Four Queensland towns receive $100,000 makeover

Rural Aid announces recipients of its Ten Towns Makeover

Agribusiness
The community of Cunnamulla has already been working on town spirit, via a water tower mural. Picture - Sally Cripps.

The community of Cunnamulla has already been working on town spirit, via a water tower mural. Picture - Sally Cripps.

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News that Alpha, Cunnamulla, Monto and Gayndah are the Queensland recipients of Rural Aid's inaugural Ten Town Makeover has been greeted with tears of relief, hope and stunned excitement.

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News that Alpha, Cunnamulla, Monto and Gayndah are the Queensland recipients of Rural Aid's inaugural Ten Town Makeover initiative, which aims to address the impact of one of the worst droughts in history on small country towns, has been greeted with tears of relief, hope and stunned excitement.

They were among over 60 applications received from around Australia and will receive a minimum of $100,000 over a five-year period to support a town makeover, thanks to Rural Aid's Sustainable Community program.

The assistance will include $10,000 for facilitated workshops to develop long-term strategies, $90,000 for locally sourced materials for maintenance projects, and the Farm Army of volunteers, between 50 and 100 of them, bringing a welcome financial injection as well as their work.

Read more: Haigs fight drought to stay on at Alroy

Cunnamulla's Amy Palmer described the news as an exciting new chapter.

"I think I was a little bit incoherent for a few seconds," she said.

"Then a feeling of relief mixed with my excitement because someone was coming to help breathe new life into our town and show society where we are struggling to keep our committee going.

"I believe it will bring hope, even though the drought is continuous and heartbreaking - we will continue to find new ways to keep our spirit alive."

For Alpha's police sergeant Brian Smith, his community was overwhelmed to hear the town had been fortunate enough to be selected.

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Like many others, the small town on the Capricorn Highway in central Queensland has been hit with many years of drought

Sgt Smith hoped the Ten Towns initiative would help them develop tourism opportunities, and a place the community as a whole could come together in with families and loved ones.

Alpha's main street. Sergeant Smith hopes the initiative will develop tourism attractions.

Alpha's main street. Sergeant Smith hopes the initiative will develop tourism attractions.

When Rural Aid called Carly Baker-Burnham from Monto, she had to sit down, such was the feeling of disbelief, then joy and elation.

"The feeling of hope rose from my stomach to my heart," she said.

"Monto is so grateful for this opportunity; it will bring such a buzz of energy and positivity. We really need it, like most communities in rural Australia.

"We hope and we know that the Ten Towns initiative will bring the community together to re-imagine Monto.

"Rural Aid will inject money, time and love into our little humble town and our community will blossom."

Stunned and overwhelmed is how North Burnett regional councillor John Zahl from Gayndah described his reaction to the news of their selection.

"This is a great sense of achievement that yes, there is someone, somewhere else, who does care...for our town and community," he said.

"Probably most importantly, the effect that this endeavour will have on the mental wellbeing of our community - the mere attendance of Rural Aid and its support will lift spirits and reinforce belief that others care.

"This is not just a quick short visit, but a long-term engagement with Gayndah and is ongoing. This will be a great opportunity to engage our community in planning our future."

Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said as much attention should be given to the impact of drought on rural communities as is given to farmers and their families.

"Small country towns play a critical role in supporting the social and economic fabric of their local communities.

"Small towns have a unique symbiotic relationship with the farms located around them.

"Take towns out of the equation and the local ecosystem is impacted forever."

Mr Alder said each of the unsuccessful towns would be supported by Rural Aid in the future.

The winners from other states include Walgett, Coolah, Brewarrina and Barraba in NSW, Orroroo in South Australia, and Lockington in Victoria.

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