Pig races and pub owners among RFDS local heroes

Royal Flying Doctor Service Local Hero 2018 awards made


RFDS (Queensland Section) head of flying operations, Shane Lawrey, 2018 RFDS Local Hero award winners, Mande and Jackie Jäger, Pentland, and Ergon Energy Retail executive general manager, Cheryl Hopkins, cutting a celebration cake at Townsville.

RFDS (Queensland Section) head of flying operations, Shane Lawrey, 2018 RFDS Local Hero award winners, Mande and Jackie Jäger, Pentland, and Ergon Energy Retail executive general manager, Cheryl Hopkins, cutting a celebration cake at Townsville.

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From pig races at Nindigully to caravan park owners at Pentland, the Royal Flying Doctor Service paid tribute on Tuesday to the many people who go above and beyond to support the aero-medical retrieval service.

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From pig races at Nindigully to caravan park owners at Pentland, the Royal Flying Doctor Service paid tribute on Tuesday to the many people who go above and beyond to support the aero-medical retrieval service.

Nine RFDS Local Hero awards were made at each of the Royal Flying Doctor Service bases around Queensland – Brisbane, Bundaberg, Cairns, Charleville, Longreach, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Roma and Townsville.

The awards are held each May to coincide with the anniversary of the beginning of the RFDS in Australia.

Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) CEO, Nino Di Marco, said the awards, supported by Ergon Energy Retail, Seven Queensland and the Queensland Country Life, were established as a way of acknowledging those outstanding individuals who tirelessly and selflessly supported the work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in their region.

“It is heart-warming to have received Local Hero nominations from around the state, ranging from outback pubs developing innovative and fun ways to help raise funds for the RFDS, to workers on remote cattle properties who have jumped into action in an emergency, to caravan park operators who offer a bed to rest for our pilots.

“On behalf of all of us at the RFDS here in Queensland we would like to congratulate and thank all Local Hero nominees across Queensland who work behind the scenes to support the work of the Flying Doctor teams.”

Pentland

When RFDS clinical staff travel to Pentland for their four-weekly clinic, the Cairns pilot requires a place to rest during the day. 

Jackie and Mande Jager, the owners/operators of the Pentland Caravan Park have, for more than three years, been providing RFDS pilots with free accommodation for every visit. 

As the Pentland Caravan Park says, “they've always got a room for the Flying Doctor pilot".

This kind of local support goes above and beyond in helping keep the Flying Doctor flying and has meant that Jackie and Mande were on Tuesday awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the RFDS Townsville base.

Rockhampton

Jenny Hart is the wife of RFDS pilot Lindsay Hart and supports the RFDS by creating craft items to sell at the local markets. 

Dedicating many hours to the cause, Jenny has personally raised more than $20,000 and is also an active member of the Rockhampton Auxiliary and regularly volunteers at events that support the RFDS. 

As if her husband Lindsay wasn’t already working enough with the RFDS as a pilot, he can also often be found being dragged to community events by his truly selfless wife to lend a hand in her efforts. 

For her efforts, Jennifer was awarded a 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea at the Rockhampton base.

Nindigully

Each November, for the past 13 years, the Nindigully Pig Races result in the population of Nindigully exploding from 10 people to more than 500 for the weekend. 

Local publicans, Steve and Debbie Burns, introduced the pig races to their pub and the event has been a huge drawcard for its many followers who return year after year.

The Burns promote, organise and obtain sponsorship for the event, along with raffle prizes to add to the fundraising effort. In 2017 the Pig Races brought in over $30,000, which was donated in its entirety to RFDS. 

On the bar at the pub is a bullock yoke and Condamine bell made by a local artisan, which travellers can ring for a donation to the RFDS.

While they have had to move to Hervey Bay for personal reasons they are still strong supporters of the Pig Races and in 2016 surprised patrons by holding their wedding at the pub on race morning.

Steve and Debbie were awarded their 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the Roma base.

Yaraka

After deciding to jump in and buy an outback pub, Chris and Gerry Gimbett took on so much more than simply pouring cold beers from behind the bar at the Yaraka Pub.

They have become part of the community, and part of the RFDS family, picking up the clinic crew from the airport once a fortnight and driving them to the local town clinic. 

They have also assisted in many emergencies, including providing first aid to the local police officer when they found him unconscious on the floor of his living room after a bout of the flu caused him to collapse and hit his head in the living room of his home. 

Gerry also runs sunset tours to a local look-out, charging tourists a donation to the RFDS. Great supporters of the RFDS they also provide a friendly location for locals to meet and connect. 

Chris and Gerry were presented with their 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the Longreach base.

Barkley Downs Station

Barkly Downs Station is a 10,000 square km property between Mount Isa and the Northern Territory border, which maintains an RFDS medical chest and the first aid training to use it, along with several RFDS-approved airstrips. 

The Barkly Downs crew have been long-time practical supporters of RFDS, assisting in providing their airstrip and staff after hours every year for night training exercises and participating in RFDS promotional work, including videos and photo shoots. 

Their proactive work paid off when a worker on Barkly Downs was seriously injured in a remote part of the property last year. The managers and team provided excellent on-site first-aid in consultation with the on-call RFDS doctor. 

They flew the injured worker via helicopter to the homestead where they met the RFDS aircraft for a rapid transfer to initial treatment at Mount Isa and then a further RFDS flight direct to Brisbane for specialist care. 

The teamwork, foresight and care that the managers and crew applied in this case was directly responsible for the positive outcome and recovery for this patient.

Barkly Downs was awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the Mount Isa base.

Yowah

Scott Shorten could be considered the backbone of the Yowah community. From helping the RFDS for many years, to leading the Yowah SES, the whole community would call Scott if they were ever in medical trouble. 

He is always there helping with the Flying Doctor clinics and when an emergency evacuation is needed. Scott never panics in stressful situations and he makes sure no one ever loses their cool in pressing circumstances. 

He has organised many fundraisers for the RFDS, along with multiple other organisations that are critical to the care and wellbeing of the community of Yowah.

Scott would, on many occasions, fire up the barbeque and cook up some food that he had saved for the pilots when they came to the Yowah airstrip for night landings. 

For his efforts, Scott was awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the RFDS Charleville base.

Bundaberg

The Carlyle Gardens Sewing Circle has that moral fabric that keeps the RFDS stitched together. 

Supporters of the RFDS in Bundaberg for many years, the group fundraises in a unique way, by doing clothing alterations and mending for the residents of Carlyle Gardens Retirement Community for a donation to the RFDS.

They also have a tin on the community bar for residents to make donations and are always looking for ways to raise funds for the service and are great ambassadors.

The group is also currently working on some “peanut” pillows for use in RFDS aircraft. 

The group was awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the RFDS Bundaberg base.

Cairns

Just over six years ago, the RFDS Near and Far volunteer auxiliary was on the brink of closing down.

It would need a strong personality to bring it back, and that’s exactly what it got in Denise McGucken. 

Denise is a people person, who takes a lot of joy in bringing all the members of the Near and Far auxiliary together for fundraising events all across Far North Queensland. 

Denise spent three years as president, two and a half years as shared treasurer and even jumped in as secretary when needed, without blinking an eye. 

She still acts as a sort of mentor to the now president, Brenda Agius, and her dedication to the RFDS and the auxiliary is second to none. 

For her efforts, Denise was awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the RFDS Cairns base.

Brisbane

Distance means nothing when you’ve got thousands of sausages to sizzle, or so the dedicated members of Brisbane’s Rotary eClub NextGen believe. 

This group of Rotary Club members drives to the Birdsville Races each year, but they’re lucky to even see a horse.

They spend most of their time manning a food tent, spinning snags, grilling onions and slicing tomatoes to feed the hordes of attendees at the iconic event.

All profits from their efforts are donated to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 

The sheer distance travelled from Brisbane to Birdsville makes bringing fresh food to the iconic event a logistical challenge, but the team are seasoned professionals.

The way they pack their mobile cold room is a work of art as they prepare for the 3000km round trip each year. 

The group was awarded the 2018 RFDS Local Hero award at a morning tea held at the RFDS Brisbane base.

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