butcher was grateful to those she had helped purchase or sell their homes.

“I’m very humbled to have won these awards for a second time, and I am so excited to continue leading the people of the Whitsundays through the best real estate journeys possible,” Ms Butcher said.

Taylor’s Property Specialists won Agency of the Year for Airlie Beach, Cannonvale, Jubilee Pocket, and Proserpine as well as Agent of the Year for Cannonvale and Airlie Beach at the recent RateMyAgent 2023 awards

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International Women’s Day 2023

March 2, 2023

As we celebrate International Women's Day in 2023, we are reminded of the importance of embracing equity and the impact it can have on creating a more just and equal world.

The theme of this year's celebration is "Embrace Equity", a call to action for individuals to recognise and address the inequalities that women continue to face, particularly those from marginalised communities.

While progress has been made in recent years towards gender equality, it is essential to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go.

Women from marginalised communities continue to face discrimination and bias in multiple areas of life, such as education, employment, healthcare, and politics.

As we reflect on the achievements of women in our own community, we must also recognise and honour those whose contributions have often been overlooked or ignored.

It is only by embracing equity that we can ensure that every woman has an equal opportunity to thrive.

This International Women's Day, let us work towards creating a world where every woman has equal access to opportunities and resources.

Let us acknowledge and honour the contributions of women from all walks of life and commit to taking action to address the inequalities that still exist.

By working together towards equity, we can create a future where every woman can achieve her full potential and live a life free from discrimination and inequality.

Jess Hope, Sarah Watson, Elmarie van der Westhuizen, Misty Bland, Nicole Polley, Kath Barker, Tegan Faust, Beth Walters, Jen Walters and Erin Flemming. Photo credit: Norina Jane

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Amanda Camm

March 2, 2023

Member for Whitsunday

With one of the most recognisable faces in the Whitsundays, our local state member is seen regularly attending events, handing out awards, supporting charity BBQs, manning community stalls and cheering-on sporting teams.

At the forefront of local issues, she is also on the pulse and committed to advocating for our region when she travels down to Parliament House in Brisbane.

Raised in Proserpine, Amanda grew up near the O’Connell River and lived in the Pioneer Valley for much of her teenage years.

Throughout her childhood, she would spend all school holidays visiting family between Proserpine and Midge Point.

She now lives in the Northern Beaches of Mackay, which is the southernmost point of her electorate.

Amanda’s career has been both diverse and varied, from positions in the travel industry to securing charity partnerships with major mining companies.  

She began her career in the sugar industry, transitioning from sugar chemist to farmer and then moved into social and economic development and Local Government, where she served as Mackay’s Deputy Mayor.

“This provided great experience for my current role as Member for Whitsunday with various Shadow Minister responsibilities,” she said.

“No two days are the same in my role as the local member but by far the most enjoyable part is being able to connect with people across the community and help make a positive impact.”

In her own time, Amanda enjoys being with her family, hiking national park trails, doing yoga and has recently taken up playing golf.

She also loves catching up with friends from all over the country, usually over facetime with a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Despite her incredible achievements, Amanda says that her biggest success in life is watching her three children become young adults.

Describe your personality in three words:

Energetic, compassionate, hard-working

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Julie Hall

March 2, 2023

Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council

Bringing with her a wealth of knowledge from 16 years running her own business in the private sector, Julie is both a talented entrepreneur and published author who created an internationally recognised personal development profiling system.

These incredible credentials form the foundations of her role as Mayor of the Whitsundays and since August last year she has poured energy, enthusiasm and countless hours of dedication into the position.

Originally from Glenelg, South Australia, Julie moved to rural SA with her family when she was nine years old. Her childhood cultivated a love for regional living and after residing in the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast for 16 years, she found her paradise in Bowen.

Julie has three grown children and four grandchildren and says they are the best thing that ever happened to her.

On the rare occasion she doesn’t have community commitments on weekends, she enjoys fishing, camping and sailing.

During her life, Julie has held many positions in male dominated fields and during this time she has witnessed firsthand where the renumeration for women in the same role is not always equal, especially in the sales and management roles.

“If you do the same work and the same hours, you should not be discriminated against because of your gender,” she said.

“Life continues to be a challenge for women in the workplace, but I am elated to stay that Council is playing its part in women’s equality.

“Our renumeration packages are equal wages for both men and women in the same role and our indoor and outdoor workforces combined workforce is 60 pe cent Male and 40 per cent female.

“I’ll admit we still have room to do better but it is exciting Council is headed in the right direction.”

Describe your personality in three words:

Workaholic, loyal, fun

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Rebecca Douthwaite

March 2, 2023

Owner of Core Publishing

Mackay and Whitsunday Life Newspaper

Making waves in the publishing world, Bec’s career has skyrocketed even further into success in the past three years with the introduction of Mackay and Whitsunday Life Newspaper.

Bec started her first magazine when she was just 21 years old and recalls being a young girl with a big dream – a dream that paid off with dedication, perseverance and of course the entrepreneurial grit which has seen her launch several highly regarded publications.

Initially, Bec produced City Life Magazine, a lifestyle publication that began in Cairns and expanded to Townsville and the Whitsundays.

At the time she sold City Life to APN Australian Regional Newspaper, her son, Kaylem was just six months old so she decided to use some of the non-compete period to stay at home with her son and start a completely different business in signage.

Kaylem was 5, when she started making plans to start Core Life Magazine and, by coincidence, APN closed their failed attempt at running City Life the same week as she launched – eliminating her competition.

This was almost 12 years ago, and Core Life has been a cornerstone of the local business community ever since.

Eight years ago, Bec launched Tripping Magazine, a successful travel and leisure publication.  

Then, almost three years ago when News Corp shut down 14 regional newspapers, she launched Mackay and Whitsunday Life Newspaper to give the community back their voice in print.

Bec lives with her husband of 15 years, Paul (Douthy) and her now-17-year-old-son who has just got his P-plates.

In her spare time, she loves renovating the house with her husband, working out at the gym or taking their three dogs for long walks at Conway Beach.

Describe your personality in three words:

Friendly, Ambitious, and Loyal

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Beth and Jen Walters

March 2, 2023

Manager/Director and Owner/Director of Cartridge Universe Whitsunday

When Cartridge Universe Whitsunday owner Jen Walters says her business is family-owned and operated, she means it.

Alongside her daughter, Beth, Jen is the face of the printer and printing supply store in Cannonvale, working in the ever-changing industry for over a decade.

Moving to the region 18 years ago from Goulburn in New South Wales, Jen was later followed by Beth in 2015. Bringing their families to the Whitsundays, they now enjoy the lifestyle and work alongside each other as a mother-daughter team.

With assorted backgrounds in various administrative positions in legal and accounting for Jen and a Fine Arts Diploma and Certificate in Visual Arts from TAFE for Beth, the pair have an array of expertise – including Beth's Bachelor's Degree in Professional Writing and Publishing.

While studying, Beth raised her daughters intending to set a great example for them.

“I believe women can do anything and I have always taught my daughters that,” Beth said.

“I have always encouraged them to follow their interests and have goals.”

For the pair, they have seen their share of challenges as a small business, but Jen said the combined cerebral and physical aspects of working in the ever-changing printing industry made it all worth it – as well as working with her daughter, who has been an enormous help in some trying times.

“I recently “kicked cancer’s butt” when I underwent 28 radiation treatments and two rounds of chemotherapy,” Jen said.

“I was fortunate enough to have my daughter Beth step up and to leave the business confidently in her hands while I have been focused on my health.”

Together, they made the enormous decision to withdraw from a franchise in 2021 and became an independent small business, opening their doors as “Cartridge Universe Whitsunday”.

Describe your personality in three words, Jen

Fearless, Determined and Loving.

Describe your personality in three words, Beth

Peace-loving Libran!

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Elmarie van der Westhuizen

March 2, 2023

Assistant Principal Primary at Whitsunday Christian College

What is the passion of any great educator? To teach and to see your students flourish --that is “the most rewarding job in the world” and Elmarie van der Westhuizen has been living it for more than four decades.

The Assistant Principal of Whitsunday Christian College’s Primary School has been an educator all her life, moving from South Africa to Australia to pursue the career which is “in her veins.”

“Both my husband and my parents were involved in Education,” Elmarie said.

“My husband, Frans, is a teacher and we have two beautiful daughters, Twane’ and Elmie, who are both in Education, too. I love what I am doing with my life – to Educate the youth of Australia.”

Elmarie has spent the last 23 years living in Cannon Valley, with 20 of those at Whitsunday Christian College in various roles and responsibilities: as a Prep teacher, in the school’s management team, and now as Assistant Principal Primary.

Education has provided her with unlimited fulfillment, allowing her to guide the next generation, as well as an appetite for what’s new in the teaching sphere.

“I am always keeping up to date with the latest developments in Education,” she said.

And like every Whitsunday resident, she enjoys the lifestyle it has provided when she steps away from her passion on the weekends.

“The best thing that’s ever happened to me is moving to Australia with my family,” Elmarie said.

“When I am home, I spend my time with my husband in the garden or going out for a lovely lunch at one of our beautiful restaurants in Airlie Beach. We also enjoy spending time on the water in our boat, fishing and appreciating the beautiful region.”

Describe your personality in three words

Dedicated, committed (hardworking) and patient

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Erin Flemming

March 2, 2023

Owner/Director Lohst (Luxe On-site Hair Stylist)

With an adventurous spirit and a creative mind, Erin recently embarked on a new business idea that led her to relocate to the Whitsundays 12 months ago.

For years she had been dreaming about uniting her two passions – travel and hair-dressing – and when her sister decided to have a destination wedding in Airlie Beach it got her thinking.

“I realised how I’m going to do it!” she said.

“Travel to beautiful places and do hair for destination weddings - now here I am, in a beautiful spot, doing exactly that.”

Originally from Toowoomba, Erin has experienced a range of diverse jobs, from the gym to medical receptionist to working in a bar in Canada.

With a passion for connecting with people and a strong creative flair, however, she was soon drawn to the hair industry and was quick to flourish and progress.

Winning multiple awards in various competitions, Erin earnt a spot at the National Workskills Competition, placing 8th in Australia.

After this, she managed a salon for a short time and then opened a small boutique salon in Toowoomba which she ran for three years.

“It was this experience that gave me the confidence to push myself further that has ultimately led me to where I am today,” she explains.

“I can now say that I have successfully made it through my first wedding season and am looking forward to what the future holds for me.”

Erin enjoys travelling and spent several months living in Canada and taking adventures all over America, Mexico and Cuba.

Back in Australia, she loves the outdoors, mountain bike riding and going to parkrun on Saturdays.

She also enjoys having coffee with friends, exploring new places and being creative.

Describe your personality in three words:

Bright, bubbly and adventurous

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Kath Barker

March 2, 2023

Licenced Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer from Polley's Realty

Returning to the region she loves a year ago, Kath and her husband, Dan, have settled down in Cannonvale and it feels fabulous to be home.

It was 1980 when her beloved father moved to Airlie Beach and Kath has many happy memories living with him over the years.

During this time, her father owned a local private charter yacht and Kath worked as a crew member and cook.

It was during this time that she fell in love with the Whitsundays and has always remembered those days fondly.

Tragically, her father passed away some years ago, but Kath says that returning to the area to live with her own family has made her feel closer to him.

Originally from Sydney, Kath has spent the last 18 years operating a construction business alongside her husband.

Deciding to pursue a new direction but drawing on her experience in the housing and building sector, Kath decided to embark on a career in real estate on the Gold Coast 2019.

Recently, when she moved to the Whitsundays, she became happily employed at Polley’s  Realty where she is a Licenced Real Estate Agent and also the resident auctioneer.

Kath has two adult sons called Alex and Daniel, a grandson named Oak, and daughter-in-laws Kat and Keele.

She also has two Russian Blue Cats Tilly and Paul, a Cavoodle named Bailey and a best friend called Sharon.

One of her lifelong favourite memories has been visiting Borneo three times where she met Dr Birute Galdikas and was able to interact with Orangutans in the wild.

Back on Australian soil, Kath loves spending her weekends boating, swimming, snorkelling and enjoying time with family and friends.

Describe your personality in three words:

Caring, effervescent, dynamic

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Misty Bland

March 2, 2023

Digital Marketing and Design Manager from Polley’s Realty

With a head for business and a heart for animals, Misty Bland balances the demands of her dynamic career by spending time on her property caring for her cattle dogs, ducks and chickens.

A registered cattle dog breeder, Misty also runs a herd of Droughtmaster cattle who all have names, and she finds that she is often as busy at home on the farm as she is at work.

Loving being around people almost as much as she loves being around animals, Misty has enjoyed an expansive career that has spanned many different industries, all of which have a common thread – caring for people and their happiness.

From beauty therapy and remedial massage to managing the public relations and events portfolio for a dairy company down south.

Most recently, Misty is heading up the digital marketing and design aspect of Polley’s Realty whilst studying for a postgraduate in Digital Communications with QUT.

Originally from South Africa, Misty immigrated to Australia with her family in 2009. She met her husband, Rob, when they were Year 12 dance partners and the couple have now been together for 24 years. They have two adult children, Edward and Kimberly.

One of Misty’s most cherished life moments is falling in love with the idyllic Whitsundays and the spectacular locals, who have adopted them as their family.  

But life has not always been clear sailing, in fact, Misty has written a book about her life and the rare cancer journey they've faced, which she hopes to one-day self-publish.  

She founded a cancer charity in 2015 and had the support of several Australian celebrities in producing a vintage inspired calendar. She is also the Australian Ambassador for the Chordoma Foundation based in America.

These days, you can find Misty spending her weekends on the farm where she is renovating her home, gardening, cooking and spending time with the family.

Describe your personality in three words:

Caring, determined and innovative

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Nicole Polley

March 2, 2023

Director of Polleys Realty

Falling in love with the Whitsundays on her wedding day, Nicole married the love of her life at Coral Sea Resort and the couple honey-mooned at Hydeaway Bay.

It was here that they spotted the house of their dreams, and they made an offer, securing the property as their home the very next day.

Nicole has been working in the real estate industry since she was 15 years old and quickly rose through the ranks, from front desk to director.

At the age of 20 she was honoured to give a speech at a national real estate conference.

It was in 2018 that Nicole opened the doors to her own real estate agency in Brisbane and she now employs six staff.

When her family relocated to the Whitsundays two years ago, she expanded her agency, opening a second location, with an office in Airlie Beach opening its doors last year.

Nicole has two sons with her husband of 18 years and the family has two dogs, a mini dachshund called Porshe and Heidi, a multi pom.

When she is not selling houses around the region, Nicole can be found enjoying the outdoors, fishing and swimming or with her kids on the footy field watching them play.

Since moving to the Whitsundays, Nicole has mastered a new and unique approach to local realty which has proved both successful and popular with clients at all stages of life.

Her central office is located above the NAB bank, on the main street in Airlie Beach and has a modern, boutique feel where customers can relax, unwind and feel both spoilt and inspired.

Dedicated to putting her clients first and matching people with the lifestyle of their dreams, Nicole is a living example of how to create a successful Whitsunday life.

Describe your personality in three words:

Bubbly, headstrong and driven

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Tegan Faust

March 2, 2023

Owner of Women’s Well Co.

With a mission to give all women the opportunity to exercise in a safe and supportive environment, Tegan opened the doors to Women’s Well Co. almost two years ago and in a short time the business has grown to employ six instructors.

The studio, located in Proserpine, offers a range of fitness activities such as Pilates, Barre, Yoga and Boxing and is a family-friendly facility where children of all ages are welcome.

“What makes us stand out is our sense of supportive community and that we are women empowering other women of all ages to be the best version of themselves,” said Tegan.

“Our youngest member is six years old and our most experienced is 87 years old!”

Originally from a small country town called Condamine in Southwest Queensland, Tegan brought “another Faust back to Proserpine” when she married a local and they decided to settle in the Whitsundays three and a half years ago.

The couple now have three daughters and they live on a little property with cattle, horses, chooks, dogs and a cat.

Tegan has been in the fitness industry for 20 years and studied a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science.

She also has a Diploma in Remedial Massage Therapy and an array of Fitness, Pilates and Barre courses.

Before becoming a mother, she competed as a Professional Figure competitor and won several state and national titles including The Natural Olympia in the USA and a particular highlight was winning the World Title in Greece.

“I have trained my body to extreme levels, but nothing has challenged me more than juggling three daughters with big personalities, a business and a husband who works away!”

Describe your personality in three words:

Driven, Caring and Daggy

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Sarah Logan

March 2, 2023

Owner, Manager and Audiometrist at Whitsunday Hearing

Opening up a whole new world of freedom and confidence for her clients, Sarah uses her skills as an Audiometrist to evaluate hearing and then prescribe the best solution for the individual. Often, this can transform lives.

Originally from Geelong in Victoria, Sarah spent some time travelling after school and enjoyed 12 months living in the UK.

After returning to Australia and exploring a few career options, she decided to start her training as an Audiometrist in Geelong and qualified in 2005.

She then moved to Brisbane in 2006 and gained invaluable experience working for several hearing organisations and in 2014 she took a leap of faith, opening the doors to her own hearing business in Brisbane.

It was almost five years ago that Sarah made the move to the Whitsundays with her family when she bought Whitsunday Hearing.

In July 2021 she opened a new purpose-built clinic at the 121 Business Centre in Cannonvale.

Sarah has one adult child and two grandchildren, plus twin teenage boys with her husband Stephen.

She also has a five-year-old Labradoodle named Blaze.

In her spare time, she loves the outdoors, especially running or walking.

With two young boys in high school, the family’s weekends are often full of children’s sport and trips to Mackay.

In her own time, Sarah likes to pick up a good book to read.

Some of her greatest achievements in life include being the first paid employee for parkrun in Australia, the birth of her three children and of course meeting her husband and moving to sunny Queensland.

“Certainly, my biggest personal challenge is running my hearing business and the family at the same time, as well as looking after myself. It’s challenging but rewarding!” she said.

Describe your personality in three words:

Happy, determined, and friendly

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Sarah Watson

March 2, 2023

Office Manager/Co-Owner at Lightning Comms Pty Ltd.

The great challenge of Sarah Watson’s life has been building her business from the ground up – but it has also been one of its greatest rewards.

The co-owner of Lightning Comms Whitsundays endeavoured on a varied career path before settling down and starting her own business in the region. She took what was at the time a road less travelled for women, completing her Automotive Engineering certifications in her homeland of New Zealand.

“When I left school, I successfully finished my studies and work experience intending on a career as a mechanic,” Sarah said.

“It was difficult to obtain an apprenticeship in what was a male-dominated industry -- that was a real character-building experience. It was then I decided to move away from it.”

She met her husband in Australia, and Sarah soon went into hospitality, spending two years in the industry in the United Kingdom running a successful cafe in London. When the pair moved back to Australia, it was to the Gold Coast, where Sarah managed holiday resorts before moving to the Whitsundays.

“Once here, I worked for a local five-star Resort on the front reservations desk full time,” Sarah said.

“That all became part-time once we started our family, and then the business which I’ve been working in for the last few years. We specialize in Information and Communications Technology and Security - it is our expertise and is such a great, evolving industry.”

Sarah’s role is “all things behind the scenes,” including invoicing, marketing, quoting, scheduling, parts ordering, and more.

Alongside starting the business, Sarah said starting her family is one of the best things that ever happened to her, with the couple now raising their three kids: Ruby, Xavier, and Willow.

Describe your personality in three words

Focused, loyal, compassionate

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Jess Hope

March 2, 2023

Owner of Protect and Sanitise

Bringing a shine to any grime, Jess discovered an unexpected passion for cleaning when she and her husband, Mike, bought Protect and Sanitise nine years ago.

From carpet and upholstery to tile, grout and air conditioner cleaning, their business offers a multitude of services to households and businesses in Airlie Beach, Proserpine Bowen and Hamilton Island.

Jess has a Diploma in Tourism and Business and spent many years working in the sector, but a growing demand within their own business saw her slowly transition over.

Two years ago, she committed full-time and loves being the friendly person who answers the phones and responds to the emails at Protect and Sanitise.

Three days a week, she also takes a van out herself to help the team cleaning carpets and couches.

Always a hands-on business owner, Jess gets immense satisfaction out of her work and loves the rewarding results of cleaning, aiming always to exceed customer expectations.

With an Australian mother and a New Zealander father, Jess spent her childhood living across both countries.

She was born in New Zealand and went to primary school in Charters Towers before moving back to New Zealand for high school, where she met Mike at 17.

The couple decided to move to Australia and travelled Queensland for several years, fruit picking.

When they stopped in Airlie Beach 17 years ago, they both loved the area so much that they decided to stay.

They now gave two sons, aged 11 and nine, and the family spend the weekends watching the boys play cricket.

Jess is the Treasurer of the Proserpine Junior Cricket Association and Mike is the Vice-President.  

In her downtime, Jess enjoys camping, gardening, reading and taking her dog Milo to Conway Beach.

Describe your personality in three words

Positive, hard-working and caring

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Sarah Vickery

March 2, 2023

Owner & Manager at Scamper Island Camping and Water Bikes Whitsundays

It's no wonder Sarah Vickery is at the helm of one of the region's most unique tourism businesses – she grew up in the industry, after all.

The owner of Scamper Island Camping and Water Bikes Whitsundays was always bound for boats, growing up in Hervey Bay to whale-watching parents who started one of the original Australian tours.

“Growing up in the tourism and marine industries, I have always been working on the water,” Sarah said.

“When I first started, my parents would pay me in five-cent pieces; I think I would make about $2 for a whole day’s work! But I didn’t care, I loved the work.

“That job was amazing - to be this 21-year-old, female skipper coming out of the wheelhouse of my vessel, asking the crew to untie, and seeing the faces of the passengers. Yes, this young girl is in charge of this boat.”

Sarah earned the full complement of accreditations working for her parents before moving to the Whitsundays at 21 to expand her knowledge in a new marine environment. By that time, she was a qualified skipper already and began working as a deckhand for Ocean Rafting – a career that lasted eight and half years, and led her to become a Master Reef Guide.

“The best thing that happened was meeting my husband, Tim, at Ocean Rafting where we were both skippers,” Sarah said.

When Sarah became pregnant, she and Tim thought it was time to buy their own business. They purchased Scamper in November of 2019, running the business almost entirely themselves up until the middle of 2022, and have now started a new venture, opening water bike tours from both Shingley Beach and Shute Harbour.

Sarah has seen her business, and her life flourish in the Whitsundays.

Describe your personality in three words

Quiet, caring, fun

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Whitsunday Christian College Welcomes Leaders

March 2, 2023

Last week, the 2023 leaders of Whitsunday Christian College’s secondary and primary schools were officially welcomed to the role.

Member for Whitsunday Amanda Camm attended the event and said she was privileged to hear from some of the inspiring young leaders.

“Congratulations to all the senior leaders of Whitsunday Christian College who I know will all

‘Excel with Truth and Grace’ this year,” she said.

“Thank you to college Captain Lauchlan Whincop for his inspiring address - it was a privilege to speak to you all about living your values daily.”

Whitsunday Christian College Principal said she was very proud of all her students.

“I look forward to seeing our elected student leaders make a difference in the life of the College for 2023, raising student voice and leading in character and servanthood,” she said.

“Example is leadership.”

This Year’s Leaders


• Lachlan Whincop – College Captain

• Misaki Palmer and Rowan Kangru – College Vice Captains

• Maribel Gudes and Andrew Fallon-Johnston – Secondary Lions House Captains

• Zoe Shepherd-Smith and Paige Whincop – Secondary Eagles House Captains


• Tyson Fenning and Pollyanna Bartlett – Primary School Captains

• Nelson Malady and Maddison Singlewood – Primary Vice Captains

• Kaia Kelly and Noah Porter - Primary Lions House Captains

• Indie-Rose Martin and Taylor Fairhall - Primary Eagles House Captains

Student Representative Council

Chace Walton

Liam Keyte

Brooklyn Forbes

Ryan Clark

Jens Fairhall

Sophie Purdon

Alexandra Kangru

Lachlan Riley

Charlotte Adams

Maddy Krieger

Whitsunday Christian College Secondary Leaders

Whitsunday Christian College Primary Leaders. Photos supplied

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Cut Out Party Coming Soon

March 2, 2023

A new date has been announced for the second annual Cut Out Party which is due to be held on Saturday 18 March.

The event has been postponed twice, once because the crushing season was extended last year and secondly because of bad weather at the beginning of this year.

It is hoped that the third time will be a charm with this popular sugar industry celebration.

The event is an opportunity to celebrate the local sugar community, from the farmers to the mill workers and everyone in between.

“This year we are also acknowledging the other partners that contribute to this industry,” said organiser Elaine Riley.

“From the local tyre companies to the fuel and fertiliser companies, the providers of machinery and equipment and those who carry out the mechanical repairs and also those that are top-end suppliers to the milling enterprise.

“The diversity from within the community is both enormous and encompassing.”

Tickets are now on sale and include nibblies, a BBQ dinner, sweets, all drinks and a complimentary stubby holder.

On the night there will be prize giveaways and a charity auction.

There will also be live music and entertainment on the night and free party bags for all the kids.

In 2021, the inaugural event raised $12,000 for the Black Dog Institute and it is hoped that this year’s beneficiary, RACQ CQ Rescue, will receive a similar donation.

WHAT: Cut Out Party

WHEN: Saturday, March 18

WHERE: Proserpine Showgrounds

TICKETS: $75 per head, $15 children 7-17, 6 and under are free

BUY: Whitsundaytickets.com.au

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Get Active Across The Region

March 2, 2023

Each Whitsunday town will host a ‘Get Active Family Fun Day’ after the success of the inaugural event of its kind in Airlie Beach last September.

Whitsunday Regional Council will facilitate Get Active Family Fun Days across the region in March and April with the vision of promoting mental and physical health and well-being.

Each event will include entertainment, workshops, fitness activities, games, food, and information stalls from local organisations that support mental and physical health.

The program of free events starts in Collinsville on March 11 before heading to Proserpine, Airlie Beach, and Bowen -- a guide to each event can be found at the bottom of this article.

On the cards will be free activities at each which include a giant obstacle course, slip ‘n’ slide, and more, while The Airlie Beach event will be rounded off with a Family Movie from 6.00pm on the outdoor cinema screen.

Council is seeking expressions of interest from local health, fitness, well-being, entertainment and food vendors to participate in each Family Fun Day.

Event Time Location

Get Active Collinsville Saturday 11 March 2023 - 9am - 12pm Collinsville Lions Park

34 Conway Street, Collinsville

Get Active Proserpine Sunday 26 March 2023 - 9am - 12pm Halpannel Park

Hansen Drive, Proserpine

Get Active Airlie Beach Sunday 2 April 2023 - 3pm - 6pm

(movie to follow event) Airlie Beach Foreshore,

Coconut Grove, Airlie Beach

Get Active Bowen Saturday 15 April 2023 - 10am - 1pm Bowen Foreshore,

Santa Barbara Parade, Bowen


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Growers At The Forefront Of New Tech

March 2, 2023

Last week Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA) and a number of growers and producers from across the Greater Whitsundays attended the Agrifutures Evoke Ag conference in Adelaide as part of a broader Queensland delegation led by the recently appointed Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Julia Spicer.

The event focused on discussion and learning toward the latest and greatest in Agricultural innovation and technology with significant presence by domestic and international vendors, investors and policymakers.  

Demonstrated was a range of Agtech across areas including but not limited to soil monitoring, irrigation, waste management, yield monitoring, supply chain traceability, farm data management, connectivity, AI and automation.

It was not only quite eye opening to see some of the technology coming down the line but reassuring to hear that our region is at the heart of these advancements, with many of our producers already seen as leaders in innovation and practice.

A significant theme of the event was around improving sustainability of our agricultural industries which has never been more evident within the national conversation around decarbonisation, clean energy and focus on reducing other environmental impacts of our key industries.

Part of our agenda and, I’d suggest one equally as important, was highlighting the role technology can play in making our farming businesses themselves more sustainable ensuring they can remain efficient and profitable, not just now but also ten years from now.

The current inflationary environment has been challenging for all in our communities, including farmers, who have seen two to three fold increases in costs of key farm inputs such as seed and fertiliser and continuing increases to transport costs making farming, and by extension food supply a business sector facing increased risk and volatility.

With a number of industry leaders in attendance and there to listen to the discussion including Federal Agricultural minister Murray Watt, BGGA has and will continue to promote the challenges and opportunities for new technology in our region highlighting the need for improved connectivity and progressing government investment into the development of the Agtech Ecosystem in North Queensland.

To this end, we’ll achieve what I’m sure we all want in furthering the mutually beneficial outcomes needed by both our farming communities and the environment.

Contributed with thanks to Ry Collins, President of BBGA

Qld Delegation to Evoke Ag 2023 including BGGA, QLD Chief Entrepreneur Julia Spicer and representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Trade Investment QLD, Advance Queensland and QLD Agtech businesses. Photo supplied

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Community Litter Audits – Get Involved!

March 2, 2023

Discovering what type of litter is polluting our marine environment is an important part of the process of analysing our waste habits and learning how to change them.

Instead of collecting litter in the form of marine debris swept up onto the beach, The Coral Sea Academy has been working with Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership (HR2RP) to create an innovative plan to collect litter before it gets into the ocean.

Just over a year ago 15 litter traps were installed in Airlie Beach, Proserpine and Cannonvale as part of the Whitsunday Gross Pollutant Trap Project.

Since then, more than 8000 pieces of litter have been collected, sorted, and details entered into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database.

This valuable data is then used to assist with ongoing research and used to help guide source reduction programs.

Organisers are now calling out for volunteers to complete the final few audits.

“Many hands really do make light work, so we encouraged anyone who has a couple of hours to spare to come down and give it a go,” said HR2RP Community Engagement Officer Rebekah Smith.

“The information we gather from the community litter audits will help inform plans to reduce litter in the first place so it’s a great way to get involved and keep our region’s waterways healthy.”

This is just one of the EduTourism events offered through the Coral Sea Academy platform at Coral Sea Marina and Joscelyn O’Keefe, Head of Marketing and Business Development at Coral Sea Marina said that this project is a great way to help the local environment.

“The purpose of the Coral Sea Academy is to provide the opportunity for events such as these to engage with guests on themes that are relevant to the Whitsundays, such as protecting the natural assets that surround us,” she said.

“These community litter audits are certainly a great way in which any individual can help towards this goal.”

Volunteer a few hours of your time to sort litter and provide valuable information

Sort litter with a stunning view of the marine environment you are helping to protect

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From Tonsils To Tomatoes

March 2, 2023

For Jessica Volker, a Bowen local and ex-dentistry student, becoming an organic farmer in the Lower Don was not in the script.

Yet the now treasurer of Bowen Gumlu Growers Association, agronomic scientist, and consultant is in her third season of owning and operating her farm: Bio Lower Don Organics.

"I did not think my husband and I were going to be farmers – I never thought that would happen but it is seriously the best thing we have ever done,” Mrs Volker said.

Mrs Volker, although growing up in the horticultural hotspot of Bowen, had no experience in the agricultural world. Instead, her expertise was as a young dental assistant in town – eventually moving to the Gold Coast to study the profession.

“The thing I loved about dentistry was helping someone who was coming to see you – to get someone out of a jam, in a sense,” she said.

“When I started studying, I had to do a lot of science subjects, which ended up being agricultural. That was when it clicked that I loved agriculture and made the switch to agronomy.

“Now I’m helping farmers out of a jam in a way. I'm the go-to when you have a problem. It's like what I liked about dentistry but very different; only it still a people-person sort of job where you’re solving a problem.”

Mrs Volker moved back to Bowen to work in agricultural consultancy before starting her farm with her husband, Luke. The pair knew they “had to do something different” to stand out in Bowen.

“That’s why we decided to go certified organic,” she said.

“What we love about farming is the lifestyle it has given us. It’s a back-to-basics job. It’s lovely being out there planting and picking, it’s cliché to say but it’s very wholesome and special.”

With eggplant, tomato, chilli, mangos, and more, Mrs Volker and her family have found their passion in the Lower Don.

Bowen-born Jessica Volker became an agronomic scientist and local farmer after a switch from studying dentistry

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