POWER 30: Warwick’s most influential people
WARWICK and the surrounding region is a city full of inspirational individuals, who lead by example in sporting, business and community endeavours.
Despite year after year of drought, and the recent challenges posed by the coronavirus, these people believe in the potential of our region, and are willing to do the hard yards to ensure development moves in the right direction.
The Daily News has put together a list of some of those people who help ensure Warwick has a strong future for generations to come.
These people work both in the public eye and behind the scenes, creating opportunities in employment, community involvement and sport.
Most not only support Warwick through a single avenue, but give generously to many.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of the motivational and skilled people living in the Rose City, but check it out and let us know what you think, because we want to uncover all the gems living in our city.
30. Nancy de Prada
Nancy de Prada has dedicated herself to the Southern Downs community, volunteering in countless community groups. In 2019 she was awarded Southern Downs Citizen of the Year for her work to make Warwick a better place with her work with Crime Stoppers, Jumpers and Jazz in July and Warwick Pentathrun, to name a few. “If someone needs help and I can help, then I will help,” Mrs de Prada told the Daily News, explaining how her personal creed had earned her region-wide recognition.
29. Tracy Dobie
The former Southern Downs mayor may have lost the top council job in the March election, but that doesn’t mean she’s stepped away from the community. Tracy Dobie was recently appointed as president for the Warwick Chamber of Commerce. In this time she’s introduced a Warwick Industry Networking Group, a #supportsmall campaign and supported a bid for a $140,000 laser light show on John Simpson’s Horsepower sculpture.
28. Coedie Tandy
Gamilaraay man and Cowboys player Coedie Tandy is working to strengthen the next generation of indigenous culture in Warwick. The local father uses painting and wood carving to share and connect with his heritage, claiming creativity could be a way for young people to stay on the straight and narrow. Mr Tandy advocates for greater indigenous education in schools, and greater recognition for the benefits of going “out bush”, having witnessed its healing powers in young people who have strayed off track.
27. Malcolm Stacey
The valiant efforts of Warwick Fire Brigade deputy group officer and Gladfield Maryvale Fire Brigade first officer Malcolm Stacey were recognised with a Rural Fire Service Medal, awarded as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours this year. Mr Stacey was lauded for his contribution to innovation, having created communications vehicles to assist during large-scale, multi-appliance operations during the nightmare fire season last year, in which he defended properties in Swanfels and Cunninghams Gap. The technology became invaluable to field operations throughout both Queensland and New South Wales.
26. Joy Craig
The next generation of leaders are in the safe and capable hands of the principal of Warwick’s largest school, Joy Craig. During her time at Warwick State High School she has become a key leader in the community, overseeing the education of more than 800 young adults through the tumultuous year of 2020 and guiding the school into a new, online era.
25. Sally Edwards
Relative newcomer Sally Edwards has made a big impression on the Rose City. She became the president of the Jumpers and Jazz in July committee in 2018, playing a pivotal role in the delivery of what is arguably Warwick’s greatest tourist attraction. Last year, the event attracted an estimated 60,000 people to the region and injected $6.4 million into the local economy. In the absence of “Australia’s quirkiest festival” during the pandemic, Mrs Edwards’ experience as the CEO of national organisations, including working as the director for Horizon Housing, and within the not-for-profit sector, proved an invaluable asset to drought-stricken Warwick families. She became secretary of the Southern Downs Water Relief group, which co-ordinated the donation of tens of thousands of litres of water during the height of drought.
24. Lewis von Stieglitz
Lewis von Stieglitz is a staunch supporter of both business and sporting success in Warwick. As the chief executive officer of the Warwick Credit Union, Mr von Stieglitz often offers sage advice to the community amid economic uncertainty and provides residents an alternative to the big four banks, particularly after the royal commission. In his role as the CEO, the former president of the Warwick Chamber Society and the president of the Rotary Club of Warwick, Mr von Stieglitz has sponsored many key community awards and organisations, such as the WCU/Daily News sports star award. He states he has a particular interest in furthering financial literacy within the indigenous community.
23. Spicers group
Jude and Skroo Turner of Spicer’s Retreats have proven instrumental in driving eco-tourism to the Southern Downs. The Turner family spent seven years developing a $10 million, five-day, 55km hike that extends all the way from Mt Mistake to Spicers Peak Nature Reserve. The unique, state-first attraction is expected to bring in up to 1300 tourists each year, pumping an additional $5 million into the local economy annually. In 2017, the family also partnered with the University of Queensland to develop the Hidden Vale Wildlife Centre, a research and training facility. Researchers aim to create innovative and globally significant solutions for wildlife management, providing an invaluable service to the native koala population after the devastating summer fires.
22. Danny Lyons
It was business as usual for Danny Lyons Sports, which remained a strong player in the Warwick retail sector throughout the coronavirus-related economic downturn. As owner Danny Lyons entered his 38th year on Palmerin St, he encouraged development and local business to move with the times, himself taking to the online world with a new digital store. Mr Lyons’ passion for all things sports continues into his personal life, where he has played a key role in the Warwick Cricket Committee and the Warwick Cowboys Rugby League Club.
21. Gerard O’Leary
In a year of mass-event cancellations, the Warwick Rodeo may be one of the few left standing. As president of the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society, Gerard O’Leary heads up a committee in charge of Australia’s most famous rodeo, an event which brings in more than $5 million to the region annually. Mr O’Leary told the Daily News organisers were cautiously forging ahead with plans, in hopes of providing a welcome boost to retail stores and accommodation providers. A long-time hard worker, Mr O’Leary leads his longstanding business CG Welding, as well as maintaining a family farm and volunteering countless hours at Downs Polo Club.
20. Jim and Katie Osborn
The owners of Bluebird Kitchen and Smokehouse have used their passion for all things barbecue to propel the small town of Warwick into the foodie spotlight. Since the restaurant opened in 2015, it has been featured in Highlife Magazine, Pedestrian.tv, Concrete playground and more, giving tourists a delicious reason to travel to the Rose City. Over the past few years the kitchen staff have gained national notoriety for their food, winning multiple awards in the barbecue and smokehouse circuit. The owners also have a passion for helping their community, having hosted a number of targeted charity events over the years.
19. Ross Bartley
Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley has been an outspoken advocate for the rural population of the Southern Downs, particularly over the past year. Cr Bartley caught the attention of State Government leaders when he hosted a community meeting at Swan Creek protesting new unmetered bore restrictions. The regulations, which had failed to undergo sufficient community consultation, were overturned, saving the livelihoods of several local irrigators during a period of severe drought. Since then, Mr Bartley was comfortably re-elected to the Southern Downs Regional Council, where he has since voted in favour of supporting Emu Swamp Dam, “in principle”.
18. Julie Unwin
Warwick teacher and charity worker Julie Unwin tackles big issues with a big heart, having orchestrated a number of outreach campaigns over the past few years. After the confronting realisation female students were missing school due to an inability to afford sanitary items, she spearheaded the Share the Dignity drive in Warwick. Since then, she brought the Hope Within Reach Winter Warmth event to the Southern Downs for the first time, helping the farming community through a tough, cold winter, and started the In The Bag campaign, in which community members filled handbags with hygiene essentials for those who were in need.
17. Ron Bellingham
Former Southern Downs mayor Ron Bellingham has continued to serve the community through his business and community ventures. Mr Bellingham weighed in during the height of drought, advocating for updated infrastructure at Connolly Dam and the cost-effective solution of bores, 26 of which have since been investigated by the Southern Downs Regional Council. His business acumen proved a saving grace to dozens of local employees last year when Southern Downs Automotive closed. Mr Bellingham, who still owned the site after selling the Mazda dealership 10 years ago, saw the closure as an opportunity to reopen a service repair business and keep jobs in Warwick.
16. Darren Tamblyn
Warwick Criminal Investigation Branch senior sergeant Darren Tamblyn plays an integral role in investigating drug, theft and even murder cases in the community. Over the past 12 months, Sgt Tamblyn took part in a number of investigations, including Operation Portal, which smashed a drug and crime network operation on the Southern Downs, seized more than $10,000 in methamphetamines and resulted in the arrest of 33 people on 276 charges. Drug consumption is of constant concern to the sergeant, who has committed to cracking down in ice dealers over the past two years.
15. Greg Carey
Carey Bros Meats has been a staple Rose City company since the Second World War and current boss Greg Carey continues to take the company from strength to strength. A successful bid for State Government funding will see a significant expansion of the Yangan plant this year, generating a number of new job opportunities during a time of economic downturn. The business has long been a supporter of local events such as the Warwick prime cattle and lamb carcass competitions. Over the past year the meat processing facility weathered one of the most notable acts of trespassing by a vegan activist group, an event which ultimately saw the Queensland Government impose tougher laws to protect producers. Mr Carey is a life member of Warwick Little Athletics as well as numerous rugby league clubs including Collegians, Warwick and District and the Cowboys.
14. Greg Platz
From the football field to the grain field, former Wattles star Greg Platz has shown leadership and innovation. After a successful sporting career, which saw him play for both Queensland and Australian teams, Mr Platz became an award-winning plant pathologist. During his work for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries at The Hermitage, he was instrumental in furthering agricultural research for the development of higher quality food. While Mr Platz retired from research this year, he plans to travel to Ethiopia once travel restrictions ease, to help the struggling country improve their food quality.
13. Drs Lynton Hudson and David Doolan
The team at the Condamine Medical Centre played a pivotal role in protecting the Warwick community against the perils of COVID-19, helping to set up the respiratory clinic that would be responsible for testing hundreds of residents for the illness. Dr David Doolan told the Daily News the centre hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst and initiated the Commonwealth contract to ensure the regional town would have adequate resources, such as protective equipment, beds and IT infrastructure. As the co-owner of the centre, Dr Lynton Hudson is one of Warwick’s longest-serving doctors, obtaining additional qualifications in obstetrics, paediatrics, anaesthetics and acupuncture, making him a true asset to the Warwick medical community. The doctors’ advocacy and passion for healthcare ensures the region will maintain optimal health standards into the future.
12. Anita Bolton
As the Director of Nursing and facility manager at Warwick Hospital, Anita Bolton played a pivotal role in preparing and protecting the community against the pandemic. In her role overseeing one of Warwick’s key facilities, she had a “busy few months putting in place strategies and plans to respond to COVID-19 and ensuring adequate supplies, equipment, staff, training and contingencies to care for our community”, she told the Daily News. Since appointed to the position a little over four years ago, Ms Bolton remained committed to enhancing the lives of Warwick women, and found special purpose through her work with domestic violence victims.
11. Heath Hoffman
As the director of the Norco co-operative, Junabee dairy farmer Heath Hoffman is helping to keep dairy farming alive on the Southern Downs. Norco was established 125 years ago and stands firm in its original commitment to providing farmers with the support they need to thrive. Through a series of agreements with the federal government and major supermarket chains, they are on track to pay farmers $17 million more for their milk than the previous financial year. Mr Hoffman has consistently advocated for local dairy producers under the Norco banner, pressing for a solution to sustain the industry long term.
10. Roger Knox
The inspirational singer Roger Knox has been dubbed the Koori King of Country and was inducted into the National Indigenous Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2018. Known as ‘Black Elvis’, the Emu Vale man has long been recognised for his activism within the Queensland prison system, where he regularly toured to play for the incarcerated. Mr Knox, who is from the Gamilaroi nation, is a survivor, having pulled through two plane crashes and an addiction to painkillers to develop a hugely successful country music career.
9. Karina Devine
The Warwick Art Gallery director Karina Devine uses her “all-encompassing passion” to bring colour and life to the Rose City. Since 2006, Ms Devine has worked tirelessly to bring unique exhibits to the gallery, including state-first Craftivism which debuted on July 2. She played a key role in the beautification of public toilet blocks, facilitating large-scale murals across town, and is a major contributor to the annual Jumpers & Jazz event, playing host to the yarntopians much-anticipated installations. This year she sets her sights on the first Condamine Country Art and Craft Trail, to attract art enthusiasts from across the state.
8. Graeme Collins
Developer Graeme Collins may well have a hand in the changing face of the Rose City, as his acquisition of the old Parmalat building in 2018 sets the stage for a flurry of new opportunities. The beautiful, historic building lay dormant for years until Mr Collins saw its true potential to work alongside the region’s promising tourism prospects. Since then, the 2.42ha site has welcomed Ironside Industries and The Weeping Mulberry, allowing passionate local residents to pursue their business dreams.
7. Graham Buchner
Graham Buchner is widely recognised as a local legend for his work in both the business and community sectors. For almost 30 years, Mr Buchner led the Warwick Clean Up Group, picking up roadside rubbish and mowing along public pathways, before he ultimately retired as its last surviving member this year. In 2005, Mr Buchner was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the Warwick community through tourism, road safety, and local events and in 2018 he won the platinum award for business excellence by the Warwick Chamber of Commerce. Mr Buchner was also recognised as the Citizen of the Year in 2017. At 80, Mr Buchner remains involved with 14 organisations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Warwick Horse Trials, and is president of the Leukaemia Foundation Warwick branch.
6. Bob Hart
Bob Hart is at the helm of the region’s largest employer, John Dee. From humble beginnings of just ten employees, the meat processing facility has grown significantly, providing jobs to over 500 people. Mr Hart served in the navy during the Second World War and never married, but always emphasised the importance of family in running what is now Australia’s oldest single-family owned meat processor. Mr Hart was honoured with the Business Platinum Award in 2017 for his service to the community, an accolade that exemplifies his importance to sustainable employment in our region. Mr Hart continued to steer his plant in the right direction under COVID, avoiding the outbreaks seen in meat processing plants across the country.
5. Wickham group
Through fires, floods and worldwide pandemics, the Wickham group kept the Warwick economy trucking on. Graham and Donna Keogh, Darren and Lynelle Eather, and Haydn and Kerri Lamb are the leadership at the top local employer, which has grown into a multidimensional business with both transport and farming divisions. All the family members assume hands-on management roles within the company, which now employs over 300 people between North Queensland and Victoria. The team supports numerous local shows, the rodeo and campdrafting in both Warwick and Killarney, as well as donating cattle supply transport and hire for different events. They have recently turned their attention to the issue of truckie safety, enlisting the help of 60 minutes celebrity Ray Martin.
4. Fraser family
The Fraser family is a powerhouse of proactive and passionate community members, many of whom have proven key to the progression of the Southern Downs. Les and Robyn, Ross and Donna, and Peter and Jo Fraser have all made significant contributions through varying ventures into the business and sporting world. Brothers Les, Ross and Peter are the faces of Frasers Livestock Transport, which travels eight million kilometres annually and this year celebrated its 70th anniversary. But the Frasers’ allegiance to Warwick extends far from their business. Les is the president of Warwick Polocrosse Club and received the Queensland Sport Service to Sport award for the role he played in the Polocrosse World Cup. Robyn Fraser was also recognised, named Volunteer of the Year after more than 46 years of dedication to the sport. She also owns Classic Dimensions, a mainstay business on Palmerin St. Ross was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal in 2009 and was made a life member of the Australian Livestock Transporters Association in 2007, while Donna is committed to honouring the history of our region through her role as chair of the Glengallan Homestead Trust. Peter, alongside his brother Les, played polocrosse for Australia, and Jo has a long history in horse sports.
3. James Lister
The state member for the Southern Downs is a popular figure, having advocated so fiercely for the region he has been thrown out of parliament on multiple occasions. The Liberal National Party member and former squadron leader in the Royal Australian Air Force played a key role in overturning costly irrigation rules during the height of drought and is a staunch supporter of investment in water infrastructure including Emu Swamp Dam.
2. David Littleproud
The Member for Maranoa and Deputy Leader of the National Party David Littleproud became the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management following Bridget McKenzie’s resignation in February. Since the 2016 election, the MP has been instrumental in delivering drought support and bushfire recovery funds to the Southern Downs. Most recently, Mr Littleproud secured $36 million in funding to support agricultural show societies and $1.5 million for the Southern Downs Regional Council, as the region recovers from the effects of COVID-19 closures.
1. Vic Pennisi
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi won the overwhelming support of the community during the March election, nabbing the top job after 16 years as a councillor. The mayor, who heralds from Stanthorpe, was elected on a platform of trust and transparency, with the stated goal of changing the relationship between local government and its constituents. Since the election, he was faced with the overwhelming task of leading the local economy out from the ashes of the COVID-19 lockdown, and has implemented a number of popular policies, including a temporary freeze on rate rises, a redirection of councillor pay rises, and rural tank rebates.