October 15, 2019
An extraordinary gift to the people of Proston by South Burnett Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff has gained Statewide recognition.
In July, Cr Duff received an unexpected $60,000 inheritance from a close friend, the late Southern Downs councillor Jamie Mackenzie.
She decided to gift the money to Proston Queensland Ltd, a not-for-profit community group, so they could buy a rundown block of seven shops in Blake Street.
Cr Duff donated the money to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, a national grants body, on condition that FRRR assess the proposal and pass the money to Proston Queensland if they found it was a worthwhile project
Proston Queensland aims to refurbish the shops over time in order to attract new businesses to the town and revitalise its CBD.
Cr Duff’s gift was officially recognised on Tuesday night when she was presented with the Butch Lenton Memorial Bush Council Innovation Award at this year’s annual Local Government Association Of Queensland (LGAQ) State Conference in Cairns.
The annual award is named after former Winton Shire mayor Graham ‘Butch’ Lenton, who spent more than 20 years pursuing his unique vision for the region where he was born and raised.
That vision extended beyond Winton’s traditional agricultural and grazing industries to include tourism development, renewable energy and telecommunications.
Butch died in 2017 and the LGAQ and Peak Services created the award to recognise him.
This year is the third time it has been given out.
Nominations were judged by a committee made up of LGAQ CEO Greg Hallam AM, Peak Services managing director and CEO Brent Reeman, Barcaldine mayor Rob Chandler and McKinlay mayor Belinda Murphy.
The award, which carried a $10,000 prize, was presented to Cr Duff by Mr Reeman at the LGAQ conference dinner on Tuesday night.
Cr Duff told the audience she intends to donate the money to Proston Queensland Ltd so the group can get started on building a Community Information Centre in one of the shops.
She told southburnett.com.au she was surprised and honoured to receive the award, which was completely unexpected.
Mayor Keith Campbell – who accompanied Cr Duff to the conference – was sworn to secrecy about the nomination and remained tight-lipped until Cr Duff was announced as the winner.
He said he was very proud to see Cr Duff win and thought it was well-deserved.
Cr Duff was nominated by fellow councillor Ros Heit.
Cr Heit said Cr Duff was an obvious choice and she was proud to nominate her.
“Cr Duff was the driving force behind the Proston Community Revival Project,” Cr Heit said.
“The story of Proston is like so many small country towns who face the daily struggle to survive.
“The South Burnett town that was founded in 1923 as the terminus of the railway line was prosperous for many years.
“However, with the closure of the railway line and Butter Factory in the 1970s, the area’s town centre saw a slow decline.
“The once busy main street changed to one of closed and boarded up shops.”
Cr Duff spoke about Proston and her late friend after she received the award.
“She received a standing ovation,” Cr Heit said.
“Many in the audience who knew Kathy and Jamie struggled to keep back the tears. It touched many hearts.
“There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge in Proston, but the initiative by Cr Duff and the community, together with the legacy of Cr Mackenzie, gives the town a fighting chance.”
[UPDATED with correction]