The reporter I called my friend, taken too soon

Warrego Watchman reporter Natalee Hall (below) with Marguerite Cuddihy and Western Times reporter Andrew Messenger.
Warrego Watchman reporter Natalee Hall (below) with Marguerite Cuddihy and Western Times reporter Andrew Messenger.

NATALEE Hall was a reporter.

I met her for the last time at a council meeting at the Murweh Shire building on Thursday.

In a break, we talked about court cases she was excited to cover on Tuesday.

She told me she'd started to feel at home in Charleville. She had been picked to be part of a race at Cooladdi on Saturday because she was so small it was easy to pick her up.

She laughed about her poor performance in AusTag the previous night. We gossiped.

Then we were motioned to go back into the chamber, to try to make sense of the chaos of the council meeting, to bring something back to the office that could be translated into a tale worthy of reading.

Born on July 28, 1995, Natalee came into our fabled profession early, and left it early too, at age 21, on Saturday morning at 6.30.

Her car hit a tree after swerving to miss a kangaroo about 30km south of Augathella. She died at the scene.

Natalee was the passenger. The driver's condition is described as non-life threatening. If you know her, and I do, she will need your support.

Natalee was a special person. She was never unhappy for long, or happy briefly. She made friends easily and enemies never.

For the last four months of her life she worked for the storied Warrego Watchman, one of three journalists there, in a paper as old as the towns they work in.

She moved from Boronia Heights in Logan, and started at the paper in July.

By October she'd just become a permanent member of staff, and was ecstatic about it.

Natalee never wrote a story that was easy or throwaway, was never unwilling to drive the extra hundred miles to get a photo and a story of a kid winning her first gymkhana.

She slept on swags and lived in an old fashioned pub in a town hundreds of miles away from friends or family.

She worked weekends and nights and always made the extra phone call to double check.

She did it because she cared about people's stories, about the good times and the bad times and the funny times.

About the things that governments and community groups and businesses do that hurt us or help us.

About the communities we live in, and the people who live in them and the things that happen there that are never heard about outside.

About the purifying power of the simple fact.

One day she'd have been a great writer at some fantastic magazine or on TV.

One day she'd have redefined how you or I think about something or someone or somewhere. She never got that chance.

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