Here are just some of the inspiring, meaningful and profound stories to reflect on, from 2020.
Here are just some of the inspiring, meaningful and profound stories to reflect on, from 2020.

Inspiring stories that resonated with Bundy in 2020

The last 12 months have been emotionally-taxing to say the least, but it has also been filled with acts of human kindness.

News and storytelling has the ability to permanently touch your soul and whether these stories make you cry or smile, they demonstrate that the heart of a community like Bundaberg will continue to thrive, no matter what circumstances occur.

Here are just some of the inspiring, meaningful and profound stories to reflect on, from 2020.

The moment a farmer became overwhelmed by fire and drought

When Leesa Philips was taking a photograph of the smoke on her family’s drought affected properties on Philips and Erskine Rds, she realised her uncle was sitting by the dam and crying.

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A photograph taken of a farmer overwhelmed with drought and the fires. Picture: Leesa Philips
A photograph taken of a farmer overwhelmed with drought and the fires. Picture: Leesa Philips

Bright spirit shines on

Life may be short but it is also filled with remarkable wonder, so make every day count.

This was the life motto that Bundy woman, Sharon ‘Shazza’ Benson lived by, until the day she sadly passed away, from her five-year-long journey with stage 4 bowel cancer, which spread to her lymph nodes, lungs and other areas of her body.

Twenty years ago, Shazza met Wendy Johnston through work and the fishing industry and their special bond quickly blossomed into a beautiful friendship.

And while Shazza’s life was cut far too short, her beautiful spirit and inspiring legacy will live on forever.

Shazza’s parents, Col and Sue Benson commissioned a stunning mosaic that was created by local artist Paul Perry.

The special artwork reflects Shazza’s vibrant personality perfectly and has been installed in Bundaberg’s Cancer Care facility, to greet patients and their families.

Filled with symbolism and all of Shazza’s favourite things, sunflowers, butterflies and frogs appear in the mosaic, along with the words “Make each day count.”

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Wendy Johnston with the mosaic for Sharon 'Shazz' Benson at the Cancer Centre. Picture: Mike Knott
Wendy Johnston with the mosaic for Sharon 'Shazz' Benson at the Cancer Centre. Picture: Mike Knott

Special event to celebrate William and help Wheeler family

Christmas wasn’t the same for the Wheeler family this year, when just two weeks prior, their little William lost his life to cancer.

Described by his parents Lauren and Joe Wheeler as “the happiest little boy” who always had “a smile on his face,” William was one of a kind.

But devastatingly, after a two-year battle with Neuroblastoma Cancer and just a month short of his third birthday, the brave little soldier lost his battle.

Now with the help of a family friend and backing of a kind-hearted community like Bundaberg, a special event will be held to remember William and help the Wheeler family.

After teaching their oldest son Ryan in kindergarten, Jasmine Williams witnessed first-hand the strong bond between the Wheeler family members.

Staying in touch with the Wheeler family and following their journey, Jasmine said she felt such a strong urge to help out in any way that she could and began organising a fundraising event for the family.

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William Wheeler who tragically passed away recently, is described as being the happiest little boy.
William Wheeler who tragically passed away recently, is described as being the happiest little boy.

Bundy bands together to throw party of the year

Living with a rare and chronic condition called Proteus Syndrome means Tori is considered a very high health risk during the pandemic.

As a result, she was unable to celebrate her 18th birthday with the party her family had been planning, so parents Wendy and Douglas Punch asked the community to drive by their house as a surprise.

But Tori’s parents didn’t anticipate the request would generate the overwhelming and heartwarming response that it did.

What seemed like hundreds of people turned up on the day to wave, beep their car horns and drop off balloons and gifts.

Ms Punch said Tori received books, teddy bears, clothing, gift cards, My Little Pony toys and beautiful handpainted stones.

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Lori Beer, Wendy Punch, birthday girl Tori Punch and Tracey Newton wave to the drive by cars celebrating Tori's eighteenth birthday.
Lori Beer, Wendy Punch, birthday girl Tori Punch and Tracey Newton wave to the drive by cars celebrating Tori's eighteenth birthday.

Calls for date to change for Australia Day

January 26 is a day where some of us gather for a barbecue to celebrate Australia, but for many of the traditional owners of this land, the date harbours distressing memories, pain and trauma.

Artist and designer Rachael Sarra is a proud Goreng Goreng woman, who is known to create colourful and symbolic paintings that form connections with her culture and give First Nations people a voice.

Her art pays homage to her heritage and has been showcased in a series of exhibitions including QPAC’s Unearthed and the Brisbane Street Art Festival.

Ms Sarra, who grew up in the Bundaberg area, has revealed why changing the date of the nationally recognised holiday, is such an important step for the future of Australia.

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Artist, Rachael Sarra uses her incredible work to convey important messages.
Artist, Rachael Sarra uses her incredible work to convey important messages.

Princess continues to sparkle, despite devastating diagnosis

Arianna is a bright and happy four-year-old girl, who loves to dress up as a princess.

But in 2019, on April 1, Arianna and her mum, Bonnie Baczynski’s lives changed forever, when the little girl was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

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Arianna Baczynski was diagnosed with Leukaemia earlier this year.
Arianna Baczynski was diagnosed with Leukaemia earlier this year.

Looking back fondly on the Federal: Memories from the ‘60s

Similar to the American sitcom Cheers, the Federal became a place in Bundaberg where everybody knew your name.

It’s been just over two months since a blaze broke out, destroying the Federal Backpackers Hostel and Spotted Dog Tavern.

But before the devastating fire occurred on July 20, the historical building was known as the ‘local’, a popular pub, hotel and disco hotspot, but most of all it was a place that many called home.

Publicans Keith and Gertrude Fisher travelled across Queensland throughout their life with children John and Yvonne in tow.

But when they arrived in Bundaberg in the late ‘60s and took over ownership of the Federal Hotel, the family decided to stay put, drawn in by the town’s character and charm.

The late publicans worked hard on the Federal, with Gertrude handling the accommodation side of things and Keith taking on the role of boss and ‘leader of discipline.’

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John (pictured) and Helen Fisher shared memories from one of Bundaberg's favourite pubs, which was later named the Federal Backpackers, after it was destroyed in a fire in July.
John (pictured) and Helen Fisher shared memories from one of Bundaberg's favourite pubs, which was later named the Federal Backpackers, after it was destroyed in a fire in July.

Triplets dealt tragic cards, beaten the odds

Miracles do happen and sometimes in a set of three.

Bundaberg triplets Tom, Sam and Emily Benn faced unimaginable trials before they had even turned two, but now almost six years since they were born, the trio are excelling in more ways than one.

After being born 15 weeks premature, the Benn triplets spent the first four months of their lives just trying to survive, while mum Danielle and grandparents Dianne and Geoff watched on in hope.

The triplets remained in the Royal Brisbane Hospital for an extended period of time, with moments of uncertainty and heightened emotions naturally taking its toll on everyone.

But it was after the triplets finally arrived home, when the most devastating tragedy of all occurred.

Almost four years ago and months before Tom, Sam and Emily would celebrate their second birthday, their grandparents would wake to discover Danielle had taken her own life.

While they had experienced heartbreak too raw to imagine, they had also just become the sole providers of Danielle’s three young children.

Now, Tom, Sam and Emily have started pre-school at Sharon State School and their nanny and pa couldn’t be prouder.

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Danielle Benn with her triplets, Tom, Emily and Sam.
Danielle Benn with her triplets, Tom, Emily and Sam.

Mission to save lives continues

Some heroes wear capes and fly, but others are just great listeners and that is the super power the people at Marcus Mission are using to save lives every single day.

The non-profit organisation was started by Andree Roberts and her family, when her beloved son, Marcus tragically took his own life at the age of 23.

Now they are in the process of training mentors to help the men of Bundaberg make it through a tough time.

Marcus Mission offers resilience workshops to the entire community teaching a range of skills and strategies to help self-regulate emotions and tackle challenging situations that trigger depression and anxiety.

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Andree Roberts from Marcus Mission.
Andree Roberts from Marcus Mission.

Bundaberg couple speaks of life in quarantine in Italy

Italy has always been a place where people’s hearts are as full as their bellies, but now hearts are broken in a country full of fear.

After working in education for the last four decades, Bundaberg locals Sue Giarola and her husband John planned a well-deserved overseas holiday.

The couple were filled with excitement, as they embarked on what they had anticipated to be a three-month-long stay in Sicily, Italy.

But as they said goodbye to loved ones and eagerly passed through customs in Rome, on March 2, little did they know what lay ahead.

Things quickly changed for the worst, when the evening news began broadcasting scenes of devastation and staggering death tolls, caused by the virus.

At the time the story was published, Italy had confirmed more than 132,500 cases of coronavirus, with more than 16,500 deaths.

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Bundaberg local Sue Giarola stuck in Italy during isolation.
Bundaberg local Sue Giarola stuck in Italy during isolation.

Special serenade for aged care resident

A Bundaberg aged care resident has received a special surprise from Australian singer-songwriter Emma Birdsall.

Doris Chandler is a resident at the Meilene Residential Aged Care Home and received a video from Emma singing her favourite song Danny Boy.

In the video, Doris explains how she met her husband Leslie at a dance in Sydney and how she got to know him by writing letters to him while he was away during the war.

Doris said Leslie used to sing Danny Boy to her.

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Bundaberg Aged Care resident Doris Chandler received a special video of Australian singer-songwriter Emma Birdsall singing her favourite song Danny Boy.
Bundaberg Aged Care resident Doris Chandler received a special video of Australian singer-songwriter Emma Birdsall singing her favourite song Danny Boy.

Inspiring fighter’s journey: Lung capacity below 40 per cent

Imagine being aged in your 20s and after countless trips to hospital, the four walls that line each room and ward, feel like a second home.

This is reality for 26-year-old Rhianna Johnson, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth.

Cystic fibrosis is a lung disease that effects the endocrine, digestive and reproductive systems, that overtime results in a build-up of mucus and lung infections.

The brave 26-year-old said her body is so depleted that she is physically unable to socialise with friends and can only manage 15 hours of work each week.

Last August, Ms Johnson was placed on a list to receive a double lung transplant, as her lung capacity had dropped below 40%.

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Rhianna Johnson was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, at birth.
Rhianna Johnson was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, at birth.

Artwork highlights inner beauty and individualism

Memories are precious and like a tree when it can no longer preserve its leaves, the colour may fade but the beauty will always remain.

This is one of the many powerful messages Cynthia Hoogstraten, Josephina Beckers and Kay Shelton hope to convey in their upcoming art exhibition, Dementia is a Person: The Leaf Project.

Displaying a selection of bright-coloured leaves with intricate patterns, each leaf has been handpainted by a participant that has Dementia or Alzheimers.

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ART THERAPY: Kay Shelton, Josephina Beckers and Cynthia Hoogstraten with some of the leaves that will be used in the exhibition. Picture: Rhylea Millar
ART THERAPY: Kay Shelton, Josephina Beckers and Cynthia Hoogstraten with some of the leaves that will be used in the exhibition. Picture: Rhylea Millar

Dairy farmers continue to struggle with no rain

Despite the recent wet weather and promising forecast for more rain, cafe owner Judy Plath said dairy farmers are still struggling.

The Nourish Cafe owner buys her milk from Central Queensland dairy farmer, Robbie Radel, who has had to rely on roadside grass and two year’s worth of silage.

Dry conditions have taken an emotional and financial toll on the entire industry, but Ms Plath said it had been particularly tough on the dairy farmers.

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Robbie Radel and father Graham with his favourite cow Happy Valley Pet 15, named champion cow at the 2007 Brisbane Exhibition. She now longer produces milk but will spend the rest of her life on the farm.
Robbie Radel and father Graham with his favourite cow Happy Valley Pet 15, named champion cow at the 2007 Brisbane Exhibition. She now longer produces milk but will spend the rest of her life on the farm.

Paramedic in race against time to get home

The magical thing about a home is that it feels good to leave, but even better when you return to it.

And for Bundaberg man Jonny Merefield, this couldn’t be closer to the truth.

After working as a critical care paramedic in London, for the last five years, Mr Merefield couldn’t wait to arrive back on home soil.

But in light of the current global health crisis and with travel uncertainties and constant flight cancellations, he started to worry about when the time would come.

Click here to read the full story.

Lara Harris and Jonny Merefield arrive safely at Bundaberg airport.
Lara Harris and Jonny Merefield arrive safely at Bundaberg airport.


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