Cane Farmers Lead the Way


This Article Originally Appeared in the Innisfail Advocate on 17 June 2017


If you hang around Innisfail long enough you get to learn a thing or two.

You hear a lot about cyclones. You hear a lot about sugarcane. You hear a lot about rugby league. And in a strange way you realise these things are all connected.

Cyclones punctuate the history of this historic town.

When we think about cyclones we tend to focus on those that most recently came and went. The mere mention of names like ‘Larry’ and ‘Yasi’ send a little chill up the back of even the most resilient of locals.

It’s no wonder why.

These cyclones wreaked havoc in the area, wiping out sugar cane crops, destroying houses, and even bringing sugar mills to a close.

When you look further back in time and you learn that a great cyclone tore through the area in 1918, practically bringing Innisfail to its knees. The impact was devastating.

But how do people from Innisfail respond to this all too familiar threat?


The people get stronger. The town rebuilds.

After the devastating cyclone of 1918, not only did the town look to rebuild, it had the foresight to invest heavily in buildings constructed in the art deco style. At the time, the art deco styling was only just coming into fashion. Innisfail embraced the concept and now proudly lays claim to being home to one of Australia’s most important art deco cultural hubs.

The Innisfail Board: Joe Marano, Alan Colgrave, Sam Spina, Victor Guarrera, Wayne Thomas, Wayne Gattera. (Pictured right to left)

The Innisfail Board: Joe Marano, Alan Colgrave, Sam Spina, Victor Guarrera, Wayne Thomas, Wayne Gattera. (Pictured right to left)

Innisfail is a town that is not afraid to go first. And it isn’t just in construction that this becomes evident.

As this article goes to press, we find ourselves in the middle of State of Origin season. The series is on the line with game 2 taking place mid next week in front of a hostile New South Wales crowd.

When you think of the great State of Origin moments, it’s hard to think of a bigger moment than the first time a Queenslander ever crossed the line to score – way back in 1980.

And who else to do this, but Innisfail hero, Kerry Boustead.

Here we are 37 years later and after controversially being left out of game one, Innisfail’s Billy Slater, one of the best fullbacks of the modern era, returns to the field this week to help rebuild and restore Queensland’s pride.

When Billy was asked about being left out of the game one, he was disappointed but he said that at the end of the day “we’re all Queenslanders, we’re all here for the same cause.”

Like Kerry Bousted, Billy Slater is a leader. Yet neither of them were captains.

Being humble seems to be synonymous with coming from Innisfail.

It’s not just through rugby league that Innisfail shows leadership.

Many people will realise that the cane industry, especially in Innisfail, is faced with many challenges—not the least of which being the linkage that has been made between cane farms and the quality of the water running into the Great Barrier Reef.

There is great pressure on the cane industry to respond to this issue and to do so quickly and emphatically.

Responding to this kind of challenge requires leadership. So it is not surprising to learn that the Innisfail CANEGROWERS board is the first CANEGROWERS board to become fully accredited in the Smartcane Best Management Practice (BMP) program.

Smartcane BMP is the cane industry’s response to some of the challenges its facing. What’s more, it’s the evidence that the industry is responding to the challenges that bear down upon it, that it is being positive and proactive in responding to these challenges.

It is not just the board members who are accredited, across Innisfail 42% of growers are accredited and 85% of growers are benchmarked and are on their way to achieving accreditation. These numbers place Innisfail right at the top in terms of change.

When you speak with the growers who are accredited in Smartcane BMP and you ask them why, they say it is because they want a better future for the industry and they want a better future for their community and for their families.

They don’t do it for themselves, they do it for others and without any desire for reward, praise or status.

They’re no different to Billy Slater or the locals who continue to rebuild Innisfail when another one of those dreaded cyclones blow through.

Innisfail leads from the front.

If you are a cane farmer and want to hear more about what the industry is doing to prepare for the future, visit or talk to the Innisfail CANEGROWERS office.