Turn of events: Why COVID can’t keep our communities down

2 November 2021

Stanwell is pleased to see the communities where we operate delivering COVID-safe events and celebrations that are bringing people together and helping regional areas remain connected.

Stanwell employees and their families enjoy living in these communities and appreciate the unique vibrant and family friendly lifestyles that these communities offer.

Recently, Stanwell was thrilled to support two events that celebrated the rich history and culture in the communities close to our Stanwell Power Station.  

Wattle it be 

First held in 2012, the Wattle Day Festival is a free annual event held at the historic Mount Morgan Railway Station. The event is named after the Acacia podalyriifolia wattle, which is endemic to the Mount Morgan area in Central Queensland.  

Wattle is our national floral emblem. It flowers in early Spring and is among the first plants to regenerate after a fire, making it a symbol of renewal and rebirth – a fitting theme for this year’s event.

John Steinberger, the President of Mount Morgan Promotion and Development Inc (MMPAD), says this year’s event marked an important milestone for the community. 

“We haven’t had Wattle Day or any other festivals in Mount Morgan for the last couple of years due to COVID,” he says. 

“It was important to make sure that an event was held to show Mount Morgan is bouncing back from COVID.”

John says there were doubts that this year’s event would go ahead, but in the end, the benefit to the community outweighed the risk of cancellation. 

“We have a focus on community development,” he says, “and with consultation from our working group, we recognised it was important to go ahead with the event, even with the ups and downs of lockdowns.

“In our region, it’s important to keep holding events like this to keep that sense of community spirit alive.” 

John says that this year’s event, which received support from Stanwell’s Corporate Sponsorship Program, was “bigger and better” than ever. 

Held on Sunday 12 September, the COVID Safe event – with check-in areas at both the northern and southern entry points, a register for those without the app, and hand-sanitising stations throughout the event space – was headlined by award-winning Central Queensland country music artist Brad Butcher. 

As well as a loaded line-up of live entertainment, the event featured an array of market stalls, rides, workshops, circus performances, bush survival and fire making demonstrations, the ceremonial cutting of the Wattle Day Cake and more. 

“We had a turnout of more than 600 people on the day,” John says. “We think the event was a great success, thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, and the locals thoroughly enjoyed it. 

“Hopefully next year’s event can be even bigger. It’s easy to get down in COVID times, but we want to focus on civic pride and community development and keep people involved.” 

Amazing Gracemere 

Established in 1871, Gracemere State School is celebrating 150 years of operation this year. 

The oldest school in Central Queensland, it opened with just 48 students, and through Federation, the Great Depression, two World Wars and the emergence of the region as a resource-exporting powerhouse, it has grown to 300 students today, with thousands of pupils passing through its doors over the years. 

As part of the school’s innovative curriculum, the students learn the traditional Darumbal language, and delve into the region’s history and culture. Of course, the school itself plays an important role in that history, and holds a special place in the hearts of locals across multiple generations. 

Samantha Thomasson, a member of the school’s 150th Anniversary Committee, is one of those locals. Not only is she the parent of Gracemere students, but she attended the school herself – and so did her father and her grandmother, who served on the committee for the school’s 100th and 125th anniversary celebrations. 

“We initially formed the 150th Anniversary Committee prior to COVID,” she remembers, “but we only got one meeting in before COVID hit. It really threw a spanner in the works. But we picked it up again this year in February and started planning a three-day whole school event.

“COVID came up at every meeting, but we just decided, ‘Look, if we choose a date and we end up in lockdown again, we’ll just push it back and move forward’. Luckily, it ended up going ahead with no drama. 

“If we had decided not to celebrate the 150th anniversary because of COVID, that would have just been so disappointing. I have great memories of the 125th anniversary from when I was at the school, and I wanted that for my kids.” 

The COVID Safe celebrations, held from Friday 10 September to Sunday 12 September, included a gala dinner attended by over 100 people, a high tea attended by more than 90 people, and the school’s biggest fete ever, with historical memorabilia proudly on display. 

Past students used the anniversary celebrations to reconnect, with many seeing each other face-to-face for the first time since before the start of the pandemic. 

“Everyone was checking the list of attendees to see who else was around when they walked through the door,” Samantha says. “There were hugs, there were tears, there was laughter… it was so nice for old friends to be able to see each other in person, instead of just following each other online. It was a great way to reconnect and reminisce about what they had back in the day.” 

Stanwell sponsored the event through our Corporate Sponsorship Program, and provided advice for the 150th Anniversary Committee. 

“Stanwell were a sponsor, which was great, but they also helped advise us on running and marketing the event,” Samantha says. “The Stanwell team are involved with these types of events all the time, and they have deep ties to the community, so they were happy to provide any guidance we needed.” 

The celebrations will continue with the launch of a 150th anniversary book at the end of Term 1 2022, as the school continues to prepare its young students to go out into the world. 

It’s a world that’s very different to the one the school opened in back in 1871 – and, for that matter, to the one we knew at the start of last year. 

For more information on how Stanwell supports our communities, visit stanwell.com/our-communities/. To apply for our Corporate Sponsorship Program and Community Partnership Fund, click here.