Winners of the Northern Inland Innovation Awards 2017

Past Winners 2017








Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Innovation Awards 2017

Innovation was in the spotlight on Friday night in Armidale, as our region’s brightest and boldest gathered to celebrate their successes and achievements. “We are proud of the fantastic stories unearthed at the 2017 Regional Development Australia Northern Inland Innovation Awards and those over the past 10 years they have been held. Our 10th anniversary awards night was a truly regional event, with awardees from Wee Waa to Tenterfield, Wallabadah to Boggabilla,” Regional Development Australia Northern Inland (RDANI) Chair Russell Stewart said.

The gala awards dinner was held at the Armidale City Bowling Club on Friday night, 24 November 2017. A diverse range of businesses and organisations were represented. More than 140 attendees saw videos and heard the stories of the award-winning innovators, with the overall RDANI Innovation of the Year Award going to The Mailler’s Chillamurra Solar Farm in Boggabilla, which also won the Optus Armidale Manufacturing and Engineering category. 

Awards were presented for the 2017 Innovation of the Year and Innvative Community Contribution and in six categories:


2017 Innovation of the Year

The Mailler's Chillamurra Solar Farm




The Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm is an inspiration.

Michael Mailler was a broadacre dryland farmer in Northern Inland NSW since 1966. The family’s innovations in agriculture were industry changing. Yet, Michael has endured so many disheartening seasons, compared to his earlier farming experience that, to him, climate change is a very real crisis. His response is a passion for making a difference, as reflected in his “field that gleams”.

In 2015, the Maillers sold their farms and bought a 120 hectare property to develop a medium scale solar farm. Michael Mailler, with his sons Robert and David engineered an amazingly cost-effective solar farm model. A second solar farm is being manufactured on-site in Queensland and the Maillers hope that the model that they have engineered will inspire others.

Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm innovative peg system is the second largest of its kind in the world. That innovative approach and the smaller panels used made it 40 percent less expensive than other systems. Simplified engineering and construction meant that the largely unskilled labour could be used. The project was an economic stimulus just below the NSW / Queensland border, with $400,000 going to local wages and $100,000 to contractors.

The plant was turned on in May and had all units working in early July. The plant has an inverter capacity of 3.6 MegaWatts and panel capacity of 4.8 MegaWatts and is currently producing an average of 28 MegaWatt hours per day. The total cost was close to $6milion and the income generated by the electricity being pumped into the grid is approximately three quarters of a million dollars per year.

The engineering simplicity, towards the sustainable manufacture of electricity was achieved with the support of a small group of stakeholder investors but no Government funding.

Beyond prosperity and abundance, the Mailler’s solar farm is an innovation that is a shining light in the dawn of a new era, in which individuals can viably contribute to a more sustainable world. 



Innovative Community Contribution Award

Farming For Kids



 
Farming For Kids stood tall in two categories of the Northern Inland Innovation Awards but it was for their innovative Community Contribution that the charity organisation truly deserved recognition. Committee President Charles Hill and other Liverpool Plains farmers began Farming For Kids in December 2013. 
The innovative approach combines unused prime agricultural land surrounding the Liverpool Plains Shire Council owned Quirindi Airport, local farming expertise, generous sponsors and suppliers, to help children of the Liverpool Plains. 
 
The volunteer group raises funds by growing, harvesting and selling crops. Farmers and contractors donate their time, machinery, expertise and diesel. Agricultural suppliers, Pursehouse Rural, NuRural and Amps Commercial donate chemical and fertilizer, while Agracom markets the harvests. Farming expertise has maximised the potential of previously unused land for the good of local communities.  
 
In 2017, Farming For Kids had handed over more than $80,000 to help local schools, sick children, church and community organisations, local sporting clubs and families in need. 
Yet, the benefits of this concept go way beyond dollars. 
 
Farming for Kids is increasing farmers’ connectedness with their community, how they contribute and are respected as professionals. While the charitable yields are making a difference, these intangible outcomes are important for the future, particularly in encouraging and retaining the next generation of farmers and agribusiness workers in the Liverpool Plains. 
 
Busy lifestyles and remoteness often mean that farmers are not as engaged in conventional local charities and service clubs as other business people. Farming For Kids has enabled Liverpool Plains Farmers to use their expertise to contribute to and make a difference in their communities. 
 
The initiative is an inspiring blueprint for other farming districts.


Agriculture, Horticulture and Associated Services Award

Sponsored by the The Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

 

Won By Starfish Initiatives’ Biochar for Sustainable Soils Project



 
Established in 2008 from humble beginnings in Armidale, Starfish Initiatives’ focus on rural sustainability is innovative on global level. Working with over 100 partner organisations, several dozen highly experienced professionals and hundreds of volunteers, it secured funding through the United Nations’ Global Environment Facility for innovative programs to address soil sustainability. The Biochar for Sustainable Soils project was launch in 2015. It has seen Starfish pioneering the first global program of scientific field trials of biochar.
 
Biochar is carbonised biomass which has been obtained from sources that are otherwise openly burned or land-filled. It is used as a soil amendment to retain water and nutrients, provide habitat for micro-organisms and enhance its productivity: be that for grasslands, crops or bushland.
 
Evidence from the Amazon region shows that the stability of biochar ranges from centennial to millennial time-scales, making it a long-term carbon sink.
 
The uniquely structured Starfish network is working on sustainability and agricultural productivity in Australia, China, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, and Vietnam. A Biochar Network of farming groups has been created in each country, and the Africa Biochar Partnership also resulted.
 
The Biochar for Sustainable Soils project has established 13 demonstration field sites. It has seen the development of 34 different biochar approaches, with different combinations of formulations, application rates, soil and crop types. Importantly, the Project has worked with people at all levels, from government officials and scientists to farmers, with 334 site visits and training in the formulation and use of biochar as soil amendment for 328 people. The project also involved in-field evaluation of five different biochar production technologies and the formal evaluation of the trials by 205 farmers.
 
The innovative nature of Starfish Initiatives helped foster global collaborations through the Biochar for Sustainable Soils project. The Project can now expand organically. It has made a significant contribution to the sustainability and quality of agricultural soils and consequently, the world’s food production capacities.

 

Finalists



Dale’s Downtown Meats, Uralla

 


Not content with the quality of lamb from processors, Dale’s Downtown Meats in Uralla bought the property “Rosehill” in 2014, where their “Rosehill Lamb” is produced. After just three years, half of their annual lamb requirements were home-grown. The quality is up because the sheep are not stressed and their feed is supplemented with spent barley from the “New England Brewing Company”, which also contributes to the beer sausages that are made from scratch daily. There are quality, efficiency, profitability and sustainability wins from these paddock-to-plate and local partnership innovations.


McGregor Gourlay, of Moree


McGregor Gourlay offers a broad range of agribusiness goods and services in nine branches across New South Wales / Queensland border region. They innovatively trialed Eastern Dryland or rain-grown cotton in growing locations further east than ever before, such as Inverell and Delungra. Expanding the growing area of cotton eastwards is industry changing. McGregor Gourlay worked with Monsanto, Cotton Seed Distributors and innovative crop farmers. A number of farmers have now planted commercial Easter Dryland cotton. This successful expansion eastwards is a positive for farmers, the cotton industry, McGregor Gourlay and other rural suppliers.

Highly Commended



Innovate Ag of Wee Waa

Innovate Ag, along with its sister Wee Waa company, Growth Ag, is poised to market Sero X, a revolutionary plant-extract insecticide to the world. Sero X is something to be proud of. It is the first bio-insecticide discovered and developed in Australia. It has the potential to improve environmental sustainability and protect bees, while maintaining control of agricultural productivity and reducing pests. Sero X will mean a huge leap forward in environmentally responsible pest management in the food and fibre industries. Research and development has taken over 10 years of innovation, perseverance, collaboration and passion.


Manufacturing and Engineering Award

Sponsored by Optus Armidale

 

Won By The Mailler's Chillamurra Solar Farm



 
The Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm is an inspiration. Michael Mailler was a broadacre dryland farmer in Northern Inland NSW since 1966. The family’s innovations in agriculture were industry changing. Yet, Michael has endured so many disheartening seasons, compared to his earlier farming experience that, to him, climate change is a very real crisis. His response is a passion for making a difference, as reflected in his “field that gleams”. 

In 2015, the Maillers sold their farms and bought a 120 hectare property to develop a medium scale solar farm. Michael Mailler, with his sons Robert and David engineered an amazingly cost-effective solar farm model. A second solar farm is being manufactured on-site in Queensland and the Maillers hope that the model that they have engineered will inspire others.

Mailler family’s Chillamurra Solar Farm innovative peg system is the second largest of its kind in the world. That innovative approach and the smaller panels used made it 40 percent less expensive than other systems. Simplified engineering and construction meant that the largely unskilled labour could be used. The project was an economic stimulus just below the NSW / Queensland border, with $400,000 going to local wages and $100,000 to contractors.

The plant was turned on in May and had all units working in early July. The plant has an inverter capacity of 3.6 MegaWatts and panel capacity of 4.8 MegaWatts and is currently producing an average of 28 MegaWatt hours per day. The total cost was close to $6milion and the income generated by the electricity being pumped into the grid is approximately three quarters of a million dollars per year.

The engineering simplicity, towards the sustainable manufacture of electricity was achieved with the support of a small group of stakeholder investors but no Government funding. Beyond prosperity and abundance, the Mailler’s solar farm is an innovation that is a shining light in the dawn of a new era, in which individuals can viably contribute to a more sustainable world.

 

Finalists



Warialda Engineering and Welding

 


Warialda Engineering and Welding was an innovative engineering business with unique in-house developed products such as the Ropey and the Davis Starlifter. Now, they have innovatively transitioned the business into a comprehensive one-stop-shop on-site feedlot manufacturing enterprise. Their capacities and service has seen them grow to prominence across north-eastern Australia. The innovations of this proudly Aboriginal owned and run business are a big positive for their agri-business clients and the town of Warialda.


Blue Sky Contracting, Tenterfield


Based at Tenterfield since 2012, Blue Sky Contracting consult locally and nationally. They are responsible for Civil Pro; the industry standard software for the civil engineering sector. Originally a windows app, it now has a mobile platform compatible with any device, which means paperless contractor / client interaction and verification of conformance with the specifications. Civil Pro features innovative integration of the quality assurance process with project management aspects, like costs. Version 9 introduced innovative approaches to tracking costs on a daily basis, reconciling against invoices and using this information to forecast project financial performance, all with a reduction in the input required from users.


Health, Aged-Care and Disability Services Award

Sponsored by Prime Super

 

Won By Pathfinders Culture Camps



 
Pathfinders is a non-government organisation providing an Intensive Therapeutic Out of Home Care model to children and young people. As part of nurturing the connection that young Aboriginals have to culture, family, community and country, Pathfinders have developed innovative Culture Camps, which are unique in the Northern Inland region. Elders are generally central to these camps. They build a sense of cultural identity. 

The Pathfinders Culture Camps have been innovatively developed, in line with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, which aims to enhance and preserve Aboriginal children and young people connection to family, community and country, and sense of identity and culture. These Aboriginal Cultural Camps have become a valued resource of the Pathfinders organisation. Participants listen to traditional stories and learn about spirituality, dreaming about country, and partake in hands-on traditional activities taught by local Elders. Held quarterly, participants in the four-day Cultural Camps participate in the following activities: Welcome to Country; Smoking Ceremony; Cultural dance, music and drama performances; stories from local Elders; Bush Walking; Camp Fires; Fishing; Aboriginal Art Work; Night Spotlighting; Coolamon making; fire starting; Didgeridoo playing and art work; Basket/grass work, Site Mapping; and cooking a traditional Aboriginal meal. Without the opportunity provided by the Cultural Camps, many Aboriginal youths in out of home care may miss out on the cultural experience to learn first-hand from a local Elder.

The camps engage with local Aboriginal communities and provide respite for foster carers. They provide a developmental boost for the young participants by improving the awareness and respect they have for their heritage and themselves.

 

Finalists



Tamara Private Hospital

 


Operating in Tamworth since 1971, Tamara Private Hospital is a 53-bed facility with a range of surgical and medical services. The Half Day Rehabilitation Program began in late 2015 and is a Northern Inland first. It addressed a need so well that the initial two half-days per week rapidly grew to morning and afternoon sessions, five days a week. It is utilised due to illness, trauma or operations, performed in-house or elsewhere. Individual programs are tailored, with services including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Hydrotherapy. It provides access to multiple therapists within the same appointment, allows those with private health insurance to participate without a gap fee and delivers therapy in innovative and stimulating ways, like Tai Chi.


The ASD-IT Club Project


The Autism Spectrum Disorder Information Technology Club (ASD-IT Club) was a joint project, developed and run by UNE and Family & Community Services, NSW, to provide structured learning experiences in IT and social interaction skill development to young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD-IT Club sessions ran for six weeks, two hours per week, with more planned, thanks to participant demand. The Club was run as a research project. Detailed information was collected regarding participants’ anxiety, depression, fear of social interaction, social communication skills, IT skills, attitudes to further study in IT, and feedback from parents and teachers. Date showed it to be a positive exercise for participants but it was enlightening for all involved.

Highly Commended



Kirinari Community Services

Kirinari Community Services provides a variety of disability services to people in Northern NSW. They saw the NDIS as an opportunity to provide innovative accommodation models, distinct from traditional group homes for five residents who may have very different needs. Kirinari Community Services is custom building a villa style accommodation facility in Tamworth, where each villa is designed for a specific individual, based on their needs; whether physical, sensory, or behavioural. Accommodation has been purchased to meet needs in Tamworth, Armidale and Inverell. They are matching clients based on commonalities with only 2 to 3 people living in each house. These innovations will achieve improved living outcomes for disabled residents in our communities.


Jennifer Brow, Touriandi Lodge, Bingarra

Jennifer Brown took up the position of Aged Care Facility Manager at Touriandi Lodge in Bingara in early 2016. She immediately grasped how much the facility means to the Bingara community and took innovative steps to build on that by ensuring the staff, as well as clients, were as well catered for as possible. To help retain quality staff, the workplace was made more rewarding by arranging individually tailored upskilling. Jennifer also purchased the best possible equipment for staff to use. Jennifer has expanded the community role of Touriandi lodge by providing general aged-care advice. She has also addressed ongoing labour needs by working with the Bingara Community College and facilitating training.


Whipped...Baking for Allergies, Narrabri

Nicole Gleeson-Lendon of Narrabri established “Whipped...Baking for Allergies” less than two years ago after she and two of her three children were diagnosed with food allergies or intolerances. The family must avoid 18 different foods. Nicole started baking slices and cakes twice a week for a café which are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, refined sugar and more. Nicole has now developed a breakfast cereal range suitable for people with allergies after finding that most breakfast options for food allergic people are seemingly made of cardboard. The Whipped...Baking for Allergies service also provides a range of sweet treats that provide a sense of normalcy to an allergy constrained diet, including birthday or special occasion cakes, desserts, and traditional Christmas and Easter goodies. The business is growing due to its specialisation and the need for its products, with customers already spread from Willow Tree to Goondiwindi.


Professional and Government Services Award

Sponsored by the University of New England

 

Won By Liverpool Plains Shire Council RV Strategy



 
The Liverpool Plains Shire Council has successfully increased the number of people visiting the area and not just passing through, by proactively redressing a lack of accommodation providers in the area. Almost 10 percent of visitors to the wider region are in caravans and the Liverpool Plains Council has increased its share of that market.
In 2016, Quirindi hosted an Australian Caravan Club (ACC) Muster. This inspired Council to make the Liverpool Plains an RV destination.
Council collaborated with local businesses and caravanning clubs to develop its RV Strategy. In December 2016, the Council took over the Quirindi Caravan Park and incorporated it into the Strategy. “Freedom camping” was seen as a strategic drawcard and there were two sites in the Shire; Wallabadah and Premer. The RV Strategy resulted in targeted marketing material and the establishment of four new Freedom Camping sites, at Currabubula, Spring Ridge, Werris Creek and Willow Tree.
During special events, a lack of accommodation providers was identified as a barrier to further tourism growth. In reducing that barrier through the RV Strategy, the Council has increased connectedness between the network of villages in the Shire and promoted them in the marketing.
One look at online RV forums shows that the RV strategy has hit the mark with its target market and numerous posts commend the “progressive” council.
In recent decades, Local Councils have trended away from direct involvement with such tourism facilities. Liverpool Plains Shire Council’s RV Strategy puts the local economy first. Most Freedom camping sites are by donation but the big-picture economic impact is significant.

 

Finalists



Smart Region Incubator

 


The UNE Business School established the Smart Region Incubator in response to the NSW Department of Industry’s 2016 Boosting Business Innovation Program. With bases in Armidale and Tamworth, it is a contemporary approach to start-up support, providing work spaces, connections and expertise in the form of mentors and an Expert-in-Residence. In July 2017, the Smart Region Incubator and stakeholders staged a hackathon style event called Agmentation to solve grassroots agricultural problems. It was a hit and other such innovative events are planned. It is working to make research data from UNE projects more accessible. A beta version of this Data Sharing Community known as ‘banks.community’ [to be read as “banks dot community”] is currently being trialed.
The Incubator currently supports 28 Founders across the region; has held 41 events, with a combined attendance of 738. Importantly, it is engaging students with start-ups.


Liverpool Plains Emergency Services Precinct


The Liverpool Plains Emergency Services Precinct is a unique, ‘state of the art’ approach. It addresses an objective in Liverpool Plains Shire Council’s Community Strategic Plan. The Council’s derelict former sale yards site is now a multi-service hub. The new RFS Fire Control Centre Centre services the 2,000 volunteers and 7 full time staff operating within the Liverpool Range Zone. The Precinct is home to the Braefield Dury Rural Fire Service Brigade Shed and the Volunteer Rescue Association Shed. It also incorporates the headquarters of the Liverpool Plains State Emergency Services. The site includes a training ground to meet the needs of all emergency services organisations. There is provision for shared infrastructure, such as car parking, telecommunications and amenities.

Highly Commended



Armidale Regional Council

Armidale Regional Council has, over a long time, worked methodically and diligently towards finding and establishing a new landfill site to cater for the region’s waste disposal needs over the next fifty years. It has been designed to exacting standards to ensure that it does not impact on the environment. Community input was an important part of the Environmental Assessment process, as the project team considered issues and concerns raised by the community and other stakeholders. This was an essential step to ensure a sustainable outcome for the management of waste across the region is achieved long into the future.


Research and Education Award

Sponsored by White Rock Wind Farm

 

Won By UNE Discovery Voyager



 
The UNE Discovery Voyager is a new outreach and engagement program. The mobile unit of passionate scientists and educators are stimulating interest in subjects where it is needed. The team travels to small or disadvantaged schools and facilitates play-based learning and exploratory discovery in ecology, physics, chemistry, Latin/biology, precision agriculture, sports science, palaeontology, and natural history. They foster creativity, collaboration, curiosity and the confidence to have a go. Activities are play and explore based. They continually evolve to meet the ever-changing world of science and discovery.
In 2016, a three-month free pilot program engaged with over 3000 Kindergarten to Year 10 students from 41 schools across northern NSW. The feedback resulted in the launch of the UNE Discovery Voyager program in April 2017. In the following five months, it visited 85 schools and engaged with more than 4700 students, from the Queensland border to Port Macquarie and west to the Castlereagh Highway. UNE Discovery Voyager is uniquely suited to regional schools, as such tours have traditionally stemmed from the major cities. The numbers show that it is exceptional.
The Discovery Voyager team also develops and delivers activities at the UNE Armidale campus, with visitors ranging in age from 3 years to 80 plus.
UNE Discovery Voyager provides the program and scientists, who are experts in their field, yet can easily develop a rapport with students. It is constantly on the road, so one-off tour scheduling is not needed.
Discovery Voyager offers follow-up opportunities at UNE, including visits to the Natural History Museum or SMART Farm. It is also introducing young people to the dedicated academics they could learn from at the University.

 

Finalists



PLC Armidale

 


PLC Armidale, in association with sister school, PLC Sydney, identified an educational need that has set it apart on a state, if not national level. Students from non-English speaking countries such as China must have a minimum level of English language competency in order to enroll in Australian schools. This is usually achieved at a registered “English Language Intensive Course of Study Centre”. Since February 2017, PLC Pathways has been such a centre.
Most of these Centres in NSW are located in major cities, few have connections with schools, none of those provide residential accommodation and no other is just for girls. The PLC Pathways course is one year in duration, yet students wear the uniform and are engaged with regular school activities, including selected additional classes, sport, religion and community service. For students as young as 12, PLC Armidale is offering an ideal situation. Innovatively, this is also strengthening the future of the school in many respects.


O'Connor Catholic College


O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale was the only school in the region selected for the Sydney University STEM Academy. Three teachers returned with innovative approaches in STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. In addressing a need for more students pursuing those directions, the school has also refined the contemporary role it plays and the appeal it has for students. Cross-subject collaboration and enhanced digital literacy efforts for staff and students illustrate this. The school pioneered an integrated course progression in STEM. A program for Year 8 students is called UpSTEM. In Year 9 and 10, STEM is a very popular elective, with real world problem solving, involving robotics, coding, aerodynamics, 3D prototyping and printing. In Year 11 and 12, the pathway for STEM students includes Engineering Studies, as well as the traditional Mathematics and Science subjects.

Highly Commended



Magic Electricity Box

Simon Mellor is the Creative Director of Magic Electricity Box. He has designed and developed an innovative Mobile Recording Studio and coaching and mentoring program to support young Non-Indigenous and Aboriginal students who are struggling in high school. By combining creativity with technology, Simon has enhanced learning outcomes and encouraged at-risk youth to find meaningful ways to express themselves and develop. Magic Electricity Box produces learning resources to help young people, learn their mother tongue, connect with their culture and engage with their community.


The Australian Railway Monument and Rail Journeys Museum

The Australian Railway Monument and Rail Journeys Museum has been developed to support and promote the significant role the railways have played in the history and development of Australia, and in the founding of Werris Creek as a railway town. The recently opened model railway is becoming an innovative highlight. Constructed and designed by Matthew Wilcox, it is rapidly becoming a great attraction for Mum and Dad visitors to bring the children to, and enhancing the other displays at this fantastic museum.

 


Retail, Tourism & Leisure Award

Sponsored by Armidale Regional Council

 

Won By Tenterfield Shire Council



 
The need for the “Tenterfield True” Branding Project was identified and it was developed with an innovative level of connectedness between Tenterfield Shire Council and the local business community. An amazing total of 45 businesses were represented at two community workshops. “Tenterfield True” branding was launching in August 2017, using social media, locals with engaging stories representing Tenterfield True as brand ambassadors and other innovative approaches. The branding has strengthened the sense of unity in the business community. It can be used by businesses and it promotes Tenterfield as a whole.
Tenterfield Shire Council’s tourism department now has one brand that ties the business community together, which allows them to follow up with a unified marketing approach. It has resulted in increased exposure, especially through social media, such as the Visit Tenterfield Facebook and Instagram Pages.
A key activity in the activation of the brand was the “Tenterfield True” Instameet, where a Brisbane Photographer, Reichlyn Aguilar, spent two days exploring Tenterfield’s key attractions, and sharing them with her 36,000 Instagram followers. This was the launch of the “tenterfieldtrue” hashtag, which has since been used almost 500 times.
The Tenterfield True branding engaged with and captured the hearts of local stakeholders, while the marketing material it is stamped on highlights local attractions and the picturesque yet rugged beauty of the area. This has been a truly innovative and positive step forward for the retailers and tourism in Tenterfield.

 

Finalists



Art Shack, Wallabadah

 


The Art Shack at Wallabadah began with the provision of creative arts classes to a rural community. It is now an inspiring example of the unsung creative arts tourism market. The Hartigans have established cabins on their family farm, engaged high-caliber artists and achieved growing demand for their art classes. The message has spread through the use of social media and Air BnB. Guests have come from as far afield as South Africa and Canada for an artistic, rural Australian retreat in the solar-powered Art Shack. The creative art class farm stay innovation is a diversification that secured the family farm business, now and for the next generation. The Art Shack’s success means jobs and a café addition. Workshops will expand to cater for the NDIS and creative writing.


Guyra TroutFest


The Guyra TroutFest was held for the second time in 2017. It is a joint effort between Guyra Hotel Anglers Club and Guyra and District Chamber of Commerce. It is held over the three days of the spring long weekend that marks the beginning of trout season. Guyra is not widely known as a trout fishing destination but this new festival is aimed at changing that. A DPI workshop for kids nurtures the future of the festival. This is an innovatively niche event, which also boasts activities from foodie stalls and art to live entertainment. The festival is almost entirely self-funded from entry and registration fees. Through social media and fishing clubs, Guyra’s TroutFest has already brought new visitors to town and fishing enterprises like farmstays.

Highly Commended



The Blair Athol Boutique Hotel and Day Spa, Inverell

Blair Athol is a Federation style two-storey manor house which was built in 1904 and is a significant landmark in the Inverell area. Owners since 2003, Kim and Pauline, identified a tourism gap in 2016 and expanded the manor to meet it. The majestically maintained manor is now a high-end, purpose-built day spa, with a 10.5 metre pool, waterfall, infra-red sauna, massage suites and panoramic views of Inverell. The ambitious, yet innovative approach has seen Kim and Pauline target the growing intra-regional tourism market to grow visitation, while preserving this heritage building.


The Dragon Phoenix Resort, Moree

The Dragon Phoenix Resort deserves to be Highly Commended for the innovative scope of the expansions they have invested in and the pro-active role they play in bringing Chinese tourists to the region. The business began with a Chinese Restaurant and a 16-room motel in 1988, with an additional 22 motel rooms being added in the 1990s. In a bold addition to the hospitality sector of Moree, the most recent expansion comprises 34 up-market self-contained apartments; all with artesian water spa baths. This is the Moree spa bath experience but in privacy and luxury. In addition to two outdoor pools (one hot artesian and one cold), guests can access six indoor spa pools and sauna massage rooms.


Uralla’s Thunderbolt Festival

The community volunteers behind the annual Thunderbolt Festival in Uralla have been particularly innovative in their approach, coordinating with other events to ensure an atmospheric crowd. Auspiced by the Rotary Club of Uralla, the 19th Festival was held in October 2017, attracting over 4000 people from far and wide. It was held in conjunction with Thunderbolts Rough Stock Bulls & Broncs Rodeo, as well as the Oxley Riders Bail up Poker Run, which attracts a large, thunderous contingent of motorcyclists to town for the weekend. This innovative combination of events has successfully enhanced the atmosphere in Uralla for its community festival of family activities. Operating without Government funding, this Festival has volunteers working for the good of their community.