From school captain to Federal Member: Ken O’Dowd
WHEN Ken O'Dowd was born in Gladstone Hospital in 1950, nobody could have predicted he would go on to represent the region in parliament for 10 years.
In what can be a fleeting career for some, the Federal Member for Flynn has just notched up that milestone, celebrating with friends and family at a commemorative dinner earlier this month.
Growing up on his parents' Mount Larcom farm, Mr O'Dowd went to the now closed (in 2000) Bracewell State School until year 10, before attending Rockhampton Grammar School, where he became school captain.
"We grew small crops of beans, peas, peanuts and grain to support our farm income on three 80-acre blocks, known in those days as 'soldier settlement blocks'," Mr O'Dowd said in his maiden speech in parliament.
"My parents worked hard to provide for their children, and as kids my brother, Bob, and sisters, Lorraine, Bernice and Maureen, and I worked on the farm before and after school."
Mr O'Dowd worked as a contract milker, picking beans, a fettler on the railways and on flying gangs, then on the new railway line from Gladstone to Moura.
Upon finishing school, he became a payroll clerk at QAL, before spending from 1970 to 1978 in New Guinea, performing a variety of duties in the construction of the Bougainville copper and gold mine.
"They reckon there's still about $60 billion worth of gold and copper still there, but it would take a lot of work to re-establish everything to get the mine going again," Mr O'Dowd said.
For the next 20 years Mr O'Dowd worked in the fuel industry distributing for Mobil, then for Shell in his own business, until he bought and renovated an old Rockhampton pub, renaming it O'Dowd's Irish Hotel, which he sold in 2004.
At the same time, Mr O'Dowd owned Busteed's Building Supplies in Gladstone, which he sold upon entering parliament in 2010.
In his spare time, Mr O'Dowd enjoyed playing cricket, rugby league, squash and golf, becoming the Calliope Country Club president for more than 20 years.
"My real passion is horse racing, and I have dabbled in most aspects of the game: owner, breeder, bookmaker, and punter, win or lose," he said.
"I've owned racehorses since about 1980, and I've always got a couple of racehorses running around.
"I led three veteran cricket teams, called the 'Gladstone Muddies', to New Zealand, England and South Africa.
A former 14 handicapper, Mr O'Dowd said he had many fond memories on the golf course.
"Golf is a great game and I really enjoyed playing it when I did, but unfortunately I'm just too busy now, because it does take up a bit of time," he said.
"I used to play a lot of B-Grade pennants and had a lot of good times on the golf course."
Mr O'Dowd's tilt at politics came somewhat by accident, when the selected Nationals candidate resigned shortly before the election, and he stepped up to defeat Labor's Chris Trevor at the polls.
Then began the task of delivering for the more than 155,000 people of Flynn, the electorate named after Flying Doctors founder the Reverend John Flynn.
"I knew there was certain things I did want to achieve, better roads were one of them," he said.
"Back in those days, Philip St had a big roundabout at the intersection with the Dawson Highway and there are a great set of lights there now, which was one project I got up very quickly.
"Now we've gone on to do the Philip Street bypass road, which will finish that job off.
"I got funding for the driver education centre out at Benaraby, dressing sheds and lighting for football grounds, the Gladstone PCYC I've got a lot of money for the facilities there and there's still funding for the planning of the next stage, I've helped with funding for men's sheds across Flynn."
Today, when he's not checking up on his horse racing interests, Mr O'Dowd said he liked to support the Brisbane Broncos in rugby league.
"People say to me 'why don't you go for the Cowboys' and I say 'because the Broncos were the first Queensland team around in the NRL'," he said.