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Thallon leaders take future into their own hands

A savvy group of Thallon locals has come up with a smart approach to make federal funding stretch far into the horizon, to shore up ongoing tourism and economic development opportunities in their district. MDBA Chair Sir Angus Houston visited Thallon on his listening tour this week.
Published: 17 March 2022

The Thallon Progress Association is determined that ‘progress’ isn’t a redundant term as they take their future into their own hands and diversify their local economy to help overcome several adversities. MDBA Chair Sir Angus Houston visited Thallon on his listening tour this week and met with members of this savvy group of locals. They have come up with a smart approach to make the funding from a federal government grant stretch far into the horizon to shore up ongoing tourism and economic development opportunities in their district.

Thallon group progress association, residents and MDBA representatives at the Francis Hotel.

Thallon is situated between Mungindi and St George in the Balonne Shire in Queensland and has a population of around 250. According to the progression association’s Liz Hill, they’ve been hit by extended droughts, water reform under the Basin Plan and the closure of the railway line. The organisation received a $447,780 grant in round 3 of the Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program to tackle these adversities with a 3-pronged plan.  

The first thing we’ve done is to spread the funding for a fulltime equivalent position among 8 local women who’ve been contracted under 2 different streams. The women in one group are working on what light industrial opportunities there might be, and the others are focusing on community and tourism engagement. This has been really positive for these women as they have found it difficult to find paid work as there’s a lack of childcare and flexible employment opportunities out here. It’s had a great ripple effect in the whole community and we’re getting good cut-through and outcomes with this grassroots-led employment. It’s quite a pilot and for not that much outlay we’re getting great benefits.

Liz said the renewed optimism in the district’s future has also been garnered with further improvements to the Thallon Community Support Centre, the second project funded through the grant. This funding has been used to improve access for people with a disability and other upgrades. 

The centre is an old railway siding building that was moved to the cricket ground near the silos. It’s become a real community hub and it’s looking really schmick. We’ve been able to create a flow of different features so we can welcome visitors, so they feel embraced by the town when they arrive. We are planning to light up the painted silos a few nights a week and we hope tourists will stay an extra night so they can see everything, providing another boost.

Painted murals on grain silos, Thallon, Balonne region, Queensland, Australia. (Wikimedia commons)

The final instalment of the grant is a series of sculptures dotted throughout the town, another tourism drawcard. 

We have a mix of themes, and the first 2 pieces of public art are a nod to the town’s history with blacksmith and bakery sculptures to be placed outside where these two places were originally. These sculptures are being made from recycled materials like old spanners by Chinchilla artist Dion Cross. They will form part of a history trail around town along with an Indigenous story board, and steam train and coal wagon selfie sculptures. We really are delivering quite an amazing set of attractions.

The project is on track to be completed in May 2022. 

The Australian Government’s Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program provided $72.7 million to fund 132 projects to support communities affected by water recovery actions under the Basin Plan. Funding will help eligible communities to grow their economies and increase job opportunities.  

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