Personal story

Racing brings the community together

2 children race in billy carts

Who: Charleville LDAT

Where: Murweh Shire, Queensland

What: Billy Cart Derby

One LDAT recently brought its community together in an unusual way.

The small town of Charleville is located in the Murweh Shire, Queensland, and has a population of only a few thousand people. Last month, the Charleville LDAT staged its inaugural Charleville Billy Cart Derby - a fun event aimed at building community connectedness.

Charleville Billy Cart Race winners

Leanne Day, LDAT member and Senior Constable with Charleville Police, feels that challenges caused by a long drought and the remoteness of the town have led to many people becoming disengaged from local services, activities and each other.

Mental health issues within the community have increased and drought-related financial hardship has limited the ability of local families to access fun activities.

Recognising that social and geographical isolation, lack of engagement in recreational activities, family disconnection and mental health issues are all risk factors for alcohol and other drug use, the local LDAT decided to do something about it.

A collaborative effort

“The Billy Cart Derby was created as a free event for the whole community, aimed at encouraging involvement from families, schools and community organisations who worked together to build billy carts and then race them on the day,” said Leanne.

In the lead up to the Derby, there was involvement from schools, the local men’s shed, employment agencies, schools, community organisations and corrective services, collaborating to build carts and make the race accessible for as many children in the town as possible.

The Queensland Corrective Services, for example, held a Charleville Work Camp, constructing five carts for use by vulnerable young people who did not have access to one otherwise. The Charleville RAPAD Employment Services Queensland (RESQ) also built two carts for the day.

During August, a billy cart decorating workshop was held at the Charleville Showgrounds. The event was designed for participants to attend and decorate their billy carts in a safe, alcohol and other drug-free environment.

The collaboration across the town improved community engagement and spirit, helping enhance individuals’ self-worth. For Leanne and other staff at Charleville Police, they enjoyed the chance to break down some barriers between themselves and local families.

Creating connections

On the morning of the Derby, St Mary’s School held a Family Fun Day on their school oval. This was a retro-style event with community stalls, sack races, egg and spoon races and tug-of-war, among other activities. It was a beautiful, sunny day – perfect conditions for the race. Leanne and other LDAT members loved seeing the cheerful atmosphere, with groups of excited kids pouring into the school to play games and families preparing their billy carts.

2 children race in billy carts

Building protective factors

The collaboration of community members made the event accessible for all young people who wanted to participate, even if they didn’t have the financial means to build their own billy cart.

“The event showcases that Charleville families and organisations can come together and work collaboratively to put on an event for their community. The event and activities in the lead up increased feelings of belonging, self-worth and connectiveness within the community,” said Leanne.

Leanne Day was extremely pleased with how the day went and enjoyed watching the excitement of the Charleville community in the lead up.

“The town was abuzz with talk of the day and healthy conversations were had in relation to who would win the event. Many members of the community attended to watch family members race.”

The Charleville LDAT knows that bringing families closer is a protective factor against use of alcohol and other drugs. Leanne feels that though the Billy Cart Derby day was great fun, the key was in the local community connecting and enjoying the time preparing to participate in the event.

Looking to the future, the LDAT hopes to make the Derby an annual event. Leanne and other members of the LDAT will gather community feedback on the event. The LDAT is currently in discussions about its next Community Action Plan, and the best way in which to continue to address community needs. They hope to have the plan submitted by the end of 2019 so they can get going straight away when 2020 rolls around.

2 children race in billy carts