COMMUNITY HERO: Dawson Jockey Club president Graham Rewald.
COMMUNITY HERO: Dawson Jockey Club president Graham Rewald. Contributed

Celebrating our community heroes

IF A five-fold boost in race attendance, $77,000 more in the club kitty, and untold thousands invested in the wider community isn't a heroic effort, nothing is.

Those staggering figures all came from Graham Rewald's 14-year tenure as the president of Taroom's Dawson Jockey Club.

This year, he's been recognised for his achievements as a nominee in the Awards Australia Australia Pacific LNG Community Hero Award.

A trainer of 40 years, Mr Rewald had been involved with the club for decades before taking on leadership roles.

With five jockeys for sons, a love of racing certainly runs in the family, and for Mr Rewald, it's an essential element of his remarkable 79 years.

"I think once I got involved in racing, although I didn't make money out of it I had a great time, made a heap of good friends and just really enjoyed the sport,” Mr Rewald said.

While he started as a trainer, Mr Rewald eventually gave it up - partly to get involved with the Eastern Downs committee (he remains chairman to this day) to help support country racing after watching it go through a stage where numerous meets were cut from the calendar.

The dedication to the sport, and to his local community, drove him to become president of the Dawson Jockey Club in 2003.

When he started, the club had $34,000 in cash assets and about 30 members.

By 2018, those numbers had skyrocketed to $110,825 in assets, and 62 members - not to mention the race attendance numbers, which had increased five-fold.

Mr Rewald and his committee certainly didn't get there by sitting on their laurels, with dozens of projects and upgrades to the club facilities, including hundreds of square metres of shade roofing, concreting and paving, a new kitchen, cold room, female toilet block, safety barriers, day stalls, stairs, fencing, and generator, plus rewiring of multiple rooms, air- conditioning and gravelling the car park.

All that equates to what he's confident ranges in the tens of thousands of dollars of economic benefits to Taroom - from increased spending along with race attendance to the employment of local tradesmen and services to complete improvements.

"It's really great for the town because our big race day, a lot of people come Friday and don't go until Sunday and they spend money in the shops and hotel, and with the infrastructure work we always get local builders and buy locally from our hardware shops and that sort of thing, and it's great for the economics of the town,” Mr Rewald said.

To be recognised for his achievements, is, in his words, an honour.

"I don't really expect to win, but someone around town must think I've done something that's a bit of an achievement.”

As for the future, Mr Rewald is optimistic.

"I'd just like to see it keep prospering and also, I think it's great for our town,” he said.

"That's part of the reason that we're on committees like that, is to help our town out and keep these things going.”

But Mr Rewald isn't the only one in our patch recognised for their efforts, with Awards Australia themselves nominating Chinchilla's Ronald Thompson for the Prime Super Agricultural Innovation Award for his environmental work through his business, Country Asset Management.

Mr Thompson said the business was all about finding secondary layers of income and environmental value in agricultural land that may no longer be viable economically (for example, in cleared land).

His aim is to implement environmental projects on the land, using offsets to make it more economically sustainable.

The region's community groups are also well represented in the awards, with the Chinchilla Community Commerce and Industry Inc and the Taroom Shire Cancer and Palliative Care group both nominated for the Community Group of the Year Award.

For CCCI manager Robyn Haig, it's a wonderful recognition of their efforts year-round and particularly poignant timing as the chamber celebrates its 10th birthday.

"One of the things that became apparent as we completed the details for the nomination was the broad range of projects and events that the CCCI is involved in the community, from our annual events that people are very familiar with, like one long table, buy local, and our golf day, down to programs that maybe get a little bit less visibility but we still work hard at them in the background,” Ms Haig said.