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Hitting the road with our heroes

Q Super

We have joined forces with QSuper, Official Supporter of the Queen's Baton Relay, to bring you the inspiring stories of Queensland's batonbearers.

ELITE athletes will shine at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, but it's Queensland's unsung heroes who will steal the limelight during the Queen's Baton Relay.

Having departed Buckingham Palace on March 13 last year, the Queen's Baton has visited every nation and territory in the Commonwealth, carried with care by baton bearers who have one thing in common - bucketloads of community spirit.

Meet some of the QSuper members and proud Queenslanders among the 1800 Queensland runners who will carry the Queen's Baton with pride.

Pamela Cawthray

Community spirit doesn't get more fervent than that of Pamela Cawthray.

The 73-year-old is such a pillar of the Miriam Vale community in central Queensland, she was not nominated once but three times for the Queen's Baton Relay.

"I could only accept one, and that was the one my sister submitted," Pamela says.

"I was born and raised here in Miriam Vale, and I'm a firm believer in you only get out of anything what you put into it."

Over the years, Pamela's tireless volunteer work has seen the establishment of a community centre in the town, and new facilities for the golf club. 

Pamela Cawthray of Miriam Vale is thrilled to be selected to carry the Baton in the Queen's Baton Relay.
Pamela Cawthray of Miriam Vale is thrilled to be selected to carry the Baton in the Queen's Baton Relay. Contributed

She spent 30 years working as a teacher's aide at the Miriam Vale secondary school, helped out at church, tuckshop, the P&C association and pretty much any other organisation that needed a hand.

"It's a very small community and if you're involved in one thing, you're involved in others," Pamela says.

"I haven't yet learned how to say no."

These days most of her energies go into the golf club, where Pamela is a life member and coordinator of the junior golf program. Through fundraising and successfully applying for grants, she's helped get the club a new kitchen, storage sheds for golf carts and solar panels.

Of her selection as a batonbearer in recognition of her community work, Pamela says she's "tickled pink".

"I'll be carrying a message from the Queen, only for three or four minutes but I'm very excited about it," she says.

"It's supposed to be quite heavy, about 1.4kg so I've been told to walk with a 1.5-litre water bottle to prepare."  

On March 24, she will carry the Queen's Baton to Alf Larson Park at Miriam Vale for a community celebration.

"All of the batonbearers that have been chosen from here are very worthy recipients and they all really contribute to the community," Pamela says.

"It's just that little bit of acknowledgement. That's pretty special."


Matilda Schmidt

Someone who well knows the valuable contribution blood donors make to the community, is Brisbane nurse Matilda Schmidt.

The 29-year-old registered nurse and midwife, works in the busy emergency department at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and last year headed up a project to reduce blood wastage.

The "Blood Clock" was recognised with a Queensland Health Metro North Innovation Award sponsored by QSuper, who in turn decided to nominate Matilda for the Queen's Baton Relay for her contribution to improving the lives of others.

"I was absolutely thrilled to be nominated," says the mother of one who will carry the Queen's Baton through Sherwood, in Brisbane's south-west, on March 30.

"It will be so much fun to be part of it all."

Matilda Schmidt continues to contribute meaningfully in the community.
Matilda Schmidt continues to contribute meaningfully in the community. Contributed

She says the Blood Clock was inspired by the bags of O-negative blood going to waste after being brought to the Emergency Department.

"Sometimes when patients arrive in ED, they don't need blood but in the chaos of emergency, the blood can be forgotten," Matilda says.

"If it's left too long, it goes off and has to be thrown out which is a dreadful waste of money, and the blood donor's time."

Her solution was to put a timer on the esky the blood comes in, as a reminder to staff that it's time to return the bag to proper storage if it's not needed. Now, Matilda is working on another project to audit blood product anti-D to ensure it's not being wasted.

"It is a precious resource. There's only a limited pool of donors across Australia who's got the anti-D blood to give to pregnant women in need," she says.

"We're looking at the most appropriate time to administer anti-D, and in which cases it's not necessary."

Her drive to help the community does not stop there - Matilda is now in the final year of training to be a nurse practitioner so she can do more for patients.

"As treating clinicians, nurse practitioners have an extended scope of practice and using a more holistic approach offer an alternative model of health care," she says.

"If an elderly lady comes in with a fall, we don't just focus on her physical injuries, we look at her home situation and what might've led to the fall.

"It's about trying to address everything about their life and getting to know their situation."

Connie Mertens

Arriving in Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands close to 11 years ago, Connie Mertens was dismayed to discover the town had no netball competition, or even netball facilities. So she did something about it - with the help of fellow resident and batonbearer Meredith Ford.

Almost nine years later, in 2016, the friends played their first game at Mareeba's new netball courts.

"We have always been like that in our family - if you can do something, you do," says the 49-year-old mother of two. "You don't do it for recognition."

But recognition is what Connie's got - after being nominated for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton Relay.

Along with Meredith, Connie will carry the Queen's Baton through Mareeba on March 14.

"I do appreciate the lady who nominated me," she says. "She spoke to me about it and said 'do you realise what you've done for the community? We never had a netball association in Mareeba'." 

Connie Martens is the force behind the netball courts at Mareeba.
Connie Martens is the force behind the netball courts at Mareeba. Contributed

The QSuper member says it's nice to be reminded that you've done something worthwhile for the community.

"We were very lucky in that we were given $250,000 by Bendigo Bank, and then we raised $250,000 through the community and that was matched dollar for dollar by the State Government," she says.

"I knew we had generous people in Mareeba but I was amazed we could raise that sort of money."

Today the Mareeba Netball Association has a junior and a ladies competition and plays weekly against clubs from other towns.

"It's really brought the town together and given a lot of people a new interest."

She says it will be a thrill to be part of GC2018  - despite being 1800km from the Gold Coast.

"We aren't such a big town so we could've not been considered (for the relay route) so it's a thrill. There are 12 of us here in Mareeba (carrying the Queen's Baton) and it will be a whole of community celebration," Connie says.

Merv Ward

Former navy officer Merv Ward never does anything by half. Even in retirement, the 66-year-old grandfather maintains a schedule that would exhaust many half his age.

When he's not instructing navy cadets at Shorncliffe on Brisbane's bayside, he's teaching young people the ropes of sailing and teamwork, on board the schooner South Passage off Manly.

Merv Ward will carry the Baton with pride.
Merv Ward will carry the Baton with pride. Contributed

Those two volunteer roles take up 48 weekends a year, and in between Merv devotes his time to the RSL doing advocacy, and helping veterans put their lives back together. It was this multi-platform dedication to the community that prompted his financial advisor, Michael, to nominate Merv for the Queen's Baton Relay.

"I'm over the moon just to be part of it," he says. "I've looked into it and there's only about 3500 people in Australia who've been given the opportunity to carry the Baton."

He's even joined the gym to train for the relay, which will involve running, jogging or walking about 200m with the Queen's Baton on the Gold Coast on April 2.

"When opportunities like this come along, you just want to go for it, you don't knock anything back," Merv says.

He gives the same advice to the young people he helps train as navy cadets and sailors.

"It's a challenge, but a good challenge and it keeps me young," he says.

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