The small Central Wheatbelt town of Pingelly is punching well above its weight in terms of the health and wellbeing of its community members.
Last week it received the title of the State's tidiest town in the 2023 Keep Australia Beautiful Tidy Towns Sustainable Communities awards, for which it was a finalist in four categories.
Shire of Pingelly chief executive officer Andrew Dover said the 1000 people who lived in the shire were 'positive by nature' and very proactive when it came to participating in community projects, initiatives and events.
He said Pingelly had a tight-knit community, where the population was overwhelmingly involved in the agriculture sector.
A recent study into what makes Pingelly special, co-ordinated by the Shire, found it was the local people's positivity that shone through the most.
"The people are positive by nature and looking to progress their town and local businesses," Mr Dover said.
"They embrace change and are positive about the future."
2023 Tidy Town Award winners
- State winner: Pingelly
- Litter Prevention: Esperance
- Young Legends: Pingelly
- Environmental Sustainability: Collie
- Environmental Education: Walpole
- Heritage and Culture: Pingelly
- General Appearance: Paraburdoo
- Community Action and Wellbeing: Roebourne
- Community Containers for Change: Northampton
- Waste Management: Gascoyne Junction
Pingelly was a finalist in this category of the 2023 Keep Australia Beautiful Tidy Towns Sustainable Communities awards for the work of its young legend, Dylan Cheney.
He established Pickle Contracting as a 14-year-old to provide lawn care and maintenance services to residents and commercial businesses in Pingelly and the surrounding towns of Brookton, Narrogin, Cuballing and Popanyinning.
Mr Cheney juggles this with home schooling two days per week.
What sets him apart is that he offers pro bono work to those who can't afford his services.
If he sees a lawn that needs mowing, he will just get on with the job of doing it.
"There are a lot of older people in Pingelly who benefit from his work," Mr Dover said.
Heritage and Culture
This category recognises the Pingelly community's efforts in renovating its local Town Hall and old courthouse, stablishing a heritage trail and staging a heritage festival.
Mr Dover said the hall - built in 1907 and one of the first buildings in town - had been closed for some time, as a new recreation centre in town had taken precedence for community meetings and other activities.
He said it was now housing a museum after a $250,000 facelift and refurbishment.
The courthouse remains empty, but several groups are brainstorming new uses for this building and the potential to reactivate a park next to it.
The new Pingelly heritage trail involved putting 20 plaques at places of historical interest in town.
"Pingelly is a very historic town and on the plaques we have the name of the site and an old photograph of it," Mr Dover said.
"The next stage is to collate more information about the site and add a QR code that will link to that information."
Community Action and Wellbeing
Pingelly received two nominations in this category of the awards.
The Pingelly Somerset Alliance was one of these and is a virtual village to connect seniors with services and businesses around town.
Mr Dover said if you received an aged care package you could use some of the funding to link to the service or business you needed through a computer program or phone call to local volunteers who could carry out the service.
"For example, older people who are immobile can connect to the Pingelly Somerset Alliance to get their groceries or pharmaceuticals delivered to their home," he said.
"This program has been running for about a year and is getting more popular.
"There is a person to call and they can sort out the issue or problem for the caller.
"There are quite a few other towns around the State who are interested in replicating it.
"I would say we have had enquiries from up to 30 towns interested in the program."
The other initiative earning Pingelly an award in the community action and wellbeing category was its Age is Just a Number project.
This is a collaboration between Pingelly Primary School and the Shire, which organises seniors to go to the pre-primary and year one classes once a week for one term of activities.
"Older people are paired with two little ones and they do activities together," Mr Dover said.
"It is a good program that is crossing the age divide.
"And it is great for the oldies and young ones when they see each other and a friendly face around town."
Mr Dover said this program was particularly benefitting those children who did not have a 'safe' adult in their life and those who needed a mentor or another adult role model.
"And it is helping the older people regain some of their youth and really helped to lift their mood," he said.
State winner - Young Legend
Most 14-year-olds would be keen to come home from school and jump straight on to their iPhones for some social media time.
But Dylan Cheney had other plans.
Keen to get out into the community, he started a business called Pickle Contracting.
This offers lawn mowing and lawn care and maintenance services to the Pingelly community and surrounding towns.
On Friday he won the Youth category in the 2023 Keep Australia Beautiful Tidy Towns Sustainable Communities section, after being nominated as a finalist earlier this year.
Mr Cheney said he did lawn mowing and whipper snippering, ride-on slashing, weed control and fertilisation.
"I understand the importance of a well-maintained lawn, not only for aesthetic purposes but also for the health and safety of my clients and their families," Mr Cheney said.
He said he could also undertake cleaning for heavy farm machinery and provide big garden bags for home clean-ups.
Mr Cheney said he now smashed out his schooling at home in two days and concentrated on running the business for the rest of the week.
He also employs casual staff.
What sets Mr Cheney apart from other providers is the pro bono work he does for many pensioners in Pingelly.
"I mow their lawns, cut their firewood and clean up their yards," he said.
Mr Cheney also uses some of the profits from his business to clean-up graffiti around town.
"This not only improves the appearance of the town, but gives me great pride to be making a positive impact in my community," he said.
This year Mr Cheney won the 2023 Pingelly Youth of the Year Award.
He gets involved in many community activities, including setting up Christmas lights, helping at the Australia Day breakfast and Christmas party on the oval and helping to organise a recent swimming pool party and town clean-up.
Mr Cheney said his parents had supported him as his business expanded and had taught him a good work ethic.
"My goals for the future are to continue to develop and nurture my current clients, as well as venturing further afield to gain new clients and opportunities," he said.
"I want to leave a lasting legacy of hard work, dedication and community spirit."
Community spirit in the north
It is hard to imagine the scale of destruction and devastation wreaked Fitzroy Crossing and its satellite communities in January this year when floods ripped through the Fitzroy Valley.
This area is known to flood in wet years, but the size of this event was unprecedented and caught the region's 1500 residents by surprise in the middle of the night.
Homes and other buildings and structures were lost during the flooding and the aftermath has bought on its own challenges of being cut off from the south of WA due to the main Fitzroy Bridge buckling, mould in houses persisting for six months or more and loss of livestock, parks and vehicles.
Shire of Derby/West Kimberley president Peter McCumstie said everyone in the region was affected in some way.
He said the Fitzroy River had risen to 15.75 metres and noone could have prepared for that.
"The local rain gauge was broken and dinghies were used between properties to pick up neighbours before their houses were inundated," Mr McCumstie said.
"Cars were destroyed and thousands of cattle drowned."
The State and Federal governments have promised more than $144 million in funding to help the Fitzroy Valley get back on its feet, but the recovery is expected to take at least three years.
Grants and other promised help have been difficult for some to access, and some believe it has taken too long for both governments to address ongoing problems in the valley since the floods.
For people evacuated from their communities, communication continues to be a problem.
Reconnecting infrastructure that was wiped out by the floods has been a long and involved task for hundreds of workers who have descended on the town to help with the rebuild.
A lack of internet access, remoteness and financial literacy are just some of the barriers workers need to contend with as the town begins to rebuild.
Mr McCumstie said there was strong community leadership, reflected through the Fitzroy Recovery Working Group that formed to assist with the clean-up.
And residents had shown amazing resilience and a keenness to help re-build the town and get back to their communities.
For their efforts, the Shire of Derby/West Kimberley was nominated in the community action and wellbeing category of the 2023 Tidy Towns Sustainable Communities Awards.
"It is wonderful to see the community of Fitzroy Crossing recognised, given the inspiring efforts it has made in working together since the devastating floods in January," Mr McCumstie said.
He said local people had started cleaning and rubbish collection businesses, gained skills across rebuild projects and this had created long-lasting employment opportunities.
In the wake of the floods, Mr McCumstie said about 200 homes were lost and outlying communities - with 10 to 100 residents each - were displaced to move to higher ground.
"Everyone in the region has been affected, whether they lost their house, were forced to move or are battling on with disruption of supplies due to the bridge being out of action," he said.
In good news for the area, Main Roads confirmed last month that the new Fitzroy River Bridge will open to all traffic on Sunday, December 10 - more than six months ahead of schedule.
This early opening will provide assurance to the local community and freight industry ahead of the next wet season, it said in a statement.
"Construction of the new Fitzroy River Bridge is progressing at a rapid rate, with the entire bridge deck substantively complete," the statement said.
"Works are underway on the deck surfacing and safety barriers, as well as road construction works on both approaches.
"Main Roads will continue to keep the local community and freight industry updated on the progress of the works."
A temporary low-level crossing four kilometres upstream from the new bridge is open to all traffic - but could come under pressure during the next wet season if there is more flooding.
Mr McCumstie said the bridge reopening would be a game changer for Fitzroy Crossing, where locals were still using boats to get supplies from one side of the river to the other.
He said chances are another big flood would occur in coming years and the rebuilding efforts were taking this into account in the design of homes, town buildings and green areas and in the surrounding communities.
"I have not heard of anyone leaving town because of the flooding," he said.
"People are cracking on with rebuilding in a more flood-smart way.
"In a positive light, many communities have come together to work more closely for the common good."
Programs and initiatives have included replacing buildings and houses, improving parks and gardens, improving road access and making communities more attractive.
"Everyone has pitched in and this will continue for some years to come," Mr McCumstie said.
"We are all looking at ways to rebuild that are appealing and liveable.
"The people of Fitzroy Crossing have stood up, accepted what has happened and gone about making change."