Cr Spud Jones with Blackbutt-Benarkin Local Achiever Jeff Connor and Cr Ros Heit

January 27, 2017

Eight local achievers were honoured at the South Burnett Australia Day Awards on Wednesday night.

Each year, Awards are given to people who’ve made significant contributions to the region’s major towns and villages: Blackbutt-Benarkin, Nanango, Kumbia, Kingaroy, Wooroolin, Wondai-Tingoora, Proston-Hivesville and Murgon.

This year’s nominees and winners were:

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Blackbutt-Benarkin Local Achiever Award

Well known Blackbutt businessman Jeff Connor is the winner of this year’s Blackbutt/Benarkin Local Achiever Award.

Jeff moved to Blackbutt in 2006 with his wife Dr Daphene Connor to open the Blackbutt Medical Centre, and quickly became involved in the Bloomin Beautiful Blackbutt Festival (now known as the Blackbutt Avocado Festival) and the Blackbutt Benarkin Aged Care Association, which operates the Scott Haven Independent Living Complex.

Jeff also served for several years as a Board member on South Burnett Community Enterprises, the company responsible for bringing Bendigo Community Bank branches to Blackbutt, Yarraman, Nanango and Murgon.

Jeff is also actively involved in the Blackbutt Benarkin Community Council, working closely with community members and council to maintain open lines of communication so that town issues are properly addressed.

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Cr Spud Jones with Nanango Local Achiever nominees Zak Hartman, Bree Pogany, Merle Richards, Rhonda and Terry Mackrell, and Cr Ros Heit

Nanango Local Achiever Award

Merle Richards, from Nanango, has been chosen as this year’s Nanango Local Achiever.

Merle has been volunteering her time and talents to the Nanango Rugby League junior and senior football clubs for the past 37 years.

She is a very popular local caterer and her services have been regularly used for fundraising events such as Daffodil Day, the Nanango Races, and church events in Nanango and Kingaroy.

Merle is also a member of the Elgin Vale QCWA and has helped organise the Manumbar Campdraft for the past 15 years, and at 76 still works the barbecues at the campdraft and on race days.

Other nominees for the Nanango Local Achiever Award were:

  • Zak Hartman – Zak has been pursuing martial arts for the past eight years and holds a 3rd dan black belt, a great achievement for a 14-year-old. He is currently the highest ranked student in his marital arts school; trains five days per week; and in June, received his assistant instructor badge and can now assist in training all class levels, including adults. In 2016, Zak competed in 10 tournaments on two different marital arts circuits: kick boxing and karate. He has also qualified for the ISKA Australian team competing at the World Championships in 2017 in Italy.
  • Bree Pogany – Bree is a hurdler who has overcome medical difficulties to compete in national competitions and is now a hurdling coach, travelling to Toowoomba a few times each month to continue her development in this field. She is also actively involved in Little Athletics, and plays soccer for the Nanango Panthers. Bree was selected in the Wide Bay 15 years team to play in the Queensland School Sport Football State Champions. Her team finished seventh on the ladder, and Bree was selected as a shadow Queensland player for the upcoming tour of Japan. She was also named Sportswoman of the Year at her most recent school awards night, and currently holds Little Athletics Queensland’s record for 300m hurdles. Last year Bree also achieved some excellent results in volleyball, swimming, cross country, girl’s football and track and field. But a highlight of her year was a trip to Western Australia in March after she won a place in the Queensland Heat team for winning a silver medal in 200m hurdles.
  • Terry and Rhonda Mackrell – Since 2009 Terry and Rhonda have been steering their passion for cars and rock & roll into events that raise thousands of dollars for South Burnett community groups. They founded the South Burnett Gas Guzzlers to grow and support social functions that are centered around a love for hot cars and rock n roll, and have been running the annual Raising Hell In Maidenwell camp out weekend since 2010, as well as growing the annual Waterhole Rocks festival in conjunction with the Nanango Show Society. Their efforts have helped bring much needed social and economic benefits to both towns with improvements to facilities wherever they are involved. They are also life members of the Nanango Show Society, members of NaTDA and Australian Street Rod Federation and long time members of Nanango’s Rural Neighbourhood Watch, with Rhonda serving as secretary for over 10 years. They also help fundraise for the Heritage Nanango Mardi Gras Festival, and teach rock & roll and rockabilly dancing in Nanango.

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Cr Spud Jones with Kumbia Local Achiever nominees Steph Stevens and Desiree Crawford, and Cr Ros Heit

Kumbia Local Achiever Award

Desiree Crawford is the winner of this year’s Kumbia Local Achiever Award.

Desiree is a mainstay of the Kumbia community and is part of the groups that deliver annual events such as the Kumbia Brain Drain, the Antique Machinery Rally and the Melbourne Cup Day wine and cheese both at the Kumbia Races.

She also volunteers for canteen duty at the South Burnett Speedway in Kingaroy, and is a regular at the weekly school tuckshop.

Desiree also serves as the secretary of Kumbia State School’s P&C, and assists the Kumbia Kindergarten by looking after their garden. She has also served on the Kumbia Hall Committee since 1993, helping organise the Kumbia Christmas Carnival and is a convenor for the quarterly Kumbia Country Markets

The other nominee for Kumbia Local Achiever was:

  • Stephanie Stevens – Steph has been the President of the Kumbia Progress Association for many years, and for the past 10 years has produced and distributed the monthly Kumbia Party Line community newsletter. She is a willing volunteer, helping out in all of the town’s key events including Kumbia Markets, Kumbia Christmas Carnival, Melbourne Cup Day races and the recent “Down with the Drought” dinners in 2015 and 2016. Steph’s focus is on positively promoting Kumbia, creating optimism and sharing humour. Steph was also pivotal in the establishment of the increasingly popular Kumbia Antiques Roadshow.

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Kingaroy Local Achiever nominees Jennifer Underwood, Ellen Dalton, Rhonda Smith, Russell Hood, Gary Barron, Andrew Maddern and Madeleine Langan
Cr Ros Heit with more Kingaroy Local Achievers: Lara Maree Boyle, Corissa Raines, Caleb Dalton, Taylah Curley, Rhonda Trivett, Darren Geiger, Taylor Watt and Cr Spud Jones

Kingaroy Local Achiever Award

Gary Barron is the winner of this year’s Kingaroy Local Achiever Award.

Gary, along with Cliff Seiler, has been instrumental in renewing the Kingaroy Show and delivering substantial improvements to the showgrounds facilities to ensure this important community asset continues to deliver benefits to the town and region.

He has a long history of practically supporting South Burnett community activities and generously invests his time, talents and resources to deliver better and more memorable community events, such as those offered by the South Burnett Speedway.

One of Gary’s recent contributions is designing and building a three carriage train to chauffeur children around the Kingaroy Show. The engine, once used to pull aeroplanes has now found a new life at the showgrounds thanks to his talents.

His vision and personal investment now see touring groups regularly staying at the Kingaroy Showgrounds, bringing further economic and social benefits to the area.

Other nominees for the Kingaroy Local Achiever Award were:

  • Taylor Watt – profiled in the Junior Sportsperson category
  • Darren Geiger – profiled in the Sports Coach/Administrator category
  • Lara-Maree Boyle – profiles in the Junior Cultural Award category
  • Caleb Dalton – profiled in the Junior Sportsperson Award category
  • Rhonda Trivett – profiled in the Volunteer Of The Year category
  • Taylah Curley – profiled in the Senior Sportsperson Award category
  • Corissa Raines – profiled in the Junior Cultural Award category
  • Andrew Maddern – profiled in the Senior Cultural Award category
  • Maddie Langan – profiled in the Junior Sportsperson Award category
  • Russell Hood – profiled in the Citizen Of The Year category
  • Ellen Dalton – profiled in the Young Citizen Of The Year category
  • Rhonda Smith – profiled in the Senior Cultural Award category
  • Jayde Novak – profiled in the Senior Sportsperson Award category
  • Jennifer Underwood – profiled in the Volunteer Of The Year category

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Cr Ros Heit, Wooroolin-Memerambi Local Achiever Cliff Seiler, and Cr Spud Jones

Wooroolin/Memerambi Local Achiever Award

Cliff Seiler is the winner of this year’s Wooroolin/Memerambi Local Achiever Award.

Cliff is president of the South Burnett Show Society and over the last few years he has transformed the Kingaroy Showgrounds by instituting substantial, ongoing improvements and helped restore the Kingaroy Show to its former glory.

Last year the Showgrounds hosted and fed 500 footballers in a tent city erected in the Showgrounds’ main ring, followed a few months later by another tent city for Relay For Life.

Cliff has given considerable practical support to groups such as the South Burnett Relay for Life, the Friendship Markets and is a mentor and advocate to the Junior Show Society, encouraging them to cultivate an interest in the South Burnett and develop leadership skills to ensure the region continues as a prosperous and desirable area to live.

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Cr Spud Jones with Wondai-Tingoora Local Achiever nominees Vicky Parry, Jack Day (standing in for his father Greg), David Sewell and Cr Ros Heit

Wondai/Tingoora Local Achiever Award

Greg Day is the winner of this year’s Wondai/Tingoora Local Achiever Award.

Greg moved to the South Burnett in 2008 to set up his bobcat and excavating business, and for the past six years has helped develop and expand the McEuen Rural Fire Brigade, progressing from Equipment officer to First Officer in a short time.

Greg is also involved with the Wondai Show Society and is a supporter of the Wondai Regional Art Gallery

Other nominees for the Wondai-Tingoora Local Achiever Award were:

  • David Sewell – David is a valued member of the McEuen Rural Fire Brigade and currently serves as acting Bushfire Safety Officer, Second Officer and Training Officer. He held the Treasurer’s role for six years and helped the brigade receive grants for station extensions and equipment. He gives countless hours to the fire service, provides fortnightly radio chats with Crow FM about fire awareness, and visits the Wondai Childcare Centre to teach young children about fire awareness.
  • Vicky Parry – Vicky has had an association with rugby league for over 30 years. She has been a member of the Wondai Proston Junior Rugby League Club for the past 10 years, holding positions such as Registrar (three years) and four years as canteen convener. Her commitment to attending meetings, fundraising events, crowd control, mini-mod carnivals, U43kg carnival (hosted by the Murgon Junior Rugby League Club) and supporting anyone who wants to learn and play rugby league is highly valued by her club and community.

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Cr Gavin Jones, Proston-Hivesville Local Achiever Noela Ardrey, and Cr Ros Heit

Proston-Hivesville Local Achiever Award

Noela Ardrey has won this year’s Proston-Hivesville Local Achiever Award

Since moving to Proston in 1976, Noela’s community service has extended from raising funds for the Proston Relay for Life team, Meals on Wheels and the Proston Over 50s to acting as a steward for the produce section of the Proston Show.

Along with her husband Col, the local community appreciates the way they go above and beyond the call of duty with their bus service to look after their clients. Their annual Christmas lights display provides great cheer for residents and visitors passing through Proston.

The other nominee for Proston-Hivesville Local Achiever was:

  • Valerie Wieland – Val, from Durong, has served the Durong and Boondooma community for more than 25 years. Since 1991 Val has served has a volunteer librarian supporting the Durong and Boondooma community with library services. She has also audited and prepared financial records for the Durong Hall Committee, Boondooma Homestead, the Green Frogs Girl Guides and the Burrandowan Campdraft, and has been treasurer of the Durong South State School P&C Association for the past 13 years.

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Cr Ros Heit with Murgon Local Achievers Colin Pidgeon, Trevor Otto, Bevan Routledge and Cr Spud Jones

Murgon Local Achiever Award

Murgon’s local achiever this year is Trevor Otto, who took a 500km walk from Gladstone to Kingaroy with his son Brett last year to raise awareness of melanoma and – along the way – raised $30,000 for melanoma research.

Inspired by Linda Geiger’s personal battle with melanoma and the inspiration she was to so many, Trevor decided to join his son on this unique journey that brought the South Burnett together to show off one of its great strengths: raising large amounts of money to fight all forms of cancer.

Some of Trevor’s training for this epic walk involved him walking around local roads picking up and bagging rubbish.

Other nominees for the Murgon Local Achiever Award were:

  • Leanne Sippel – profiled in the Sports Coach/Administrator category
  • Bevan Routledge – profiled in the Volunteer Of The Year category
  • Colin Pidgeon – profiled in the Sports Coach/Administrator category

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