POWER 30: Clarence Valley's Most Influential 2019

1. Clarence Valley Rural Fire Service

"VALLEY on red alert", the headline from The Daily Examiner screamed over a map showing bushfire locations at Rappville, Lanitza, Whiteman Creek and Pillar Valley.

It would have been a terrifying prospect at the height of the fire season, but the dateline on that newspaper was Monday, August 12.

The "real" fire season was supposedly still months away.

Within another two weeks more fires were burning and before the end of the month the first of the Rural Fire Service brigades had arrived to battle our fire emergency.

Officially, the end of winter was days away, but we had already experienced our first fire emergency.

That's why, four months later and with the Clarence Valley shrouded in smoke for a month, The Daily Examiner Power 30 judges unanimously put the RFS at the top of the pile for 2019.

Instead of backburning and making the normal preparation for what promised to be a difficult fire season, RFS volunteers were fighting flames back from homes and properties, all the while earning the undying gratitude of property owners.

And, of course, the stories of heroism emerged.

Under the headline "I'm not a hero", we learnt about the Copmanhurst RFS captain Edwin Newbery.

The year had been tough for the JR Richards and Son garbage collector.

A family tragedy at the start of the year could have sent a lot of people off the rails.

But not Edwin Newbery, the brigade captain who doubles as the treasurer during brigade meetings.

As fire threatened Whiteman Creek, north of Grafton, he should have been enjoying day off work.
Instead he was driving a truck.

"I was meant to have today off but there was no one else to drive the truck," he said.
Just a week earlier he attended the Rotary NSW Emergency Services Community Awards where he was named the NSW Rural Fire Service Officer of the Year.

"I don't accept the award for myself, but on behalf of all volunteers that go to fires," he said.

"I don't do it to be a hero. I like the satisfaction of being able to help somebody else."

Rural Fire Service brigades, the town firefighters, National Parks and Wildlife, State Forests, Local Land Services, SES: the list is long and all deserve recognition for totally selfless service to their community.
The August fires were not an aberration, but a start to something many suspect might become a new norm for our area.

As winter rolled to spring, September to October, October to November, each week seemed to bring a new fire and more heroic tales.

When the Shark Creek fire threatened residents, RFS brigades hurled themselves between the fires and the homes.
Residents marvelled at the way fireys were able create a bubble around their homes while the fire front swept past.
They successfully defended the Wooloweyah and Angourie without losing a single house despite fire  bearing down on both villages.

Students at Maclean High School showed their appreciation with a Fiver for a Firey fundraiser.

The Valley's luck ran out on November 8 at Nymboida. As smoke from the Liberty Trail fire turned daytime into night, an apocalyptic wall of flame tore through the village.

The RFS performed miracles that night, but as Nymboida fire captain Paul Johnston said of that blaze, "100 fire trucks could not have stopped it".

A month later residents are still counting the houses lost to the fire, but the village has already begun to rebuild.
Meanwhile, RFS volunteers have also moved on to their next battle.

As you read this and look outside at the smoke filled sky, we encourage you to give thanks to those volunteers, who bravely put the community before themselves. 

2. Mark Blackadder

IN LESS than a year Mark Blackadder has sent the Jacaranda Festival into a new stratosphere.

The newly appointed festival manager has completely transformed the 85-year-old event to see it sit comfortably among the upper echelon of regional festivals around Australia.

While he would be the first to say he certainly didn't do it alone, the energy and passion he exuded was contagious, firing up the team of talented committee members and volunteers, and attracting a bunch of new faces into the fold,  

With a background in the corporate sector and luxury brands, Mark took the reins armed with a big vision for Jacaranda and wasn't going to compromise during the intensive process of achieving that.

A complete rebranding of the festival, stronger online presence, new merchandise and crowns, revamped events, a giant kewpie doll and a big top in Market Square were all rolled out in a few short months and the results spoke for themselves.

There were more visitors, more queen candidates and more locals taking part than the city has seen for many years.

As his professional background professed, Mark also brought a swag of new corporate sponsors along for the ride, and aside from turning the Grafton Jacaranda Festival into an international event and destination, his other vision was to make the event the most inclusive in its history.

The 85th festival was the first time the three First Nations groups had their own event included in the official program and the arrival of the world class all-male burlesque troupe was also a first for the festival's entertainment bill.

The local disability sector also had a starring role this year at the gala ball when Caringa came on as major sponsors.
To top off an outstanding year the Jacaranda Festival took home its first award, a bronze at the North Coast Regional Tourism Awards for Festival and Events.

3. Grafton and Harwood Bridges

THE people of Grafton gave a graphic description of just how important bridges are to the community when they were asked for input into the position of the new Grafton bridge.

When the designers came up with the locations the community suggested, the result looked a lot like a bowl of noodle soup with the Clarence River running through it.

From Susan Island to Clarenza there was hardly a section of riverbank someone thought could not accommodate a bridge approach.

It was a graphic realisation of how important bridges become to a community, and the passion with which each choice was defended only amplified this.

Bizarrely, bridges don't provide great value for money. They're costly: the Grafton Bridge has set taxpayers back $240 million and we are told the Harwood bridge chews up a good chunk of the $4.36 billion highway upgrade budget. And their maintenance isn't cheap.

Even charging a toll to cross - such as what happened with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in the same year as Grafton's old bridge - is not great economics.

The value of bridges comes not from their structures but what they allow.

Prior to 1932, Grafton and South Grafton were two largely separate entities. Crossing by ferry would have made the daily peak-hour delays we complain about now seem trivial.
Vitally, they would have impeded the growth of Grafton, which unsurprisingly grew rapidly as road and rail transport improved overnight.

The new Harwood bridge fulfils a similar role. As a focal point of the Pacific Highway upgrade, which has brought both Sydney and the southeast of Queensland within easy reach of the Valley, it is the new gateway to the Clarence Coast.

The construction of both bridges has also made a huge contribution to the Clarence Valley since the projects were announced in 2016.

The Acciona Ferrovial joint venture's successful tender for the Harwood Bridge was announced in April 2016 and a month later the RMS revealed Fulton Hogan would design and build Grafton's second river crossing.

For the local community it became a race between the two bridges to see which would open first.

The community marvelled at the speed at which the massive pylons supporting the Harwood bridge went up.

Local maritime company Harwood Marine was able to speed up the process even further, providing marine facilities which enabled the massive cranes to manoeuvre pylons and bridge sections into position to be ferried virtually on site.

In Grafton it was almost anticlimactic as one stubborn bridge pylon seemed to halt progress for weeks.

But work on both bridges has now come to a point where traffic is flowing over the river at Harwood as of Thursday this week and tomorrow the public will have access to Grafton's second bridge for the first time. 

4. Susan Howland

OUR Clarence Valley Citizen of the Year, Susan Howland, is a community maverick, a knowledgeable voice able to rise above the knockers to make her community a better place.

Susan has dedicated her life to improving the mental health services and the empowerment of women in the Clarence Valley, her leadership and dedication in these fields a shining example of what can be achieved with clear vision and fortitude.

A rock star in the volunteering landscape, Susan is a member of numerous organisations and involved in implementing many programs, including Our Healthy Clarence, Northern NSW Local Health District, Mental Health Forum, Light Up the Darkness, Local Health District Community Engagement Council, CWA Maclean and is a founding member of Clarence Valley Women's Inc.

For decades Susan has worked tirelessly, generally quietly behind the scenes, to improve the lives of others in the Clarence community, all while raising a family of her own and continuing to juggle family commitments as a grandmother.

She is not afraid to stand up in the face of adversity, challenge people's perceptions in the public arena and fight for the justices of people who may not be in a position to do so themselves.

After accepting her Citizen of the Year award, Susan took the opportunity to express her beliefs about how changing the date of Australia Day was a crucial part of the reconciliation process with Australia's indigenous people, not an easy task among the boos and hisses being generated from the audience.

But as the opening paragraph of this Power 30 entry will attest, Susan once again rose to the occasion.

5. Scott Monaghan

BUNDJALUNG man Scott Monaghan could reasonably expect inclusion in The Daily Examiner's Power 30 list on the strength of his 16 years with Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation in Grafton.

But his influence in the community - both Aboriginal and general - extends well beyond those boundaries.

Bulgarr Ngaru is a founding member of the Many Rivers Aboriginal Medical Service Alliance.

It is within this context that Scott has built strong communication, community consultation and negotiating skills within Aboriginal communities in the Local Health District boundaries.

Scott was a member of the transitional board for North Coast NSW Medicare Local and has nine years experience as a board member of a community controlled organisation.

He  has also been a champion for Aboriginal causes. He grew up in Baryulgil and when a university investigation of the town cemetery revealed 30 previously unknown grave sites, recognised their importance of the find.

As the chairman of the Baryulgil Local Aboriginal Land Council he ensured government funding was available to make these sites secure for his people.

"To be able to determine the location of burial sites, after grave markers have long been moved or destroyed, is incredibly important to our community as we identify and protect the resting places our old people," he said.

With almost seven years experience as CEO of the medical corporation, Scott's selection as the chairman of the new Clarence Valley Country University Centre came as no surprise.

Just as he identified significant events for his people, Scott saw the arrival of an avenue for tertiary education in the Clarence Valley as valuable for the whole community.

6. Dr Greg Jenks

SINCE arriving in the Clarence Valley at the end of 2017 to take on the role of the eighth Dean of Grafton, Rev Canon Dr Greg Jenks has shown leadership that travels well beyond the Christ Church Cathedral's walls.

Despite operating in areas traditionally considered to be conservative environments, Dr Jenks doesn't hold back when it comes to confronting and navigating difficult situations and challenging entrenched mindsets.

When the city of Grafton was reeling with panic after it was thrust into the international spotlight when its connection with the Christchurch massacre came to light, rather than the comfortable option of defensiveness, Dr Jenks reached straight out to the Muslim community to offer the city's support organising a community prayer vigil for people of all walks to come and pay their respects.

The Northern Rivers native's strong commitment to fostering a more inclusive Clarence Valley is evidenced in his strong stands against homophobia, sexism and racism, and he does not mince his words whether he is addressing the national media or his own congregation.

He is also passionate about addressing the impacts of climate change and the devastation of the planet if it continues to go unchecked.

The Doctor of Philosophy and author holds multiple degrees and masters and is a big fan of the technological landscape, introducing a social media strategy to the Grafton Anglican Diocese, including livestreamed presentations, an online blog and Wi-Fi in the cathedral.

7. The Deadly Examiner

THE Daily Examiner created history this year when it became the first mainstream masthead to devote an entire issue to the First Nations people of its region.

Renamed The Deadly Examiner for the day, the content became an all-indigenous affair, with every story and regular inclusion in the 160-year-old masthead dedicated to the oldest surviving culture on the planet and the people from the three nations of the Clarence Valley - Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl.

A collaborative effort between the Clarence Valley Healing Centre and The Daily Examiner to mark Reconciliation Week, the project was driven by centre staff Janelle Brown, Dean Loadsman and Jo Randall and DEX features editor Lesley Apps. The final result was embraced by the indigenous and wider community.

Content touched on the full gamut of indigenous issues, from its bloody history and traumatic family stories to the people who paved the way for the next generation and those achieving in their chosen fields today.

The edition was a cultural education to many and a celebration of the unique convergence of the Clarence's three nations.

While print editions of newspapers are in decline, The Deadly Examiner managed to buck the trend, selling out in many of the newsagencies that day, while other regions looked to the Clarence and wondered whether they could do the same. The Deadly Examiner 2020 awaits. 

8. Wendy Gordon

HAVING the power to attract more than 3000 people and 800 caravans to your backyard is nothing short of astonishing, and Wendy Gordon's ability to do those kinds of numbers every October is worthy of a Top 10 spot in the Power 30.

The driving force behind the Clarence Valley Country Muster, Wendy has championed the event that began on her Calliope property with her ex-husband Terry Gordon and a few of his mates singing in a paddock in 2012 to give back to the community after devastating floods that year.

Today the event has become one of the most popular country music meets on the annual calendar.

The Clarence's own version of the famous Gympie and Tamworth gatherings, Wendy's ability to assemble and host a stellar line-up of artists each October is faultless.

She has welcomed a long list of country music A-listers to her place in the past six years, including Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole, Tania Kernaghan and daughter of the legendary Hank Williams, Jett.

Along with the big names, she also encourages performers of all backgrounds to come along and share their passion for the genre on the muster stage.

A master of organisation, Wendy already has next year's line-up locked in, including the legendary showman Jade Hurley. 

9. Kevin Hogan

A YEAR is an eternity in politics, as this year's No. 9 in The Daily Examiner Power 30, Federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan, can testify.

At the beginning of the year, Mr Hogan was sitting on the crossbenches after leaving the government in protest of the leadership changes tearing the Federal Government apart.

There were thoughts he might even not survive the electoral tsunami expected to sweep the government from office.
Mr Hogan can take some credit for the government's miraculous escape. As happened in 2016 when the government was returned with a one-seat majority, Mr Hogan's success in persuading voters to support him and the government continued to keep Page a bellwether seat.

While on the crossbenches, Mr Hogan began a process he hoped would lead to a royal commission into petrol pricing and the behaviour of major supermarkets.

As a rural MP, Mr Hogan said the market domination of the three largest supermarkets, which control 76 per cent of the industry, and pricing practices of petroleum distributors were big issues for his constituents. And he said getting to the bottom of petrol pricing was of vital importance to the community.

"No one can explain how petrol prices can vary so wildly between the metropolitan areas and the country," he said.

"Not even ACCC chairman Rod Sims was able to give me a satisfactory explanation."

He said the behaviour of supermarkets towards their suppliers had been the subject of more than one inquiry in the past decade, but they had not appeared to change their behaviour, making a royal commission a necessity.

Mr Hogan's push got lost in the election campaign, but the issues he raised continue to be important for rural people.

10. Dr Russell Pridgeon

SINCE his startling arrest in a Grafton carpark, Dr Russell Pridgeon has been making waves in Grafton and beyond.

A team of Australian Federal Police officers arrested Dr Pridgeon in October 2018 after a lengthy investigation.

Dr Pridgeon was accused of being the ring leader of an elaborate child-snatching ring that assisted mothers to take children from their fathers and claimed the men were sexually abusing the children. Police said these claims were baseless.

Despite the charges and subsequent court case, the doctor attracted plenty of sympathy in the community from people who knew him as a GP who had treated their families well.

There was also sympathy in the region and outside for the activities he and his group were carrying out.

A former Grafton City councillor, Laurie Van de Velde, who fled the Nazis in Europe in the 1940s, said there were similarities in the arrest and treatment of Dr Pridgeon and the way the Germans treated people during the war.

Queensland-based child safety advocate Hetty Johnston threw her support behind him.

Ms Johnston said Dr Pridgeon and his co-accused believed they were trying to help children.

She said the child stealing charges the group faced sounded "horrible" but she would do the same thing if she thought the courts were not protecting her children.

Dr Pridgeon is due back in court in Queensland this week where he faces three child stealing charges, conspiracy to defeat justice and dealing with proceeds of crime over $100,000.

In September, the court dropped a charge of stalking. Dr Pridgeon also founded the Antipaedophile Party in 2016.

11. Chris Gulaptis

ALTHOUGH slipping down the list in The Daily Examiner's Power 30 of most influential people Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis wields considerable influence.

In March Chris finally had the chance to take on the former holder of his State seat, Steve Cansdell, in the NSW election and came out a convincing winner with 64.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.

But he has not rested on his laurels and a few months later shocked the region with the announcement he had snared $4.6 million to improve the local greyhound racetrack.

In Yamba, the announcement of a multimillion-dollar TAFE Connected Learning Centre was a long-awaited and popular development.

Chris will also take pride in the coming months as massive infrastructure projects in his electorate: the new bridge, the highway upgrade and the Clarence Correctional Centre start to come online.

No. 12 #myclarencevalley

THE Clarence Valley Council's tourism platform My Clarence Valley and its hashtag of the same name has taken off since being introduced in 2014. The lynch pin of the council's rebranding of its tourism services, the concept conceived and driven by destination management officer Lou Gumb, it has taken the organisation into a new technological realm.

With a new website and active social media presence across the major platforms, #myclarencevalley has been embraced by the social media fraternity, the popular Instagram handle now has more than 8500 followers and there aren't many users who don't add the hashtag when sharing their images of the Clarence Valley.

My Clarence Valley also challenged local businesses to follow suit by providing a collaborative environment where operators could be inspired by workshops and guest speakers to help improve their social media presence and gear their thinking towards the age of the internet.

The tourism team have won many accolades over the past few years, most recently a bronze award for Destination Marketing at prestigious NSW Tourism Awards.

They have put the Clarence Valley on map, both literally and in the cyberspace.

No. 13 Glen Scholes

GENERAL manager of Clarence Correctional Centre Glen Scholes' debut at No. 13 in The Daily Examiner Power 30, should be a harbinger of things to come.

His position effectively puts him in charge of the fourth largest community in the Valley and one of the biggest employers in the region.

A 30-year veteran of the NSW prison system, Glen's cross over into the private sector puts him in a unique position to manage the development of the new jail at Lavadia, south of Grafton.

And while Glen has a comprehensive knowledge of the public system, his ambition for the biggest jail in Australia is to make it the "jewel in the crown" of the prison system.

No. 14 Scott Lenton


If it wasn't for Scott Lenton, the Clarence would have more cane toads bouncing around backyards than there are Queensland rugby league fans.

The co-ordinator of the Clarence Valley Conservation in Action Landcare group is an advocate for sustainable living but also walks the talk.

He is responsible for driving the toad mustering program and a chief participant in the removal of tens of thousands of toads and tadpoles as well as millions and millions of eggs from Clarence waterways that would otherwise result in an amphibian apocalypse the likes of which we would never recover from.

Scott and his small band of helpers spend their Friday nights stalking wet and mushy toad hot spots all over the Lower Clarence to remove and dispose of these iconic pests and their offspring in a humane manner (the freezer, not via a driving iron), their hard slog and unrelenting dedication to the cause dramatically reducing the impact these unfortunate creatures have on the natural landscape.

Their work has been acknowledged nationally and with a handful of awards, but it's a job not many of us would want to do, especially on a Friday night, so kudos to Scott (and his team) for taking on such a massive task and continuing to do so in unwavering fashion.

If this has piqued your interest, Scott is always looking for new volunteers.

No. 15 Hayley Talbot

Hayley Talbot in her co-working space Blanc Space
Hayley Talbot in her co-working space Blanc Space

HAYLEY Talbot is a passionate advocate for many topics that she holds close. Leading the local dialogue on environmental issues, empowering young women and taking the lead on local business, there's not many thing she isn't involved in.

First coming to notice when she solo kayaked the Clarence River from source to sea in 2017, Ms Talbot has used her innate knowledge of PR and promotion to champion causes for the community.

Recently with husband Michael they opened their workspace Blanc Space, empowering local businesspeople and entrepreneurs to find a place to expand their work vision and find like minded people.

Ms Talbot is sought after not just in the Clarence, but across the country for her ability to inspire and lead the conversation, be it environmental or empowerment talks. She is driven to create change not only for her own life, but for those in her community.

No. 16 Dirtgirl & Scrapboy

AFTER 10 years at the helm of the internationally successful Dirtgirlworld, Grafton born and raised actors Maree Lowes and Michael Balk will be hanging up their famous gardening boots as Dirtgirl and Scrapboy.

The pair, both educated in Grafton, honed their performance skills at the Clarence Valley Conservatorium, before venturing out into the competitive entertainment industry.

Since donning their bright overalls and gumboots to take on the groundbreaking television series created by previous Power 30 finalists Cate McQuillen and Hewey Eustace, they have won the hearts of millions of children across the globe and helped to win a few industry awards along the way.

They brought to life two of the most endearing characters well before the word 'eco' became a household term, helping to plant the seeds of the future with children and their families when it comes to respecting and looking after our environment for generations to come.

No. 17 Emma Joseph

ONE of the other young achievers on this year's list, Emma Joseph has taken the difficult topic of mental health and taken it to the masses here in the Clarence Valley.

Inspired by her own experiences navigating mental illness, Emma surmounted enormous challenges in her personal life to channel her energies into creating an event that provides the kind of appeal and warmness required to get people talking more openly about it.

The annual Black Tie Ball has been an outstanding success, the glittering affair attracting hundreds and hundreds of people who come together to listen to guest speakers share their frank accounts about their own mental health stories as well as professionals who work in the field. Mixed with a program of entertaining performances and three-course meal it's proven to be a winning combination

Emma's event model has been so effective she has been approached from outside the area to share her vision to help orchestrate more mental health balls around the country, something she may consider down the track.

No. 18 Clarence Property

CLARENCE Property has made a reputation under promising and over delivering for its investors - many in the Clarence Valley - in its 25-year history.

Its leaders including managing directors Peter Fahey and non-executive chairman Jim Dougherty have notable family connections to the Clarence region.

It's flagship product, the Westlawn Property Trust, which manages properties from the Clarence Valley to South East Queensland, gives investors an attractive alternative to the share market.

In the past three years returns have reached 22 per cent and average out at 14.5 per cent over three years.

19. Claire Aman

SOFTLY spoken Claire Aman is what you could call a considered communicator so when she has something to say people listen.

Her writing is much the same, the award-winning author establishing herself in national literary circles through her storytelling, poignant prose and the sublime way she can extract beauty from everyday situations.

Claire is passionate about creative writing and spreads that love throughout the Clarence Valley through the Long Way Home project.

Now into its second year of showcasing talented writers of all walks and ages, the annual competition is hugely popular while its supporting book release quickly becoming a local bestseller.

In awe of her local environment, the avid community weeder was also instrumental in setting up the 53 Islands concept and festival (along with Kieran McAndrew and Glen McClymont) which champions the islands of the Clarence River.

The inaugural event this year was a runaway success, the community immersing themselves in the self-serve project.

20. Rachel Choy

THE quiet achieving dynamo at the helm of Caringa Enterprises, Rachel Choy is a strong local advocate for inclusiveness.

Whether it's working directly with government to improve the delivery of NDIS services or growing community relationships across the Clarence Valley, Rachel's approach to her work is to get things done.

Her effectiveness in the role of CEO has helped to improve the lives of many of Caringa's clients while broadening minds in the wider community in the process.

Rachel's voice cuts through at every level, whether lobbying at the top level of government or tackling concerns here at home. Her listening skills are equally as good.

Her innovative approaches and wise counsel within the disability sector ensures the best possible outcomes for regional issues like access, quality and affordability of the NDIS as well as the implementation of training solutions to help meet the service's growing demand.

Rachel also helped to forge one of the Clarence's most successful community unions this year when Caringa came on board to sponsor the Jacaranda Festival's gala ball. Almost 500 people turning out for the stellar occasion.

21. Bruce Carle

FOR more than 15 years Bruce Carle's name was synonymous with hockey in Grafton.

In 2013 he decided it was time to bow out of the sport he loved, but has left a legacy of hockey infrastructure.

With two artificial playing surfaces plus the Bunkhouse Grafton hockey can look to develop hockey locally well into the 21st Century.

Bruce's inside knowledge of local sport has made him a valuable member of The Daily Examiner's Clarence Valley Sports Awards committee. He is the group's treasurer.

Away from sport Bruce's work with the Grafton Men's Shed and men's mental health has been tireless and effective.

22. Jenna Thompson

DAILY Examiner journalist and digital producer Jenna Thompson was responsible for creating and driving the Cowper Podcast.

The former Wollongong resident moved to the Clarence a few years ago and after learning about the horrific bus crash last year while writing a news story, she immediately saw the opportunity to create an in depth podcast to commemorate the incident's recent 30th anniversary in 2019.

The podcast is a first for the 160-year-old masthead and sets a high bar for the rest of regional media outlets to rise to.

Jenna took on the project firstly as producer, working countless hours at the office and at home in pulling together the huge number of people involved in such a groundbreaking example of storytelling including victims of the crash, emergency workers and her production team of writers, editors and narrators. She also conducted a lot of the interviews herself.

More than 13,000 people from across the country and the world tuned in to listen to the riveting six- episode podcast which has since received hugely positive feedback from listeners as well as the people whose lives here hugely impacted by one of Australia's worst traffic collisions.

No pressure for another one Jenna.

23. Gary Martin

AS A Lifeline telephone counsellor, Gary Martin has an intimate knowledge of the problems that can become overwhelming for so many people.

But Gary realises there are other ways to tackle these issues and has thrown himself into several organisations that offer grassroots solutions.

He is an active member of Our Healthy Clarence, works with Standby, a suicide support service, as well as working full-time with Clarence Valley Council.

He has also been a powerhouse in the successful youth intervention program Midnight Basketball, which has morphed locally into Rebound 2460.

24. Tim McMahon

CRICKET on the Lower Clarence would be unrecognisable if not for the efforts of long term Lower Clarence Cricket Association president Tim 'Ferret' McMahon.

Tim's success in developing cricket is closely linked to his playing days, where his will to win incorporated both a long-term development strategy and cagey on-field tactics.

While he has passed the baton of on field leadership of his beloved Harwood team to son Ben, his role off the field continues. His presence at all levels of the game has attracted popular recognition as the banner across the back of the stand proclaiming the Harwood Cricket Ground as Ferret Oval testifies.

25. The Henwood Family

YAMBA's Henwood family have done more than most local businesses to showcase the beauty of their home town to the world.

In October 2008 they brought to life their pet project opening a backpackers' hostel in Yamba. More than 11 years later Yamba Backpackers is a destination for travellers from around the world.

After more than a decade of work "Chook", Justin, Kellie, Shane, Melissa and Chris have not finished, with even more attractions on the backpackers' drawing board.

One of those, the subject of a DA to Clarence Valley Council in June, proposes a brew pub at the hostel. It is still being assessed.

26. Sr Anne Gallagher

SR ANNE Gallagher is undoubtedly the face, and the lifeblood of music in the Lower Clarence and afield.

A teacher in the Clarence for 45 years, 35 of them spent in the convent rooms at Maclean which she learned piano herself.

And the music school she started from one little room in the convent has grown to one of the largest in the area, expanding across buildings and through the old rooms.

She was recognised with an Medal of the Order of Australia in 2015, but even this great honour seems to pale with her dedication to teaching and spreading music within the area.

ON any given week she can be called upon to play the organ at St Mary's church, accompany her students and travelling musicians, lead and play with local orchestral and choral groups, help organise the local music eisteddfod as well as teaching duties to both aged students, and those barely young enough to hold the instrument.

She has extended her original music training towards musical therapy and has offered classes for babies and has said that music was meant to be fun.

"We always say we play music, so why not let them play," she said in an interview in 2015.

"Playing is all about having fun and I think that's what they respond to."

27. Melanie Lamb

ALTHOUGH she's a relative newbie, the centre manager of Country Universities Centre Clarence Valley Melanie Lamb has found herself at the helm of something the region cares about closely.

It's a widely held suspicion the Clarence rejected proposals for a university in the past and now we have the chance to overcome that drawback, we want it to succeed.

As the front person for the university, Melanie provides an example of enthusiasm, confidence and know-how that has the Grafton CUC campus buzzing.

Enrolments for the first semester of study exceeded expectations and Melanie's role and enthusiastic example in spreading the CUC message has been central to that. 

28. Tyson Donohoe

THE manager of Grafton's long-awaited PCYC, Tyson Donohoe has experienced the redemptive power of sport and physical activity.

A Grafton Ghosts player and grandson of Australian rugby league star Rees Duncan, Donohoe has big plans for the PCYC when it opens next year.

His working background in juvenile justice makes him aware of the pitfalls that exist for young people in the region.

He says the PCYC can interact with young people and encourage them to interact with the community.

29. Rob Sinnamon

With the support of his wife Lorraine, Rob Sinnamon has been at the helm of one of Australia's most historic pastoral properties, Yulgilbar, for almost 18 years.

As general manager, he is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the premier station established in 1840 and home to the famous Castle. Owned by the Myer family, it encompasses 14,000ha, running more than 7000 head of beef cattle.

The award-winning sustainably-produced Yulgilbar beef is sought after around the country and the world, its famous cattle sales eagerly awaited by producers, its top bulls fetching figures in the tens of thousands.

Rob and his team's stamina was put to the test recently when Yulgilbar was surrounded on three sides by raging bushfires with a separate fire taking off in the middle of the property.

They worked day and night to agist thousands of cattle while trying to hold the fires out of what country remained unburnt.

In his station blog, he said he was "very proud of the huge effort the men and women of Yulgilbar" having fought hard to save the historic station from 50km of fire fronts.

30. Kade Valja 

ONE of the youngest entries in this year's Power 30 artist Kade Valja began his artistic career virtually under a bridge.

The street art advocate started painting colourful works on the ageing railway piers under Grafton's iconic piece of infrastructure in 2014, a lone landscape the catalyst for what has now grown to include more than 80 works by various talents including internationally regarded street artists.

Since then Kade has been commissioned to install large mural-style works in commercial sites and had his work featured in the Grafton Regional Gallery.

His drive also saw him take the plunge into business by opening his gallery Flow Space in South Grafton late last year.

That community hub has brought visual arts out of institutionalised settings by showcasing work by passionate and young artists whose mould-breaking ideas are helping redefine art in the Valley.

Kade's ability to draw young people from all walks to explore their creative possibilities has benefits that stretch well beyond his gallery's walls. 

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