Chris Callaghan the new magistrate in Gympie.
Chris Callaghan the new magistrate in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

Power 11: Meet the region's most influential men

Magistrate Chris Callaghan

FOR Gympie's criminal offenders, the buck stops with Magistrate Chris Callaghan.

In addition to sitting on the Gympie courtroom bench, Mr Callaghan is in charge of keeping the wheels of the law turning over a huge regional area.

In fact, he runs the show when it comes to justice from Hervey Bay and Maryborough to Caloundra and west to Kingaroy, administering a system that handles 3500 matters a year, or about 70 cases a week.

Mr Callaghan came from private practice as a criminal defence lawyer, defending some serious criminals.

He was admitted in 1980 to practice as a solicitor on the Sunshine Coast.

He went to the Bar in Brisbane in 1991 until 1995 and was a solicitor/advocate primarily in the criminal courts until his appointment as a magistrate in 2007.

He is outspoken on media coverage of women in the judiciary, saying a lot of his colleagues, in particular female colleagues, have been unfairly castigated by the media, with "a populist view that magistrates are soft but we're not".

Llew O'Brien

Llew O'Brien
Llew O'Brien Rowan Schindler

FEDERAL Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien is literally reshaping Gympie.

After a hard-fought campaign in conjunction with The Gympie Times, Mr O'Brien recently announced the $1billion Bruce Highway bypass of Gympie had been given the green light.

A former police officer, Mr O'Brien is a tireless advocate for road safety, bringing the Bruce Highway project to fruition years ahead of schedule and is his crowning achievement since being elected in 2016.

Mr O'Brien landed the top spot on Gympie's Power 30 list in September last year.

Mick Curran

Mick Curran at the MVHR in Gympie.
Mick Curran at the MVHR in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

ANOTHER former police officer, Gympie Mayor Mick Curran has overseen some of the biggest community projects in our town's history.

From the multimillion-dollar, award-winning Aquatic Recreational Centre to the Mary Valley Rattler, CrCurran's mandate for progression has seen advancements in tourism and local sporting facilities.

He oversaw Gympie's historic G150 celebrations, which garnered widespread community approval, and remained staunch on his decision to back local businesses including Widgee Engineering and Corbets Group despite pressure from various interest groups.

Regardless of any controversies surrounding some of the council's projects, he has been committed to improving the region's standing on a state and national level and as such is one of Gympie's most influential men.

Tony Perrett

Gympie LNP candidate Tony Perrett is back for a second term.
Gympie LNP candidate Tony Perrett is back for a second term. Scott Kovacevic

SHADOW Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Forestry and Member for Gympie Tony Perrett has cemented his spot as a National Party star.

A fierce backer of our region's farmers, Mr Perrett gave up his role as deputy opposition whip in October last year when he crossed the floor and voted against the regulation to reclassify lever action shotguns, despite it having the support of the LNP.

Recently, Mr Perrett has taken the government to task on power bills and land clearing as well as voiced his concerns for the Gympie ratepayer over the controversial Mary Valley Rattler project.

Bernard Smith

Bernard Smith
Bernard Smith Patrick Woods

AS CHIEF executive officer of Gympie Regional Council, Bernard Smith is in charge of about $96.5 million.

His decisions have a direct impact on Gympie residents and, as such, is one of the region's most powerful and influential men.

Like Mick Curran, Mr Smith is an advocate for our region. Coming from a civil engineering background, his strength is in planning and development.

He landed a spot at number four on The Gympie Times' Power 30 list last year.

Murray Benton

Murray Benton Fight the Good Fight.
Murray Benton Fight the Good Fight. Renee Albrecht

GYMPIE'S Murray Benton is shaping the discussion around bullying Australia-wide after his younger brother attempted to take his own life as a result of school yard bullying.

Through his social media campaign, Fight the Good Fight Australia, Mr Benton is bringing awareness to a plight that affects thousands of Australian families and as a result influencing the narrative around this issue.

The former real estate agent hasteamed up with some of the biggest names in Australian sport and pop culture to help deliver his message.

The original Facebook post that started the campaign was shared close to 100,000 times.

He has appeared on national television via The Project and graced the pages of The Gympie Times on numerous occasions.

Stephen Donnelly

Gympie police Inspector Steve Donnelly.
Gympie police Inspector Steve Donnelly. Tom Daunt

GYMPIE'S top cop Inspector Stephen Donnelly is charged with keeping our men and women in blue working towards the safety of our community.

Highly regarded within the service, Insp Donnelly leads the Gympie patrol group from the front.

His leadership oversees everything from general duties policing to investigative and traffic-related operations.

He has formally held positions within Ethical Standards Command and in 2015 was awarded the Queensland Police Exemplary Conduct Medal.

The Nolan brothers

Michael, Terry and Tony Nolan  Owners of Nolan Meats in Gympie.
Michael, Terry and Tony Nolan Owners of Nolan Meats in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

TERRY, Tony and Michael Nolan run global meat industry heavy-hitter Nolan Meats.

Taking over from their father, Pat, the Nolan brothers have taken the business to lofty heights.

Regarded as a small corporation rather than a family business, Nolan Meats has grown from a relatively small butchering operation to a global meat-processing dynasty.

The Nolans have been influential in lobbying for meat-processing policy reform not just in Australia but overseas.

John Cochrane

John Cochrane
John Cochrane Renee Albrecht

JOHN Cochrane's influence spreads over the real estate and dairy industries.

Coming from humble beginnings, Mr Cochrane has served on numerous dairy industry boards and is a staunch advocate of local dairy production.

He pulled through the Traveston Dam saga in spite of overwhelming financial challenges to become one of the most successful dairy farmers in the valley.

His recent acquisition of the Kenilworth cheese factory is one of their latest expansion moves, sealing their heavy-hitting status in the local dairy industry.

Along with his wife, Margaret, MrCochrane's real estate interests include owning and running one of Gympie's premier real estate agencies, Gympie Regional Realty.

Anthony Lanskey

Anthony Lanske
Anthony Lanske Renee Albrecht

GYMPIE State High School principal Anthony Lanskey is not just in charge of the education of thousands of Gympie students, he is also one of the more influential figures in schoolboy rugby league.

For decades, Mr Lanskey has held coaching and administrative positions at all levels of school rugby league, including Wide Bay, Queensland and Australian sides.

Pastor Dean Comerford

DIVINE INTERVENTION: Dean Comerford is hoping a little prayer can bring Gympie the rain it so desperately needs.
DIVINE INTERVENTION: Dean Comerford is hoping a little prayer can bring Gympie the rain it so desperately needs. Jacob Carson

GYMPIE pastor Dean Comerford redefines what it means to be influential.

A man of God and the community, Pastor Comerford has lead several community prayer sessions in times of severe drought around the region. On both instances we were blessed with downpours that may not have broken the drought but certainly alleviated it.

"I'm not a rain doctor but I realise that God's work says if we are trying to humble ourselves he has the ability to bless us," the pastor explained.

"Every time we prayed, an appropriate amount of rain has come in the next couple of weeks.

"God has responded to our prayers.

"Some people will think it's mumbo jumbo but I'm happy to stand in the park and seek God's face," he told The Gympie Times recently.

Gympie Times


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