A makeover to change two towns’ destinies
RURAL decline is a story told right across regional Australia, but two North Burnett towns have received a break which could alter their destiny.
Monto and Gayndah will receive more than $100,000 in aid and volunteer work after being selected to receive a town makeover run by Rural Aid.
The Rex Monto Ltd's Carly Burnham, who teamed up with Monto Magic Tourism Action Group president Melinda Jones and videographer Susie McLaughlan, said she "had to sit down" when she received the news.
"It was a feeling of brief disbelief, followed by absolute joy and elation," she said.
"The feeling of hope rose from my stomach to my heart.
"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.
"Rural Aid will inject money, time and love into our little humble town and our community will blossom."
Gayndah councillor John Zahl said it was a great feeling knowing people outside the region cared about Gayndah's future.
"Probably most importantly, the effect that this endeavour will have on the mental wellbeing of our community - the very positive effect - the mere attendance of Rural Aid and its support will lift spirits and reinforce belief that others care," Cr Zahl said.
"This is not just a quick, short visit, but a long-term engagement with Gayndah and is ongoing and (will) help keep us on the map."
The makeover includes $10,000 for town leaders to workshop with experts in rural and regional town renewal with the aim of developing a long-term renewal strategy, $90,000 to be spent on materials for maintenance projects identified by the town leaders, sourced locally where possible, and the dispatching of Rural Aid's 'Farm Army' of volunteers (50 to 100) to spend a week in the town working on projects.
Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder said the initiative was aimed at combating drought in Australia.
"While the focus is largely on the impact of the drought on farmers and their families, equal attention should be given to the impact on rural communities," Mr Alder said.
"Small country towns play a critical role in supporting the social and economic fabric of their local communities.
"Farmers rely on their local town for off-farm income through employment, farm employees and services from the local doctor, teachers, dentists, accountants and government support staff.
"Then there's the small businesses like the local pharmacy, grocery, butcher, bakery, bank and rural supply company.
"Take these towns out of the equation and the local ecosystem is impacted forever."