Year in Review: The story of Charleville in 2020
It has been one of the most unique, stressful, but life-changing years in living memory for most Charleville residents.
The lives of many of our community members were completely different at the start of 2020 compared to what they are now.
But through the strength and resilience of the community, Charleville made it through this trying year and has created many memories along the way.
In the first week of 2020, Charleville lost one of its most caring, generous, and loved icons.
Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan passed away at the age of 76 in January, after a lifetime of serving others and helping rural Australians in need.
Brian and his wife Nerida started the charity in Dalby with only $20 and a car trailer in 2002.
They worked almost every day since to provide struggling farmers with fodder, hampers, and emotional support.
He was awarded with a posthumous Order of Australia (OAM) medal in September, with Nerida also being awarded this prestigious honour.
By mid-January, bushfires and dust storms had ravaged Queensland.
The visibility was reduced to 50 per cent as dust and dirt from the west was carried all the way into the Darling Downs by strong winds on January 11.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rosa Hoff told the Western Times that these storms were caused by heavy shower activity and multiple troughs moving across the outback.
And while Charleville was going through all of this, our firefighters generously offered to head south to New South Wales to help battle their scorching bushland.
Then in February, Southwest Queensland was in for severe flash flooding with many roads being cut off and heavy rain pelting the district.
Up to 200mm of rain hit Charleville and the Warrego River peaked at 5.87m.
As autumn kicked in and the natural disasters started to peter out, Queenslanders headed to the polls to decide who would represent them on a local government level for the next four years.
Local butcher Shaun ‘Zoro’ Radnedge threw his hat in the ring for the position of mayor, after four years of serving as a councillor.
His top priority was regional development by creating jobs in the Murweh Shire and bolstering tourism.
He won against incumbent mayor Anne Liston, who had been serving since 2016.
“Unfortunately we are going to lose a good councillor out of this; Annie is a good friend, but in this environment one of us is going to lose … that is how it is,” Cr Radnedge said.
Councillors Peter ‘Red’ Alexander, Michael McKellar, Paul Taylor, and Robert Eckel were elected as well.
And while this was happening, the coronavirus reached the shores of Australia.
Many people were baffled that a disease that once was confined to China could wreak so much havoc on Southwest Queensland.
But the consequences were extremely significant for the Murweh Shire and threw us on the path to a new future.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison banned all events and gatherings over 500 people from March this year in response to the deadly disease spreading from person to person in Australia.
This meant that Charleville residents had to cancel their holiday plans, and yearly gatherings once considered sacred, like the Charleville Show, had to be cancelled.
Flights were significantly reduced (and since haven’t returned to pre-COVID frequencies) and residents were forced to stay inside their homes.
The Charleville Courthouse was restricted to having only five people inside and no juries for District Court, with the risk of all matters being deferred to Toowoomba, Ipswich and Brisbane courts.
Many non-essential businesses were forced to close, but most soldiered on through the tough times until the restrictions were relaxed later in the year.
By May, restrictions started to ease and Outback Queenslanders were given more freedom to travel and attend local venues compared to their non-Outback counterparts on the Darling Downs and along the coast.
But during this time, a major decision was made that would change Regional Queensland communities forever.
News Corp Australia announced that the press would stop on 112 regional newspapers, with 76 going online-only and 36 shutting altogether.
The press stopped for the last time on the Western Times when it printed its last edition on June 25.
And while we’re still here delivering important news to Southwest Queensland, some residents were disappointed about the change.
But we were still able to cover Charleville’s stories, and were eager to cover the Queensland Election a couple of months later.
Cattle farmer Rick Gurnett was a southwest local running for the diverse seat of Warrego.
Having hailed from the Charleville area, he represented Katter’s Australian Party for the electorate.
Former Murweh mayor Mark O’Brien also threw his hat into the ring, running again for Labor.
But it was ultimately incumbent MP Ann Leahy who won the safe LNP seat this time around.
As COVID restrictions eased further, sporting events were back on again and one of Charleville’s finest was given the honour to play for the Maroons.
Kurt Capewell is the second Charleville boy to ever play State of Origin and he sure made his hometown proud this November.
In fact, Charleville was so proud that Cr Radnedge renamed it ‘Kurtsville’ on November 17 to honour the homegrown hero.
By the end of November, one Charleville-raised woman had the honour to speak at the United Nations about biosecurity.
Lou-Ellen Martin has lived in many places, from Charleville to Toowoomba to even New York, working as a senior government official.
The Kamilaroi and Kooma woman’s grandparents grew up on an Aboriginal reserve and her father Sonny says she’s an ‘inspiration’ to young Indigenous kids growing up in Southwest Queensland.
And now we come to the end of a turbulent, yet unique year in Charleville’s history.
As 2021 rolls around, we can only wait and see what challenges and triumphs will face our community in the future.