Weekender: Woonie principal celebrates role

Tenders open for Community Hub works

Ashley Schipper

Tenders have opened to renovate the historic Wintergarden Theatre building on Maryborough Street, with plans to transform the large space into a Community Hub by next year.

Following its recent purchase by Bundaberg Regional Council, the refurbishment will ensure the community can continue to enjoy the facility into the future.

The hub will provide permanent offices for a range of groups in addition to low-cost rooms for hire for not-for-profit organisations.

Local architect Tomas O’Malley designed the internal fit out of the Community Hub, with a focus on preserving the building’s history while providing modern facilities.

He said plenty of research of the former theatre, which first opened in 1929, had been involved and its heritage elements were a key feature of the renovation.

“We decided we were going to build a series of smaller buildings inside the building, essentially to maintain its existing external fabric while still having an efficient and sustainable product for the internal fit out,” Tomas said.

“Where the decorative plaster work and sculptures are, we really took the approach that we wouldn’t touch that area at all.

“It will be restored and repainted but that will be the only impact.”

Tomas said plenty of thought and community involvement had gone into the project.

“We undertook stakeholder engagement with various community groups to determine the requirements of what this facility would need,” he said.

“It has been a long process… but I think, overall, we have come up with an outcome that respects both the heritage of the building and the needs of the community.”

Community at the heart of redesign

Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey said the Community Hub project was one of the first to be delivered as part of Bundaberg Regional Council’s vision for a Civic and Cultural Arts Precinct.

“The aim of the Civic and Cultural Arts Precinct, which in its entirety also includes a new art gallery, performing arts theatre and Council service centre, is to inject new life into the CBD,” he said.

“This Community Hub will provide tenancy spaces for local organisations and provide a low-cost, well resourced facility that not-for-profit and community groups can use to host meetings, forums, provide training or raise awareness for important causes.

“By renovating this iconic building, it ensures we can keep much of the heritage elements of Wintergarden alive while repurposing the site for today and into the future.”

Tenders to renovate the building are now open and can be applied for here.

Retiring principal celebrates 39-year career

Ashley Schipper

Woongarra State School principal Jeff Irwin is swapping out textbooks for time with family as he prepares to leave his 39-year school career for retirement.

The popular principal celebrated his last week with students and teachers alike, and said his time at Woongarra State School would be one he would greatly miss.

“I have been at Woongarra for 11 years,” he said.

“I have been blessed to work with such a great staff, many, many fine students and wonderful families over the years I have been a part of this school.

“I will take with me many fine memories of this place but mostly memories of the lives and relationships that have touched me.”

Mr Irwin's career has taken him all over Australia, beginning in 1985 at Torquay State School in Hervey Bay before moving to Cunnamulla in South West Queensland and then to Darwin.

“That was a one-teacher school with about 20 kids in it,” he said.

“It was basically a school on top of a hill, with the closest house about 20 kilometres away, in the middle of cattle properties.”

From there, Mr Irwin said he was stationed at the now closed Welcome Creek State School before opening Moore Park Beach State School in the early 2000s.

“Opening a new school was a real highlight in my career,” he said.

“Being part of the designing and the building up of the culture of the school, that was a really exciting part.”

Mr Irwin said he then had stints at Norville and Branyan before becoming a “Woonie” 11 years ago when he signed on to run Woongarra State School.

“A Woonie has been a term used as part of our school since the late '90s,” he said.

“To be a Woonie is to follow what we call our five Bs- to be respectful, be responsible, be positive, be tolerant and be proud.

“It is about the way we treat each other and work together.

“Being a Woonie is just what we are.”

During his 39-year career Mr Irwin said 34 of those had been spent as principal while only five as teacher, but he still loved every moment of his time in the classroom.

“Teaching is always something I have enjoyed, particularly mathematics,” he said.

“In the late '90s and 2000s I was a lecturer at CQU, which I did after school.

“I lectured in mathematics and a lot of the local teachers here are who I actually taught at the time.

“I also teach extension maths during school to the kids who are really interested in it – that's something I have loved to do.”

With plenty of time on the horizon, Mr Irwin said he was looking forward to moving to Brisbane to be closer to family.

“It is where all of our kids and grandkids are,” he said.

“Hopefully I can still do some other things.

“I would love to do some coaching and mentoring of principals just to be able to put something back into the principalship which I have been part of for over 30 years.”

Mr Chris Norris will take over the role of principal at Woongarra State School next year.

Bundaberg Regional SES first year a success

Georgia Neville

Childers, Gin Gin and Bundaberg SES units amalgamated into the Bundaberg Regional SES Unit this year and saw over 18,350 volunteer hours completed.

These hours consisted of training, operational and other assistance to the Bundaberg Region’s communities.

The Bundaberg Regional SES Unit provides a wide range of experiences and training opportunities to prepare volunteers with the skills required to provide a professional response to emergencies and natural disaster situations.

Bundaberg Regional SES unit Local Controller Kieran Galey said this year had been a significant one for the SES across the Bundaberg Local Government area.

“The amalgamation has been extremely beneficial to our regional community to ensure the best operational response capabilities to those when in need during emergencies and disaster situations,” Kieran said.

“We have a stronger coordination and communication process with groups responding to incidents through a single coordination structure in a professional, timely manner.

“We have seen the development of a Swift Water Level 1 capability for response to flash flooding and to assist our colleagues in Fire and Rescue with the storm season.

“We have also seen greater development into our flood boat response capabilities and incident management.”

Kieran said this year had seen an array of successful grants, which helped the unit to enhance its facilities.

“The SES units within our local communities have been successful in various grants seeing the development of additional lighting in Bundaberg and the development of sand bagging capabilities in Bargara, Moore Park, Woodgate, and Elliott Heads,” he said.

“We have seen additional funding in facility developments at Elliott Heads and Gin Gin.

“Next year, the SES across our Local Government area will be developing further skills with swift water, storm damage, flood boats, incident management and search operations.

“We have our whole year of training planned and the volunteers are all eager to advance their skills and knowledge to provide better support to their regional communities when needed.”

The Bundaberg Regional SES Unit is always on the look out for new volunteers, encouraging those interested to put their hand up.

“The SES are recruiting all year 'round and we encourage all the community to come along and join the organisation,” Kieran said.

“It is fantastic opportunity to help those in need and to be active.

“Anyone interested in joining can jump onto the Bundaberg Regional SES Unit Facebook Page and send us a message, they can register interest through the QFES website, or even approach any of us amazing volunteers for enquiring to join.”

Kieran encouraged the community to remain vigilant as storm season had arrived.

“It is storm season and so we ask the community please tune into warnings, clear up any dead material around their yards and clean out them gutters,” he said.

“If roads are flooded forget it, if in need of SES assistance please ring 132 500 or download the Qld SES assistance app on your mobile phone.

“Stay safe this Christmas and follow our SES Elves on our Facebook Page as they travel across our great area amongst the communities.”

Find out more about the Bundaberg Regional SES Unit here.

Swift Storage rolls open doors in Bundaberg

Georgia Neville

Bundaberg’s newest storage business rolled open its doors recently, with Swift Storage opening over 130 units in Kensington.

The storage units are located at 67 Johanna Boulevard and open from 5 am until 10 pm daily.

Louise Stoke said Bundaberg was a great location for the business to continue expanding.

“Bundaberg’s population is rapidly growing and with this, Swift Storage saw a need at Bundaberg for storage for a variety of reasons.

“Swift is looking forward to getting involved in the community,” Louise said.

“At Swift, we pride ourselves on making sure that we always find the storage solution for each specific need.

“We have 136 storage units in Bundaberg, with sizes ranging from 1.5 m x 3 m to 10 m x7.5 m.”

Louise said Swift Storage Bundaberg was 100 per cent contactless, drive up and hassle-free storage.

“Our storage units are available in different sizes and are all located on the ground floor with no stairs or lifts to suit your needs,” she said.

“Swift Storage uses Nokē Smart Entry by Janus International, you can rent a unit online, enter the facility, unlock your unit door all via smartphone or Bluetooth fob, and exit the facility in one swift process.

“We are also committed to a sustainable future and to improving the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the community.

“Our centres are 100% solar-powered and we operate entirely paperless.”

You can book on the Swift Storage Bundaberg website or access its storage calculator here.

Clayton’s saving success leaves positive Impact

Ashley Schipper

Bundaberg NDIS participant Clayton has made a career out of recycling which recently saw him featured nationally by Containers for Change.

His case study was shared in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities held this year on December 3.

The Impact Community Services employee, who also works for the Containers for Change program, has been kicking goals in recycling and with his saving habits which have ultimately moved his family out of public housing and into their very own home.

It started when the now 24-year-old finished school and was eagerly looking for work.

After having no luck, he enrolled in the in IMPACT Community Services‘ Transition to Work initiative which helps young people gain secure employment.

When he finished, a position was vacant at Council's Material Recovery Facility which Impact operates.

Clayton was found to be the perfect fit for the job and he became a member of the team which hand-sorts the region's recyclables from kerbside bin collections.

He was excited by the opportunity and quickly became part of the recycling team, impressing everyone with his reliability, work ethic, etiquette, and enthusiasm.

After just 13 weeks he had saved up enough money to buy himself a car.

The reliable income and full time work also gave Clayton the confidence and financial security he needed to start paying for things like driving lessons, fuel and ultimately, his license.

Recently, when Clayton’s mum passed away, he went above and beyond to help his dad organise the funeral and was instrumental in helping his family work through the grief of losing someone so special.

After what was a very difficult time, Clayton was keen for a fresh start.

A place to call home for Clayton and his family

Clayton continued to stick to his budget and save as much money as he could with the aim of purchasing his very own home.

In April this year, he became a first-time homeowner and lives with his dad and siblings.

Clayton always talks about how he’s grateful for IMPACT.

Knowing he had the ongoing support he needed gave him the confidence to navigate his own way through the paperwork involved with buying his car, getting his license, and buying his own home – asking for help whenever he had questions or wanted advice.

NDIS Manager Sorelle Mackinnon said the past few years had been monumental for Clayton.

“He’s been carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders, and he’s achieved so much,” she said.

“He is not only a huge support for his dad and siblings, but his work colleagues too.

“Last year, he even offered to be designated driver for the Christmas Party and drove all the way to Bargara and Innes Park to collect three fellow staff members to ensure they didn’t miss out.

“Clayton is a selfless young man who always puts others first.

“He’s very hard working and a true delight to be around.

“The team at IMPACT is so proud of him and looks forward to seeing what else he achieves in the future.”

Lewis McKee launches new single


Bundaberg muso Lewis McKee has this week released a new single, which he hopes will set in motion a long list of goals and aspirations for his music career in 2023.

Coming Home is Lewis’ new release, which has evolved over the years from a draft track through to what it is today after years of performing it live acoustically.

Lewis’s style lends from a diverse range of musical influences across rock n roll, blues, country and pop.

Lewis said the track was written to illustrate the uplifting feeling of returning to your hometown.

“This song is about the feeling of knowing the people that you love are on the other side of the journey and that return is always filled with emotions of nostalgia, reverence and fond memories,” Lewis said.

“I hope when people listen to this song it can bring back the memories!

“Whether you’re on your way home these summer holidays to visit family, or missing loved ones while you’re away, use this song to help think of all the good times.

“I know I do!”

After a decade of playing in pubs and clubs, 2022 saw Lewis release his debut original “Into My Soul” and play a number of scheduled performances supporting internationally renowned artists.

Audiences have been delighted by Lewis’s ability to include a broad spectrum of genres in his performances, using a diverse skillset to deliver original songs considered left of field for a country musician.

Professional performances to-date range from small, intimate acoustic shows to larger iconic events, including festivals such as Milbi Festival, ticketed shows and large community events, where he has opened for the likes of Busby Marou, Alex Lloyd and Brad Butcher.

Coming Home” was recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by Albatross Media in Bundaberg.

What's on

Elliott Heads Recreation Plaza build begins

Ashley Schipper

Skating enthusiasts will soon have a new space to practice kick flips and ollies with construction now underway on the Elliott Heads Recreation Plaza skate park.

Specialist company Trinity Skate Park Pty Ltd is on site to deliver the build after the design process underwent extensive community consultation.

The company is no stranger to local skate park construction, having completed the Central Park facility in Walla Street earlier this year.

CEO Clayton Farmer said the Elliott Heads Recreation Plaza would be a little different to what was achieved previously.

“This particular project is more of a street-style plaza, which instantly sets it apart from most of the other parks across the region,” he said.

“The area will include a wide variety of elements like ledges, rails, banks, hips, stairs, garden gaps and a featured loading dock to name a few.”

The Elliott Heads Recreation Plaza will be located on the foreshore between the kiosk and the community hall, co-locating the new skate facility with existing facilities such as the toilet block, playground and basketball court.

The skate park forms one section of the project, which once complete, is set to enhance and complement the Elliott Heads foreshore redevelopment that was constructed in 2019.

“As a company, we are looking forward to building another project within the Bundaberg Region and this time for the Elliott Heads community,” Clayton said.

“What we are looking forward to most about this project is being able to skate in a new park in such an amazing location that overlooks the beach and crystal clear waters of Elliott Heads.”

Divisional representative Cr Tanya McLoughlin said she was excited to see the project underway.

“This new facility will provide the perfect recreational area for families and is being built as a space that can be utilised by all in the community, no matter your age, ability or skillset,” she said.

Construction will be underway between 7 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday, with the project set to be completed by April 2023, weather permitting.

Find out more here.

The project is a joint initiative of Bundaberg Regional Council and the Queensland Government.

Got You Covered library column

Merry and Bright

Celebrating Christmas in the Botanic Gardens

Reindeers at Merry and Bright

Reindeers at Merry and Bright

McKay family with Santa and Mrs Claus

McKay family with Santa and Mrs Claus

The Grinch causing trouble

The Grinch causing trouble

Plenty of performers at Merry and Bright

Plenty of performers at Merry and Bright

Brie and Aleeyah with the Christmas Alpacas

Brie and Aleeyah with the Christmas Alpacas

The Mitchell family enjoy the lights

The Mitchell family enjoy the lights

Botanic Gardens was sparkling

Botanic Gardens was sparkling

Item 1 of 8

Reindeers at Merry and Bright

Reindeers at Merry and Bright

McKay family with Santa and Mrs Claus

McKay family with Santa and Mrs Claus

The Grinch causing trouble

The Grinch causing trouble

Plenty of performers at Merry and Bright

Plenty of performers at Merry and Bright

Brie and Aleeyah with the Christmas Alpacas

Brie and Aleeyah with the Christmas Alpacas

The Mitchell family enjoy the lights

The Mitchell family enjoy the lights

Botanic Gardens was sparkling

Botanic Gardens was sparkling


Athletics star Matthew Walk takes home gold

Georgia Neville

Local athlete Matthew Walk set a new World Record when he represented Australia at the recent Virtus Asia Oceania Games, winning a gold medal in the 100 metre relay.

The Virtus Asia Oceania Games are an international multi-sport competition in the Oceania Asia region for elite athletes with an intellectual impairment.

Matthew participated in 100 metres, 200 metres and long jump, competing strongly across all the events.

Matthew’s mother Wendy Walk said she was proud of his achievements, encouraging him to continue to strive to do his best.

“To qualify, Matthew had to do his times for the track events and his distances for his qualifications for down syndrome,” Wendy said.

“He was overwhelmed when he won the gold medal and was very excited and happy.

“He is looking forward to continuing training and trying to compete at other games if he gets selected.

“I’m very proud of him for competing, it has given him more confidence and met a lot of friends through the event.”

Matthew has been competing in athletics for many years and currently trains with the Bargara Little Athletics club.

Secretary Elissa Wyatt said the club was immensely proud of Matty and what he had achieved.

“This was a fabulous opportunity for Matthew, not only to be selected to compete, but for the experience of competing at an international level,” she said.

“To walk away with a gold medal and a world record in the relay, is such a wonderful achievement.

“Matthew is a great ambassador for disability not being an inability!”

Elissa said Matty was a great inspiration for those who were also training hard to achieve their goals.

“Everyone can have dreams and goals, work hard to achieve them and have fun doing what they love.

“Little Athletics is all about family, fun and fitness and encouraging athletes to be their best, a motto that we strongly promote at our club.

“Matthew joined Bargara Little Athletics in 2020, competing as a member of our Little Athletics club for two years as an Under 16 and Under 17 athlete and has now returned as a senior athlete.

“He enjoys running in particular and has achieved well at several Little Athletics Competitions in the Multi-Class category during 2020 and 2021 and this year at the Maryborough Day/Night Carnival and the Special Olympics National Games held recently in Tasmania.”