Winton to honour disaster heroes

North west flood heroes focus of new Way out West festival plan


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Australian Army officer, Lieutenant Josh Grant, Winton cattle farmer, Robbie Oakhill and Australian Army soldier, Corporal James Merkel of 5th Aviation Regiment at Bernfels Station, Winton. Picture supplied.

Australian Army officer, Lieutenant Josh Grant, Winton cattle farmer, Robbie Oakhill and Australian Army soldier, Corporal James Merkel of 5th Aviation Regiment at Bernfels Station, Winton. Picture supplied.

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One of the communities battered by the horrific weather event in north west Queensland in February, Winton has initiated a plan to recognise the people who have gone above and beyond in the crisis.

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One of the communities battered by the horrific weather event in north west Queensland in February, Winton has initiated a plan to recognise the people who have gone above and beyond in the crisis.

It will use the community-owned Way out West music festival as the platform for its new Aussie Heroes program, involving shire councils and authorities across northern Queensland, offering the festival as a meeting place to help people heal.

Those identified through a nomination process opened on Thursday will be honoured with free tickets and camping options at the event and a special main stage presentation.

Winton mayor Gavin Baskett said people could be nominated for their tireless work to get feed to cattle, round-the-clock rescues of flooded residents, helping strangers with the cleanup, opening a house to neighbours, or random acts of kindness.

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"The last few weeks have been a very trying time for Queensland and there's so many weeks, months and even years ahead of cleaning up properties and getting people back on their feet," Cr Baskett said.

"The mental scars will take longer to heal and it will be in a few months' time when the news reports start to fade and people have to get back to their normal lives where our people will need the most support.

"We want Winton's Way Out West Fest to be the place where we can come together, share the stories, honour those that have gone above and beyond and offer the community support that's needed to Queensland's heroes."

Open to citizens as well as emergency services personnel across the state, local councils involved will make the final decision on the allocation of tickets.

Ticket sales for the four-day festival are so far on a par with last year's inaugural sell-out event, offering music across over eight venues including two flagship nights of internationally renowned music, including Aussie superstars, Amy Shark, Missy Higgins, John Williamson, Glenn Shorrock, Ross Wilson and San Cisco along with North American country royalty Brett Eldredge, Jon Pardi and The Road Hammers.

Read more: Brand Winton launches on world stage

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk congratulated the council on its initiative to help affected north western communities.

"When I announced 2019 the Year of Outback Tourism back in December, it was to encourage people to visit our outback communities doing it tough through drought," she said.

"No one could have ever imagined the devastating impact of the floods and the impact on families and their livelihoods.

"People often ask me how they can help. Back the bush and book your next trip west.

"Tourism can help carry communities through hardship and I promise you will never regret an outback holiday."

The Australian Army 5 aviation regiment, which helped deliver over 43 tonnes of feed to livestock around the north west during the weather crisis, will also be present and welcoming festival patrons in a special Anzac Day commemoration.

A spokesman said they'd been privileged and humbled to have the opportunity to work alongside local leaders to help fellow Australians in need and were looking forward to meeting more of them on Anzac Day in Winton.

Walkway of Honour to open

It will be a busy Anzac Day in Winton this year, with a new Walkway of Honour, using special effects to illustrate the service and sacrifice of local soldiers, to open.

Announced by Maranoa MP David Littleproud, the cast roll of honour wall, interpretative signage and lighting received $50,000 through the Drought Communities Program.

Mr Littleproud said it would hold a special place in the hearts of locals and with its location next to the Waltzing Matilda Centre, provide plenty of opportunity for tourists to learn about the Winton region’s history and call to arms.

“One of the great things about the Drought Communities Program is that funds are driven down into local groups who have a say in which local is contracted to make the upgrades," he said. “When community groups make these decisions, they are justifying projects that are worthwhile.”

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