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Honouring The Late Neil McNamara

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As we remember the momentous mark the late Neil McNamara left on Singleton and the Singleton community as former Mayor, beloved community member and Wambo Coal Singleton of Hall of Fame inductee; John Flannery PSM reflects on Neil’s significant contribution to our region.

Neil McNamara was a great all-rounder and, in many respects, represented all that is good in a human being. He was a hard worker, a good sportsman and coach, a successful farmer, astute businessman, an intuitively smart politician and, most importantly, a loving husband and father. He had exceptionally high morale characteristics and exuded empathy. He might have had some faults, but they were minor in comparison to his achievements and standing in the community.

I had a long and close relationship with Neil during our service to Singleton Shire and I cannot recall us ever having a personal clash or major argument. Ours was a truly remarkable partnership; Neil told me when we met after he was elected the first Shire President (Mayor) and I was appointed Shire Clerk in 1976, that he would leave the management of the Shire to me and he would look after the Council business. This was how it was for the next 22 years. In fact, in all that time we never socialised together and never allowed our mutual respect to be challenged.

He had some difficult people to deal with from time to time both in the Council meeting room and in the public arena. He was very tolerant and patient during debates, an excellent moderator and very appreciative of the need for good public relations.

Every Friday afternoon he was in town, Neil would walk through the Council office saying hello to staff in every department. He was loved and admired by the staff. He also had an open-door policy with ratepayers and clients and was extremely effective in making Singleton a good place to do business. His energy was prodigious; how else did he manage to attend so many community events, patronise so many good causes day and night and endlessly give that rousing and endearing speech! How he did this for so many years while milking his dairy herd twice a day beats me.

He told me recently, just after Joan had passed away, that despite all those nights away at Council meetings and community events, Joan never went to bed, no matter how late the hour, until he came home and they had a cup of tea before retiring – prodigious, voluntary and meritorious service to our community.

The success we had in assimilating the coal industry into the Shire in those days and growing Singleton’s population was based on good policy, strong communication with the industry and government and, most importantly, local leadership that embraced change. Neil led this revolution in our Shire; he moderated the Council debates, facilitated negotiations with developers and government agencies and encouraged public consultation every step of the way. He was ever mindful of the interests of his rural constituency but represented all of Singleton. From my point of view, he listened to and trusted his officers, gave us the opportunity to take risks, backed us when times were tough and always gave credit when it was due.

During Neil’s political leadership there were so many highlights that it is almost impossible to list them all or even rank them. Bringing two councils together in 1976 with the amalgamation of Patrick Plains and Singleton Municipality and within 12 months having the new Singleton Shire Council win the AR Bluett Award for being the most progressive Council in the State was a good start. Opening the first Singleton Coal Discussion Day in 1977 and initiating Coal Community Consultative Committees after the Rix’s Creek Coal Inquiry was ground-breaking politics. Dedication to fixing rural roads and rural community services; such as taking coal trucks out of Singleton with the Mitchell Line Road construction, the Mt Thorley Industrial Area construction and bringing water supply and waste services to the regional areas were all dear to his heart.

From Left: Jim Johnstone, 1976 Managing Director, Buchanan Borehole Collieries; Neil McNamara 1976 Singleton Shire President; John Hammett, 1976 Managing Director, Wambo Mining Corp

The list of achievements during Neil’s leadership of the Shire is impressive. They include the construction of the Civic Centre in 1982, the Swim & Gym Centre in 1983 and the 50-metre pool in 1997 (which Neil christened with the first lap). The revitalisation of John Street in the 1980s with the construction and sale of the Gowrie Street Mall site, Rose Point Park and the Ryan Avenue by-pass road. Council’s dominant role as land developer at Singleton Heights and The Retreat and consequent doubling of the town population was also accelerated during Neil’s leadership.

I also recall Neil’s active participation in the rallies to save the Singleton Army Base in 1984 when it was proposed to relocate the Army so the land could be exploited for its resources. He was in the Civic Centre when the hailstorm hit Singleton in 1996 and rallied up the government to act quickly to assist us. Neil also served the Hunter Region through his chairmanship of the Regional Organisation of Councils in the 1990s and his chairmanship of Shortland Electricity.

All in all, a life led to the full, loved and missed by all, but especially at this time we feel for his family in their loss.

JOHN FLANNERY PSM

Community

Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is seeking leader to join Advisory Committee

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The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is calling for Expressions of Interest from local business and community leaders to join our Hunter Advisory Committee. The Committee represents the region comprising Newcastle and the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West and Mid North Coast. Its purpose is to advise and assist the Board and Senior Management Team on matters relevant to the local region while providing governance and oversight on decision making.

The Committee currently has 7 members, including its Chair. Nominations are open for one new member and this appointment will be through a merit based process that considers skills, experience and qualifications. 

Expressions of interest close on Friday 16 October

Position advert and Position Description:

This is an unpaid voluntary position and the Service would like to thank our Community for your continued support as we operate 24-7 for all people in our community.

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Community

Students Have A Yarn

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St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.

Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.

A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.

In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.

Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”

“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”

The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.

St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.

“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.

“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”

“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”

St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.

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Community

Have You Checked On Your Mates?

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This year has been an absolute shocker and it’s no secret that it has certainly taken a toll on all of our mental health in some way. R U OK? Day this year was more important than ever, and our mining companies and leaders went above and beyond to encourage employees to have meaningful conversations and connect with those around them. Let’s remember to take care and reach out to our mates every day of the year.

McLanahan

This year with COVID-19 restrictions in place the McLanahan team’s participation in R U OK? Day was a little different compared with previous years when they have hosted an R U OK? Day ambassador at their Newcastle premises.

Still wanting to make a difference, McLanahan donated over $2,000 to Craig Clarkes in his Coals to Newcastle Ocean Swim to raise money for Beyond Blue.

“Wow what an amazing generous donation from the McLanahan team. Hugely appreciate your kind praise and lifting the fundraising campaign over the $30,000 mark. Thanks heaps. I will be in touch.”

All staff members received an R U OK? lanyard and a yellow iced cupcake with the R U OK? flag.

DK Heavy Plant Services

RU OK? – that is what everyone was asking in the DK Heavy Plant Services (DKHPS) Workshop on September 10.

Too often people struggle in silence, do not know what resources are available, or even where to start when talking about their mental health.

Sue Milton, General Manager of Upper Hunter Community Services, was able to share with the DKHPS workforce simple advice and resources on these issues and whilst together enjoyed a great afternoon tea and conversation.  

Banlaw

To start the conversation, Banlaw grabbed some delish donuts for the team to enjoy, whilst taking time out to ask work mates R U OK?

“As you can see from our cheeky photo’s, the donuts were a hit and a way for all areas of the business to mingle and remind staff the importance of prioritising their mental health and looking out for those around them,” said Internal Sales Coordinator, Lauren Tonks.

With the combined efforts of their Newcastle and Perth offices, Banlaw successfully raised $216 for suicide prevention.

Northwest Mining

The team at Northwest Mining started the day bright and early with a mental health toolbox talk for R U OK? Day and encouraged the guys to participate by wearing their TradeMutt shirts – a workwear brand, with the mission to make the invisible issue of mental health impossible to ignore. 5% of TradeMutt’s profits go towards ‘This is a Conversation Starter Foundation’.

This led into a BBQ lunch for everyone, cooked by the company owner Shayne Clark. “We discussed some statistics on mental health and chatted about how to start conversations if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health,” said Shayne.

“Everyone was keen to be involved and engaged in the conversations, it was a great day.”

Bengalla

The Bengalla Team celebrated R U OK? Day this year, focusing on teaching people that there is more to say after the initial R U OK? It is important to keep the conversation going and check in on your work mates.

To support the initiative employees enjoyed a coffee and a Kit Kat before and after shift to start the conversation with their work mates. The four important steps include:

– Ask R U OK?
– Listen without judgement
– Encourage action
– Check in

It was an opportunity for team mates to check in on each other and it was well supported from all of site.

MACH Energy

R U OK Day saw Tom, Chloe and Matt take the opportunity to catch up over coffee and acknowledge that a conversation could change a life.

There was discussion around keeping an eye on your mates, actually asking R U OK? and what’s next after you’ve asked the question. The team remembered there’s more to say after R U OK? such as;

– How are you travelling?
– You don’t seem yourself – I am here if you want to talk about anything.
– Have you been feeling this way for a while?
– Have you thought about talking to your doctor or a health professional?
– Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.

Persas

The PERSAS team enjoyed each other’s company during a BBQ and discussed the benefits of R U OK? Day, while social distancing of course.

One thing that was emphasised on the day was not waiting until the next R U OK? day to have open discussions regarding each other’s wellbeing, instead keeping it as an open page where employees can talk to each other at any time.

Morgan Engineering

The R U OK day message is important to Morgan Engineering, but not only just one day a year. Mental Health is important to the Morgan Engineering workforce all year round. This year R U OK? Day coincided with the company’s fortnightly Toolbox talk, and Business Development Manager Graham Sutton said that everyone got involved with the conversation.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss what mental health means to our company,” said Graham.

“With many of employees on shift work and having to spend a lot of time away from their family and friends, it’s important for the whole Morgan Engineering team to be there for each other and check on their mates.”

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