As communities across rural and regional Queensland suffer with severe skilled work shortages, the town of Injune is celebrating the arrival of new kindergarten teacher Marnie Leahy.
Ms Leahy joined Injune's only childcare centre Injune Early Learning with a strong sense of community, growing up in the in a small community north of Jackson, called Noonga.
The teacher has taken over from former early childhood teacher and Origin employee, Maxine Thomas, who stepped in two years ago, introducing an innovative approach to address the teacher shortages that nearly forced the centre to shut its doors.
At the time, the centre was struggling to find a qualified teacher and families were leaving until Ms Thomas offered the centre a lifeline by volunteering through her employer Origin in Roma and their philanthropic foundation, which was focused on education.
The solution involved Ms Thomas, with more than 20 years of teaching experience, taking volunteer leave through the Origin Energy Foundation and using her skills to remotely develop a qualified and approved pre-prep program that could be implemented by the qualified childcare educators at Injune Early Learning.
Today, the centre is once again thriving and families have returned and more have joined and now with the addition of Ms Leahy, the centre is well placed with a dedicated educator.
"There's no question there are some big shoes to fill," Ms Leahy said.
"Everyone adores Maxine and I am looking forward to working alongside her in the coming months to check over my plans and work with me as a mentor; I'm excited for the year ahead.
"There is nothing more important than giving these children the best early start in life, helping them develop a love for learning and preparing them for school and beyond.
"When you consider what that means in a rural area, where there are concerns around inequality of educational opportunity, it makes teaching these young children all the more meaningful."
Ms Thomas welcomed the new appointment of Ms Leahy to the centre.
"I have lived in this area all my life; I know these people in the community and having Marnie join is a real coup for the centre and for this community," Ms Thomas said.
"Marnie is an excellent educator, and I am looking forward to my next visit and continuing to support Marnie in guiding these children in their learning journey.
"I'm so pleased that I've been able to be part of Injune Early Learning these past years and combine my role at Origin with my work in the community.
"This is just a really tangible way that we support rural communities, no glitz and glamour, we just delivered a formal education program to little Australians who otherwise wouldn't be able to access early years education."
The Origin Energy Foundation, Origin's philanthropic foundation, supports programs that use education to help break the cycle of disadvantage and empower young Australians to reach their potential.
The Origin Energy Foundation's skilled volunteering program encourages employees to go beyond the traditional volunteering and donate their time and professional skills to help partners and the community with fully paid volunteer leave.