WHY I LIVE IN CENTRAL QUEENSLAND – A tell-all with local cinema operator

Stephen Goddard has lived and worked in Emerald for 18 years. PHOTO: Ali Goddard

A CENTRAL Highlands resident has been living and working in the area for almost two decades, with the community being the centre of his life.
Emerald man, Stephen Goddard, has been a cornerstone of community living for 18 years since he moved here with his family in 2003, beginning his job as manager of the Emerald Cinema Complex.
Mr Goddard said he was running clubs and hotels in New South Wales before he moved to Roma with his family.
“I was running a club there and it was fairly apparent to me that it was probably going under,” he said.
“I mentioned this to the Mayor at the time and he said the Cinema in Emerald needs a manager, so why don’t I go and have a look.
“I said he was insane because I remembered Emerald as a town of 1500 people, a bit of cattle and a few sunflowers and that was about it.
“As luck would have it, though, we came up and had a look and decided to move here to run the cinema.
“They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.
“We came to Emerald in 2003 with a young family and the best thing that happened to me when I got here was a lady in real estate told me to buy a house that day and we did within about two weeks.
“That was very clever because the house went from $180,000 when we bought it to about $260,000 six weeks later and went on from there through the crazy periods.
“I’ve seen both the booms and the busts in the coal mining industry.”
Mr Goddard said for all that time he’s been running the cinema.
“Our business has been up and down with it,” he said.
“It rides the boom and falls with the bust.”
Mr Goddard also does a lot of work with the community through the Emerald Cinema.
“The major thing we do with the community is hold our premiers where a group or a club will take a movie for the night and we share the profits,” he said.
“Since 2003, not including my small hiatus, I estimated that we return about $30,000 a year into the community from our profits for raising money for various clubs and communities that hold premiers.
“The money they earn from doing premiers at the cinema rounds out to that.
“Because of COVID-19, that’s declined dramatically, but hopefully we can get back to that.”
Mr Goddard said he has also had a lot of health issues, including being diagnosed with a carcinoma in his lung in 2007.
“Through the wonderful efforts of Dr McPhee, I was very quickly diagnosed and sent to Brisbane where I had an operation to remove my right lung,” he said.
“I was one of the lucky ones because I survived and I’m still here to talk about it today.
“I’ve always had to thank the wonderful Dr McPhee for saving my life.”
Mr Goddard never had plans to settled in Emerald, but after 18 years, he is finding it hard to leave.
“I stayed in Emerald for two reasons: first of all, it’s the job – I still haven’t found an easier way of making a living,” he said.
“Initially, it was because of my family as we were raising two children and didn’t want to uproot them.
“The other thing is Emerald really is a great place to raise a family and I never liked change anyway.
“I’m happy, I love my house, I love the friends we’ve got and it’s an easy place to live.
“My favourite part of living here is how relaxed everything is and how you can just be pretty cruisy, and no one really hassles you too much.
“You know everyone and it’s just a great community.”
Mr Goddard said he has also been involved heavily in the Emerald sporting community.
“Through the years with my son playing football and my daughter playing netball, I was very involved in helping the football side out as assistant coach as well as in executive positions with a junior rugby league side,” he said.
“I absolutely loved that and we like to think we went a long way to involving a lot of the Emerald kids in competitions like the Heatherington Cup and the Paul Bowman Challenge.
“We set a pathway for the kids to go to those competitions.
“Over the years I’ve taken a huge interest in the Emerald Tigers and all junior rugby league sides in Emerald.
“It’s good to watch some of the kids I’ve seen come through over the years make their way into major representative sides, like Trey Fuller, Jacob Van Zanden and Ethan Bullemore.
“It’s good to see them go that next step.”