Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR)

On Koa Country

Outback Festival Inc is situated in the Queensland outback town of Winton, a 10-hour drive from Cairns. They’re a not-for-profit organisation that was formed in 1972 when the inaugural Winton Outback Festival took place. Since 1973, the festival has been held biennially and has grown from a small-town event attracting fewer than 1,000 visitors to a major regional event that drew in a record 14,976 attendees over the five days – pretty impressive for a town of only 900 people!

With the help of a $45,000 FRRR grant, funded by the Australian Government through the Tackling Tough Times Together program, Outback Festival Inc was able to host one of their largest Festivals capitalising on the holidaying demographic contained to Queensland due to state borders being closed. The theme was ‘Giants of the Outback’ which showcased the story of Qantas and the role that Australia, and the historic town of Winton, has played in the history of air travel.

In 2021, the festival was more crucial to the community than ever, as a lot of locals in Winton and the surrounding towns were feeling socially isolated following the COVID pandemic, not to mention the hit that the economy had taken due to the absence of visitors and tourists.

The festival was hailed an amazing success, with a record 80% increase in numbers that saw upwards of 4,000 visitors book out nearby motels, camping grounds and hotels. Families from all around Queensland road-tripped their way to Winton for an outback school holiday experience.

People from all ages and backgrounds participated in and attended open air concerts, family sports events, arts performances, workshops and even watched a stunning pyrotechnic display.

Winton is known as the birthplace of Qantas and so, to celebrate 100 years of Qantas, a sunset gala dinner with the theme “Centenary of Flight” was held on the Winton airport tarmac with over 300 guests attending along with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment as invited guests.

As a result of the Outback Festival, Winton got a much-needed influx of revenue with more than $1.2 million being spent by attendees during the five days of quintessential Aussie fun. Local business operators reported huge spikes in trading, with some seeing an increase of up to 127%.

For more inspiring stories like this, head to our FY 2021/22 Annual Review.

In north west Queensland, there is a town called Winton. For the last seven years the town has battled the worst drought they have ever seen. To make matters worse, flooding in early 2020 ravaged the town even further, with the loss of thousands of livestock and damage to much of the surrounding area. This kind of devastation, understandably, created immense financial stress and anxiety for the residents and businesses of Winton.

To lift community spirits, the Diamantina Rodeo and Campdraft Association (DRCA) wanted to hold their annual Campdraft, an event where horse and rider combine to work cattle, but with financial pressures, it was touch and go. With the help of a $20,000 Tackling Tough Times Together (TTTT) grant, they were able to make it a reality. The three-day event brought together crowds from surrounding towns to watch and compete in the Draft in a show of resilience and support for the local businesses of Winton.

The Draft provided a rare opportunity for families and friends to come together to enjoy a night of sport, food and music – a welcome distraction from the grief caused by the last few years. 

The funding covered the major costs for the event, including complying with regulations such as having an ambulance presence, as well as the costs to keep all animals safe and happy. Additionally, the DRCA organised DJs and extra entertainment for attendees over the three days. 

The success of the annual Draft means the DRCA will be in a better situation when it comes time to organise the next event. A committee member said:

“Without this funding we would not have been able to run our annual event, so this was a great achievement not only for our organisation but the whole community.”