COULD BE WORSE: Rural Aid co-ordinators Lee and Rosey Bartlett are stranded at the Gayndah Showgrounds. Picture: Sam Turner
COULD BE WORSE: Rural Aid co-ordinators Lee and Rosey Bartlett are stranded at the Gayndah Showgrounds. Picture: Sam Turner

Rural Aid workers stranded in the Burnett

TWO interstate Rural Aid co-ordinators have found themselves stuck in the North Burnett due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they couldn't be happier.

NSW couple Lee and Rosey Bartlett have worked for the Australian charity for nearly three years, facilitating town projects across Australia.

Gayndah and Monto were chosen last year as part of Rural Aid's 10 Town Makeover, and were awarded $100,000 in aid and volunteer work.

Gayndah was to be the first cab off the rank in 2020, with an army of more than 60 volunteers ready to descend on the town and help in its beautification.

The Bartletts' job was to assess the projects so when the army arrived for their seven days, they could hit the ground running.

"We first arrived here on March 2, three weeks before the week of work," Mr Bartlett said.

"In that time we get the materials, do risk assessments and organise the catering."

They also visited farms and groups, enjoyed a cuppa with those in the community while planning the town's makeover.

But within two weeks, the coronavirus pandemic changed their lives for the foreseeable future.

"We couldn't have anymore cuppas with people, no more morning teas, it was all shut down," Mr Bartlett said.

"When there were talks about shutting the borders, we still had a lot of things to do.

"We ordered a lot of materials for the jobs, so we said we'd stay."

Since then the makeovers for Gayndah, Monto, and the other eight rural towns in Australia have been postponed until further notice.

Small towns specialist Peter Kenyon in Gayndah. Picture: Sam Turner.
Small towns specialist Peter Kenyon in Gayndah. Picture: Sam Turner.

Due to the restrictions on travel, the couple were offered the caretakers role at the Gayndah Showgrounds, in return for accommodation.

Since then, they've been staying in Gayndah, looking after the grounds and servicing any odd jobs.

"It's quiet, the people are good, it ticks all the boxes," Mr Bartlett said.

"There are no regrets at all, and we'll probably be here in 2021."

The Bartletts have volunteered and worked with Rural Aid for three years this May, leaving their home of Old Bar, New South Wales.

Since leaving, they've completed 17 projects with the charity throughout Australia, and enjoy giving back to the community.

"We like giving back, and we also wanted to travel," Mrs Bartlett said.

"When we found out about it, we followed the Rural Aid trail through Victoria, New South Wales, and then Queensland, helping with projects.

"It's good for your mental health, service work, and we've seen it help our volunteers as well over the last two years," Mr Bartlett said.

He said the volunteers got as much out of the Rural Aid experience as the towns they helped did.

"They end up finding direction as retirees, jumping in a caravan, helping people, finding focus along the way," he said.

"All of the old tradies and volunteers get so much out of the experience."


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