Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:18): One thing that never ceases to amaze me in the Riverland is the way that the community gathers to support events. This was evident on the weekend at Loxton's feast of colour, excitement and pride, the 60th Loxton Mardi Gras, which was another outstanding success. It is one of the longest running festivals in Australia and one of the oldest festival in South Australia. Many people associate Mardi Gras with the Sydney event, but in Loxton the meaning behind the name is religious—Mardi meaning Tuesday and Gras meaning grand. It is a family religious festival to eat up big before the austerity of Lent.
The Loxton Mardi Gras contributes significantly to the local economy and cultural wellbeing of our community and is a drawcard to the region. World War II flight engineer Harry Tickle founded the event as a means to raise money for a swimming pool after seeing similar events in his time serving in Europe. Since its inception, the Mardi Gras has raised over $1 million for the community, funding a range of local projects. Aileen Auld was crowned the first Mardi Gras queen in 1958. The next challenge is now to ensure that there are enough volunteers to continue running this event, and I am sure that the Loxton community will band behind this event.
The 2017 Mardi Gras had over 70 floats and was described by the chair, Peter Magarey, as 'one of the most wonderful experiences'. Paula Nitschke was crowned Mardi Gras Ambassador for 2017, Emma Reichstein was awarded the charity ambassador title, Rose Auricht was awarded senior ambassador title and Lachlan Carter was awarded junior ambassador. Thirty three former queens and ambassadors returned to Loxton for the event, and $33,587 was raised for the local community.
On the same weekend, Loxton also held the ever popular Nippy's Loxton Gift. For those athletes in this chamber, the event was held for the 16th year at the Loxton Oval in front of a very strong crowd. The winner of the men's event was Adelaide's Jack Norris, Ryelie McMullan won the women's event and Chan Mayol was named the outstanding athlete of the carnival. It was fantastic to see local football and netball clubs participating in relays on the night. Barmera-Monash footy club won the men's footy relay, Loxton North footy club was second and Loxton footy club came in a close third. In the netball relay, Loxton claim the honours, and Berri and Loxton North were second and third respectively.
It was great to see Riverland Little Athletics supporting the act and to watch the five and six year olds running the track was a sight to behold. I would like to pay respect to the volunteers that make this event happen every year. It is without doubt one of the great drawcards, bringing volunteers, athletes and tourists to the region. While I have time, I would like to mention the Riverland Mallee Vocational Awards held recently at the Berri Hotel.
It was a great night for the largest regional apprentice and vocational trainee awards in the state. Amongst the main award winners, Apprentice of the Year went to Cody Milne, from Riverland Data and Security and runner-up went to Melanie Cranmer, from Loxton Community Hotel Motel. Trainee of the Year was Casey Cocks, from Pure Skin Beauty and Spa and the runner-up was Mark Featherston, from the local MP's office, Tim Whetstone MP—he was a great trainee.
The School-based Apprentice of the Year winner was Chernoa Morrow, from Cindy's Hair and Beauty, and the runner-up was Braydon Eckermann, from G.J. Dix Engineering. The School-based Trainee of the Year winner went to Tayla Kingham, from the Bonney Lodge Nursing Home, and the runner-up was Emma Ziegler, from Illalangi Gourmet Foods. Illalangi does a great job in promoting not only the region but the unique food culture of the Riverland. The VET Student of the Year winner was Erica Austria, from Waikerie High School, and the runner-up was Chloe Warrick, from Loxton High School.
Moving on to the industry winners, the automotive winner was Mark Pickering, from Gibbs Auto and Electrical; the building and construction award went to Will Carr, from Prestige Kitchens and Cabinets; the electrical award went to Keenan Wilksch, from Statewide Group Training hosted by the Central Irrigation Trust; the commercial cookery winner was Melanie Cranmer, from the Loxton Community Hotel Motel; the data and voice communications winner was Cody Milne, from Riverland Data and Security; and there is nothing like a good hairdresser, and the hairdressing award went to Jacqueline Goldfinch, from Cindy's Hair and Beauty.
It was a great night and always provides me with an opportunity to promote great trainees and apprentices from the Riverland, and I was once an apprentice at GMH Holden.