Dysart is a thriving community thanks to the dedication of its residents. Among them stands Nick Wheeler, a pillar of the community whose journey in Dysart spans over four decades.
Nick Wheeler’s connection with Dysart began 43 years ago, driven by opportunities in the mining industry.
“I started at Norwich Park back in the Utah days, my pay number was 505, which meant that I was the fifth person on site at the time,” Nick fondly recalled.
Starting as a crane driver and eventually becoming a skilled dragline operator, Nick’s tenure in the industry witnessed significant changes, particularly shifts in work patterns that he believes have impacted family life and community cohesion.
Reflecting on the past, Nick reminisces about the days of eight-hour shifts.
“You came home and you spent time with your family. There was time to be involved in the community, that opportunity was all there.”
He contrasts this with the current 12-hour shifts, which he believes have “devastated the family environment.” In his view, these changes have eroded the fabric of community life. His union involvement, spanning 18 years with the CFMEU, highlights his advocacy for workers’ rights and community welfare.
Beyond his professional life, Nick’s dedication to Dysart is evident through his extensive involvement in various community roles.
“I don’t know which club in town I haven’t been involved in!”
His leadership has been wide-ranging, including serving as a council member for 8 years, where he was a driving force behind significant infrastructure improvements like the $10.4 million project that provided Dysart with quality drinking water.
“That was a fairly major battle for me, and something I’m really proud of.”
Nick also shared a fascinating slice of local history, recalling the early days of Moranbah and a time that was marked by basic living conditions.
“I had a semi-trailer when I first came to Australia before my Norwich Park days and I was part of bringing out the first houses to Moranbah. There weren’t even forklifts to unload them once we got out there. We used to use a crowbar to push the timber frames over the side of the truck.”
Nick’s community engagement extends to numerous clubs and committees. He has been a pivotal figure in the softball community, the local ambulance and hospital committees, the saving of the Anzac Day memorial in Dysart and currently, he presides over the Dysart Lions Club.
Despite facing personal challenges, including black lung disease, Nick’s commitment to service remains unwavering. His resourcefulness even extended to community building.
“Back then in the 70’s, starting up the softball club in Dysart, Utah gave us a loader, a tip truck and whatever else we needed to level up the fields for the softball. Everyone chipped in and we did that all on a weekend,” he explained, proudly highlighting the collaborative spirit and hard work that went into developing the town’s infrastructure.
Nick’s love for Dysart is deeply rooted in family and community spirit. He envisions a town where fairness and equity in employment practices prevail, particularly advocating for the ‘same job, same pay” principle in the mining sector. His dream is to see an end to the competitive undercutting in the industry, fostering a more stable and united community.
“You can make your town whatever you want it to be… but you’ve got to do a bit of work too, we need to come back to valuing our neighbours, our workmates, and the next generation.”
Nick Wheeler’s story is one of a man deeply interwoven with the fabric of Dysart. His journey from a pioneering miner and unionist to a respected community leader and advocate showcases the profound impact one individual can have on the life of a town. As we celebrate him as our Community Champion, we recognise the enduring legacy he has built, inspiring us all to contribute to the place we call home.