At the heart of community

Peter Stephens receiving his Citizen of the Year award.

Michael R Williams

Mr Peter Stephens is known as a light steady worker whose contributions can often go unnoticed.

This year he received the Winton Shire citizen of the year award for his many contributions to Winton community groups for more than 50 years.

“I was born in Ipswich, but I came to Winton in 1959 as a schoolboy,” he said.

“I got a mechanical trade first out of high school at Winton motors for 11 years.

“I became a council worker in 1975, and I’ve been in semi-retirement since – I’m just eating out my long service now.

“I’ll be fully retired at the end of June.”

Mr Stephens has been a workshop manager and workshop foreman for many years, but as a volunteer he’s done much more.

“Community groups in these Western towns, they can’t afford to pay people,” he said.

“If you want to keep the organisation running, you’ve got to get in and do what you can.

“I do it because I want to do it and to keep these organisations going.”

Mr Stephens is a life member of the Winton Golf Club, a 15-year member of the Winton Auxiliary Fire Brigade, and is Vice President of the Winton Outback Festival committee.

“It’s vital the town doesn’t lose these organisations of interest like sport,” he said.

“I’ve been president of the Golf Club because nobody else wants to take the job, so I mow the lawns to make sure everyone has a good surface to play on.

“You don’t do it because you want to get paid; you do it because it’s important for the community.”

Mr Stephens has been a part of the golf club for over 40 years.

As a part of the fire brigade, Mr Stephens has fought fires including when the old catholic church burnt down and when a primary wing of the state school burnt down.

He was a part of the force when an Ansett/ANA crashed west of Winton, it is considered one of the worst crashes in western Queensland history.

As things became “too professional” for the fire brigade, Mr Stephens moved on stating he was too old to learn new things.

“When you’re older, you don’t run as fast as you used to,” he said.

Another major part of Winton’s culture is its festivals, and Mr Stephens would later join a part of the Outback Festival’s committee.

“The festival is a big operation, and it was at one point, a ten-day operation,” he said.

“For that festival, you’d have a big committee and lots of workers.

“Now, the festival is down to five days, but it’s difficult to get local volunteers.

“The challenge with that is, you’ve got volunteers who don’t know where to find stuff or what they’re meant to be doing.”

This year will be a 50-year celebration of the Outback Festival.

Finally, Mr Stephens is also the President of the Diamantina Heritage Truck and Machinery Museum.

“It was conceived in 2004, and at the time it got organised and put up it would be opened in 2007,” he said.

“I wasn’t president at the time, but I’ve been president for about seven years now.”

The museum is now a major part of the Winton tourism circuit, and a lot of work goes into maintaining the working and tidiness of the vehicles.

Mr Stephens said nobody goes out to volunteer for the accolades.

“But it’s nice that someone recongises that you are doing something for the community,” he said.