Sky News anchor and Paul Murray LIVE host Paul Murray. Picture: Sky News
Sky News anchor and Paul Murray LIVE host Paul Murray. Picture: Sky News

Nothing like ‘Our town’ for Queenslanders

Tonight, we begin our year-long trip around the map in the mighty Toowoomba.

We chose this place because it is the perfect example of a place that isn't defined by the worst things that happen to any country town, but it is defined by the strength, passion and resilience of its people.

 

13-year-old Jordan Rice selflessly gave his life to save his brothers.
13-year-old Jordan Rice selflessly gave his life to save his brothers.

 

Too often, capital city media only leave their bubble to cover disasters and even then, they are gone in a couple of days. Toowoomba has had its fair share of those, but its airport is a shining example of how you bounce back.

The 2011 floods were devastating and sent shockwaves around the country, the loss of property can be overcome, but not the loss of life.

The Rice family was forever changed when 13-year-old Jordan selflessly gave his life to save his brothers. Jordan told rescuers to "take his brother first" in the raging flood waters that also claimed his mum's life.

 

Residents cling to street signs as a raging torrent floods the city at Kitchener St. Toowoomba. Queensland. January 10, 2011. Blake Rice sits on a barrier (far left) after his mother Donna and brother Jordan Rice have been swept away by floodwaters. Picture: Adam Davies
Residents cling to street signs as a raging torrent floods the city at Kitchener St. Toowoomba. Queensland. January 10, 2011. Blake Rice sits on a barrier (far left) after his mother Donna and brother Jordan Rice have been swept away by floodwaters. Picture: Adam Davies

Disgracefully, his actions weren't good enough to be recognised by the Australian Bravery Awards Council, who rejected an application to award his sacrifice.

But his Dad John Tyson fought back, writing in 2016: "How could they weep at his death and move on with so many empty gestures? These are human beings at the end of their emptiness. Since when have you heard of a braver boy than Jordan?"

Abandoned by the establishment and politicians who all said the right things at the time, but did nothing after, he started a petition and 304,325 signed to give Jordan the recognition he deserved. It worked, they reversed their decision and he was awarded the medal at Government House in Brisbane.

 

Funeral card for Donna and Jordan Rice. Picture: Megan Slad
Funeral card for Donna and Jordan Rice. Picture: Megan Slad

In January, it's been eight years since Jordan and his mum died. A foundation has been set up in his name and aims to establish a place for grieving families to go, and to help the first responders to tragedy, too.

On the anniversary, the foundation posted: "Eight years on … we will never give up. RIP Donna & Jordan."

It is a testament to Tyson and the people around him that no matter the struggle, you have to find a way.

 

John Tyson receiving his son Jordan Rice's posthumous Bravery Medal at Government House. Picture: Tara Croser
John Tyson receiving his son Jordan Rice's posthumous Bravery Medal at Government House. Picture: Tara Croser

This is an attitude that saw early settlers leave the coast and open up this great country.

A fighting spirit that comes back from disaster and a personal drive that sees so many people in regional Australia just get back up and go, no matter the odds.

It is a privilege to do our first show from Toowoomba, a place that isn't defined by its worst days, but has found a way to forge ahead.

To build an airport that links it instantly to the rest of the country and hundreds of businesses to serve this community every day.

"Our Town" is a celebration of how we deal with life as it is, not as we want it to be.

The great Adam Harvey has come with us and will sing up a storm tonight.

 

From (front) left Denis Wagner, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister Cameron Dick at the Qantas pilot training academy announced for Wellcamp airport.
From (front) left Denis Wagner, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister Cameron Dick at the Qantas pilot training academy announced for Wellcamp airport.

The wonderful people at Harvey Norman are getting together with the QCWA to give a huge helping hand to local community organisations, and I'm busting to show the rest of the country what makes this part of the world great.

Join me at 8pm Queensland time, 9pm AEDT on Sky News on WIN, channel 83 and Foxtel channels 103 and 600.

Paul Murray is a broadcaster with Sky News. He can be seen 9-11pm, Sunday to Thursday on Foxtel and Sky News on WIN



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