Tropical island transport workers celebrate success

It may just have a 10km of bitumen road network, but Palm Island in north Queensland relies on trucks to ensure supplies are delivered and construction and infrastructure work can continue.

The water surrounded fortress of Palm Island is 48 nautical miles across the azure Coral Sea from mainland Townsville and is nestled amongst the famous Great Barrier Reef.

To get there, trucks have to travel by barge across the briny from Lucinda and many make the 90-minute trip daily with goods and material.

The Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council has a large fleet of trucks which require local drivers.

David Geia with Indigenous driver trainer Brett.

Recently brothers Isaac and David Geia successfully gained their HR licence after assistance from trainer Marshall Nielsen. 

Costa Sam, Brent Sibley, Thaddeus Sam and Neville Bonner completed their class 1 theory before taking their test drive.

Plant operator training has helped council work towards building local staff confidence and capacity with skills that help to fulfil work priorities and stability. 

Some of the others who have participated include Billo Wotton (forklift training); Lenin Yasserie (telehandler training); Paul Kidner (excavator training) and Ron Geia jnr (forklift loading and unloading).

Billo Wotton gained seven plant tickets last month as part of council building locals skills and capacity training with trainer Marshall Nielsen of Industry Training Queensland.

‘Bunge’, as he is known to the locals, has spent the last four weeks putting the team of 25 through their training in various tickets and licences.

Paul Kidner shows his skills on the excavator.

Funding support came from Gabrielle Dorward of the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), who has been working with Palm Council’s manager for training, enterprise civil and open spaces, Janelle Whitehead.

“The results have been outstanding with all staff successfully completing training in forklift, backhoe, frontend loader skid steer, excavator, confined spaces, working at heights, telehandler, and chainsaws. There has also been six additional HR licences within the council staff,” said Whitehead.

“The delivery in partnership of the three organisations has been life-changing for our island community.”

Over the decades Palm Island has been the home of some legendary truck drivers such as Frank ‘Deacon’ James, Josh Geia, Rodger ‘Bully’ McKean, and Lloyd Morgan, to name a few.

Deacon had driven the local rubbish truck for decades, Geia was well-known for driving heavy vehicles which carted material for shore restoration work, while Bully and Lloyd are household names there.

Palm Island has a permanent population of about 2500 with many more travelling there by ferry from the mainland regularly to visit family and friends.

It is a genuine tropical island paradise and fish abound in nearby waters.

Visitors can also enjoy a snack or cold drink at the Coolgaree Bar and Grill which is beside the Esplanade with water at high tide reaching to the back of the garden area.

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