How tragedy sparked close bond between bush town and army
FOLLOWING the tragic death of one of their own, this North Burnett community has forged a close relationship with the Australian Army.
Gayndah is the first Australian town to host a three-week training program for the Second Combat Engineer Regiment (2 CER), focused on community engagement.
The late Sapper Jacob Moerland, born and raised in Gayndah, was tragically killed in Afghanistan on June 7, 2010.
His death had a devastating impact on Gayndah's tight-knit community, which his family still calls home.
However it was also the catalyst to the unbreakable bond Gayndah's community now shares with the Australian Army.
It's this bond that led to the town hosting the 2 CER for the past three weeks, offering three locations for course training and plenty of opportunities for community involvement.
The regiment has also been working to improve the Jacob Moerland Park Reserve for the community by constructing permanent footpaths.
North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers said she was proud to be part of such a unique opportunity.
"This has never been done in Australia and there was obviously a reason we were first because of our connection with Jacob," Cr Chambers said.
"I know his family well and he was very well-known among the community."
Cr Chambers said she'd heard Sapper Moerland was quite the character and was loved by the community.
"When someone young dies in a community it's always tragic, especially when the community is as tight-knit and small as ours," she said.
"Having him die overseas while serving and protecting our country adds another complex layer.
"At Anzac Days when the list of soldiers' names are read, it is still so significant here because so many people went to war.
"Our towns of only a few hundred lost a whole chunk of a generation of their men to war.
"So I think since there hasn't been a war for such a long time now, Jacob's death has reminded our community that war still exists and how trying it can be. A reminder that it still touches us all."
But through the loss, Gayndah has managed to forge something positive.
"All regional areas have this unique ability to turn a negative worst-case scenario into a positive of some kind," Cr Chambers said.
"Having the military here these past weeks has had an unbelievable flow-on affect.
"Coffee lines have become longer, groups have visited our local schools and acted as role models for our children at Book Week and at career days.
"There was a touch game the other night, a social evening where they cooked, and it really does go on and on."
All of these were firsts for the servicemen and women in Gayndah.
"They have gone out of their way to become involved and have told me they've had many people approach them just to thank them for their work," Cr Chamber said.
"Which is the recognition they deserve but don't always get in the city."
There have already been discussions about hosting the army again next January.
"Looking forward, the relationship will continue. We would love nothing more than for this to become a regular occurrence," Cr Chambers said.
"We've loved having them here."