As we hurtle into the new year, which brings with it the promise of new possibilities, it’s traditional to pause for a moment and reflect on our last lap around the sun.
It wouldn’t be a year in the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale without light and shade and a whole spectrum of colour in between.
There was much to be proud of this year, as local luminaries shone a path to greatness.
Julie Richards was named the community’s Citizen of the Year for her passionate promotion of sustainability and food security.
Serpentine Primary School was singled out by the Grattan Institute as a ‘role model Australian school’ for its forward-thinking implementation of whole-school curriculum.
Byford Secondary College’s Lauren Warschauer was one of only three WA teacher’s honoured at this year’s Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards in Canberra for her well-attended Engage program which highlights the importance of mental and physical health, healthy eating and community service.
Byford’s Yvonne Lovegrove and Brookdale’s Annette Harrison shone a literal light on the relatively unknown autoimmune disorder myasthenia gravis, when they campaigned to have monuments around Perth lit up in teal.
Ciara Kinsella and family took out the Young Achievers WA Innovation Award for providing accessible and inclusive aquatic services to people with autism spectrum disorder through their Oakford-based business Swimming On The Spectrum.
Reece Jerrett had a huge year after being named the national rural ambassador, and then being voted in as a local councillor.
Rob Coales won in a landslide to become the shire’s first directly-elected president.
Four Byford music teachers combined their talents to write a song for the ANZACs, performed by students at commemorations this year.
Darling Downs runner Phil Gore was named Australian Male Ultra Runner of the Year, after competing in seven ultra-marathon events in 2022, and winning all of them.
Sisters Elizabeth Reid and Tracey Jarrett were selected in the Australian Women’s Polocrosse Tour. The Australian team went on to thrash the rest of the world, winning all three of their matches by huge margins.
And BMX trio Jayrell Robinson-Miller, Oliver Hogan and Lucas Carrall were selected to represent Australia at the BMX World Championships in Scotland.
There were successes all around for local producers and restauranteurs too.
The team at Millbrook winery were stoked to be named Gourmet Traveller’s ‘Best Restaurant WA’ for the second time. And King Rd Brewing Co. won best Australian-style lager for the second consecutive year at the Melbourne Royal Australian International Beer Awards.
While Jarrahdale’s Bistro By The Dam was named a finalist in four separate Gold Plate Awards.
Local environmental activists had a huge win this year too with Rio Tinto cancelling its plans for exploration in the northern jarrah forests due to “community opposition”.
But it wasn’t all gains for the forest protectors.
There was short-lived success in the campaign to have Alcoa mining plans “assessed” by the EPA – a process which would have effectively halted the US giant’s local mining operations. The kicker came when the premier granted Alcoa an exemption in anticipation of the EPA’s unprecedented decision to assess in December. The move was labelled “horribly Orwellian” by environmentalists.
The shire also lost a “giant of horticulture” last February. Clive Glands was farewelled by the community, but his legacy will live on at his Jarrahdale tree sanctuary.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a year in the SJ shire without a scandal or two. And there were plenty of those last year.
Former president Michelle Rich was embroiled in one when the shire-initiated court proceedings against her for unpaid rates. Ms Rich said she had not been aware she had an outstanding debt and the court date was cancelled when outstanding monies were paid in full.
Ratepayers are still spitting chips after a six percent rate rise – one of the largest of any municipalities in the state and above the Perth Consumer Price Index.
AFP agents stormed a house in Byford in March and arrested former Rebels bikie nominee Mate Stipinovich for his alleged involvement in a plot to import $134 million of cocaine into the state.
Cardup precast concrete manufacturer Permacast was served with a prevention notice by the Department of Water and Environment Regulation for multiple pollution concerns, and the council recommended refusal of the company’s retrospective development applications. MODAP granted the company an extension until 2024 to clean up its act.
But a cloud was cast over the multiple state contracts the company was engaged in, including manufacturing products for Metronet projects like the Byford Rail Extension. It also raised questions over whether the state government had done its due diligence before awarding the contracts in the first place.
The Watkins Rd Transfer Station was suddenly closed in October after significant amounts of asbestos was discovered across the site’s entirety. Complaints and rumours flooded social media compelling president Rob Coales to declare there “is no conspiracy theory” and that that shire was not “keeping it closed to save money”.
It will remain closed for some time, but how long remains to be seen. The plan for its clean-up will come back to council for consideration in May this year.
In lighter news, Moosli the cow-napped Byford Primary School mascot was found perched atop the Vibe Service Station in a story that had many locals simultaneously laughing and scratching their heads.
It has been a pleasure reporting on the community’s achievements and misadventures, and we cannot wait to see what 2024 has in store.