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2023 Year in Review Part 4: The must-read stories that gripped readers to end of the year

Headshot of Fraser Williams
Fraser WilliamsGeraldton Guardian
The biggest stories between October and December 2023.
Camera IconThe biggest stories between October and December 2023. Credit: Geraldton Guardian/Supplied

We’ve welcomed 2024, but it’s still that in-between time when you reflect on the ups and down of the year that was. We end our Year in Review series with a look at the must-read stories that wrapped up the year.

PIPPA THE SKIPPA

A farm kid from Mingenew stole hearts across the nation when Pippa McTaggart was named the 2023 Auskicker of the year. Pippa became a celebrity and rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in footy when she was named skipper of the Auskick squad playing on grand final day. Her once-in-a-lifetime experience culminated in her presenting Collingwood captain Darcy Moore with his premiership medal.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 30: during the 2023 AFL Grand Final match between the Collingwood Magpies and the Brisbane Lions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 30, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos)
Camera IconPippa McTaggart and Darcy Moore at the grand final. Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Photos

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OPEN FOR SUMMER

It made quite the splash when the City of Greater Geraldton announced the Aquarena’s upgraded outdoor pool would finally be reopened after a two-year delay — just in time for summer. The 50m pool redevelopment had been delayed after it was damaged during a wild storm, with repairs costing more than $6 million.

Cameron Fawell and Taylor Beros use the Aquarena for the first time
Camera IconCameron Fawell and Taylor Beros use the Aquarena for the first time. Credit: Anna Cox/RegionalHUB

YES OR NO?

It was the divisive issue that had gripped the nation for months leading up to the October 14 referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. In the end, the No campaign emerged victorious across the country. In greater Geraldton, 75 per cent of voters rejected the Voice to Parliament. But it was a result that left no one in celebration mode and everyone wondering where it left the issue of reconciliation.

The Geraldton Guardian reports the referendum result.
Camera IconThe Geraldton Guardian reports the referendum result. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

NEW TOP DOG

In a result that came down to the wire, Jerry Clune dethroned Shane Van Styn as mayor of the City of Great Geraldton. The race was decided by just 285 votes and while Mr Van Styn secured the most primary votes, Mr Clune was ahead after preferences were distributed. Aaron Horsman, Peter Fiorenza, Jenna Denton, Butch Parker and Simon Keemink were voted on to council.

The battle to become mayor made front-page news.
Camera IconThe battle to become mayor made front-page news. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

HARVEST RALLY

A community rallied together after the sudden death of Eradu farmer Darryl “Jack” Colin Burton. Dozens of locals came together to harvest the crops of the beloved farmer, helping his family who had been left behind. A huge line-up of 16 headers, 12 chaser bins and 16 trucks with plenty of volunteers all came to finish the harvest across the 1200ha for the Burton family farm.

The community harvest at the Burton family's farm.
Camera IconThe community harvest at the Burton family's farm. Credit: Amy Schultz/Amy Schultz

COLD NIPS MAKES A SPLASH

More than 100 locals took the dive as the popular Cold Nips launched in Geraldton. The community movement brings people together at the Geraldton foreshore and go for an early morning dip. It became an instant hit and a weekly fixture on many locals’ calendars.

The Cold Nips launch party at Geraldton foreshore.
Camera IconThe Cold Nips launch party at Geraldton foreshore. Credit: Jian Wong Yen

POLITICAL BOMBSHELL

Talk about catching people by surprise. Merome Beard, North West Central MP for just more than a year, announced her defection to the Liberals, delivering the news to her former Nationals colleagues via a WhatsApp group message. Ms Beard insisted she was no rat jumping ship, but it was a move to save her political career as her and Nationals leader Shane Love’s electorates will be merged at the 2025 election.

YOU HAD ME AT YELLOW

Pop-rock indie band King Ibis, with their Geraldton lead singer Nadene Burchell, had the ultimate dream gig in November when they took to the Optus Stadium stage to open for Coldplay. The band performed at one of the biggest events the State has ever seen, gaining exposure like none other. An after-party with Coldplay made the experience even sweeter.

King Ibis  - Nadene performs at Optus Stadium
Camera IconKing Ibis performs at Optus Stadium Credit: King Ibis/RegionalHUB

SPORT STANDOUTS

The Mid West sporting scene gathered at the Geraldton Yacht Club for the night of nights with the 51st Geraldton Guardian Mid West Sports Awards. Anticipation built as the award winners were announced before the night’s top gong for Senior Sports Star of the Year was taken out by Buccaneer superstar Johny Narkle.

Senior Sports Star of the Year Johny Narkle and David Crothers.
Camera IconSenior Sports Star of the Year Johny Narkle and David Crothers. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography/Arctic Moon Photography

BLESSING OF THE FLEET RETURNS

In what was once a landmark event for Geraldton, the Blessing of the Fleet made its return last year after a two-year hiatus. About 5000 people made their way to the Fisherman’s Wharf for the event that had local celebrities being dunked in a tank, a parade of dressed up boats and a mural for the fleet unveiled on the Geraldton Fisherman’s Co truck, painted by local children.

The winning ship from the parade.
Camera IconThe winning ship from the parade. Credit: Fraser Williams/Geraldton Guardian

FIRE TRAGEDY

The family of Dongara man and metal sculptor Peter Cant and the local community were left devastated after he died in a house fire in November. Despite the valiant efforts of neighbours, Mr Cant could not be saved as flames engulfed his property in Dongara’s industrial area.

The fire damaged Dongara house where a man died.
Camera IconThe fire-damaged Dongara house where a man died. Credit: Josh Van Staden/7News Regional/RegionalHUB

LIFE CUT SHORT

A rollover on Indian Ocean Drive in Leeman which left driver Jordan Culley, 17, dead and his three passengers injured sent shockwaves through the local community. Jordan, a deckhand and aspiring footy player, was remembered as fun-loving, caring and hard-working. His life was cut short while driving home from a fishing trip with mates, just weeks shy of his 18th birthday.

A vehicle rollover sent shockwaves through the community.
Camera IconA vehicle rollover sent shockwaves through the community. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

FAREWELL TO CLEVELAND

Hundreds gathered in Meekatharra to farewell 16-year-old Cleveland Dodd, the first juvenile in WA to die in custody. A last-minute decision to stop Cleveland Dodd’s incarcerated father from attending threatened to escalate tensions to boiling point. However, the decision was reversed and the funeral went ahead later that day. The teen’s coffin was decorated with bright Aboriginal paintings and family and friends paid emotional tributes.

The funeral of Cleveland Dodd was held in Meekatharra on December 1.
Camera IconThe funeral of Cleveland Dodd was held in Meekatharra on December 1. Credit: Danella Bevis/ Pictures: Danella Bevis

METRES FROM DESTRUCTION

Career and volunteer firefighters worked tirelessly to save homes from destruction as a blaze escalated into an out of control emergency in the shires of Chapman Valley and Northampton. The fire came within metres of homes but the immediate response from emergency services managed to save about 14 properties.

The blaze seen from Nanson-Howatharra Road.
Camera IconThe blaze seen from Nanson-Howatharra Road. Credit: Supplied; Stacia Brehaut

HOSPITAL MILESTONE

It’s the most delayed major project in WA, but in December the State Government announced a key milestone for the $122.7 million redevelopment of the Geraldton Health Campus. Multiplex was named the successful tenderer, with work set to start this year. Countless locals wait with bated breath.

Work is set to start on the Geraldton Health Campus this year.
Camera IconWork is set to start on the Geraldton Health Campus this year. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

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