According to Marion Collison, 2015 State Winner in the Australian Family Early Education and Care Awards, Bowen is Queensland’s best kept secret! The town of around 10 000 people is surrounded by ocean to the north, east, and south. As a place for children to grow and develop Bowen has a natural environment that supports an active outdoor lifestyle, but as Marion explains, it faces many challenges.

However, at the heart of the community is a strong sense of support. “As a small community there is a large sense of belonging,” explains Marion. “As there are more opportunities to be closely connected with families as well as within the broader community.” As Marion describes it, “Everybody is always willing to lend a hand when the going gets tough.” 

For Marion, Bowen and District Childcare Centre is an essential ingredient in making this strong community. “Central to the support structure is the fact that people are a part of a close knit community that provides a large support network for the individual as well holistically which develops and maintains positive and close partnerships,” says Marion.

Marion describes Bowen as Queensland best kept secret. “Bowen is one of the most picturesque parts of Queensland, boasting its beaches as its most treasured feature.” According to Marion, any visit to Bowen must include an experience with the fresh seafood cuisine available. “The tropical location makes Bowen the perfect destination for a family to live, learning and grow the community,” says Marion.

Yet, the stunning natural environment also means there are significant challenges. “We have Mackay and Townsville which both sit approximately 2 hours north and south of Bowen. And Brisbane which is a 14 hour drive south of our glorious town,” explains Marion. As well as being an education professional, Marion is as a parent, an active member of the local community. “As a parent it is extremely frustrating that our children are not offered the variety of extracurricular leisure and sporting activities that our city children are offered and get to experience,” says Marion.

The tyranny of distance is a common theme when we have spoken to people across Australia. Bowen has a similar experience. “Needing to travel large distances for specialist health care is a time and costly expense,” highlights Marion. At times the distance does create a strong sense of isolation for Marion’s team.

“As an educator we often feel disconnected with other early childhood professionals,” explains Marion.  Yet, what we have heard is that overcoming these challenges is part of the essence of rural living. According to Marion it is the connections with community, such as the local schools, that enrich all the education professionals in the town. “With these interactions and the partnerships we have with the local schools we are able to deliver a service that the community want and create an environment where the children will become the very best that they can be,” says Marion.