Over the last few months I’ve taken the opportunity to visit most of the regional communities in Leichhardt. It’s been good to meet all the new mayors and councillors, catch up with community groups and hear about new initiatives.
In Douglas, I caught up with the Council to hear about their current progress on the waterfront development and aged care facility. I then crossed the river into the Daintree to meet with local businesses and discuss the main issue that is causing a bottle neck with a number of them – access to power and phone reception. I’ve said before that they’re the only community in Australia where the state government has actually legislated to prohibit mains power being connected, so I will continue pushing for the state to change this.
A regular fixture in my calendar is the opening of the Cooktown Discovery Festival, a fabulous event that attracted good crowds even with the loss of the public holiday on the Monday this year. I also fulfilled an annual commitment to work the bar at the Laura Races, one of the most important events on the Cape social calendar.
In Lockhart River, Mayor Wayne Butcher took me to meet Denise Hagan, Founder and CEO of the Puuya Foundation. Their new early learning centre is a stand-out facility, run completely by the community and focusing on teaching children basic life skills, school preparedness, the importance of completing tasks, and how to become a respectful leader. Unlike standard childcare, parents or carers must also attend to support their child. Already, the local school says that the 50-or- so children coming through the program are more school-ready, more respectful and more prepared to learn than previous years.
In Weipa, I was very pleased to take part in the handover of an iconic local business – North Queensland Civil Engineering and Contracting (NQCEC) – to new owner Bruce Martin. Bruce is a highly capable and accomplished Wik man from Aurukun, who will now head one of the few indigenous-owned civil construction businesses in Queensland. I wish him all the best for the future, and to retiring owners Greg Williams and Jim Sceresini – here’s to a well-earned break!
In the Torres Strait, I visited ten of the islands and met up with local business and community leaders. On the top of the agenda was developing the infrastructure needed for the communities to pursue more economic opportunities. I was also privileged to take part in the ceremonial blessing and sod-turning for the Star of the Sea Elders Village reconstruction project, and to attend the Gab Titui Indigenous Art Awards which always reinforce to me the incredible talent we have in this region.