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Heather Christie drives Why Not during the Road Boss Rally.

Crossing the Queensland outback in a car rally

ARMED with swags and spare parts, lots of characters in 55 vehicles set off westward across Queensland. The vehicles were lined up to tackle the second annual Road Boss Rally, which was full of steep ascents and descents, water crossings and magnificent scenery, with the intent to raise funds for Givit.

Road Boss Rally organiser Jamie Lawson has been running these events for 30 years.

"My dad has been involved in car rallies since the 1950s and back then it was serious rallying," he said.

"As it evolved he realised there was a need for people who loved their cars, loved the bush and all aspects of the trials but weren't really interested in the racing side."

And the Endeavour Rally was formed.

Two years ago, Jamie changed the name to Road Boss Rally and has taken on Givit as the organisation to support.

 

Bonnie and Clyde get stuck on a mound.
Bonnie and Clyde get stuck on a mound.

"We found Givit quite by accident but it is the perfect fit for us," Jamie said.

Givit is a not-for-profit organisation run through a website where they have a database of donations to connect with people who really need it.

Jamie and his wife Michelle spend all year working on the rally. They map out the course, gain access to properties and decide on the locations to stop at each night.

His love of the Australian outback, the culture and the people draws him to the places, making no two rallies the same.

"It allows us to not just visit but get beneath the surface and find the core and the culture of Australia and who we are," Jamie said.

Throughout the day, the participants test their skills and knowledge off the beaten track.

 

Entrants set up camp in Boulia.
Entrants set up camp in Boulia.

They glimpse the Australian landscape and see many places where tourists rarely go.

This year the group travelled from Gladstone to Tamworth and stopped at the Boulia Camel Races.

The rally leaves a lasting economic footprint along the way. Local businesses feed the crews and many hold auctions or raffles to help the community further.

Road Boss has raised more than $500,000 in two years for Givit, whose founder and chief executive officer Juliette Wright had not partnered with anyone since forming the organisation in 2010.

"There are so many generous people who mix their love of charity with their love of going to wild places over land in their very entertaining cars," Juliette said.

She realised there was a need for Givit when she tried to donate her son's baby clothes to a local charity.

"Not one charity would take the clothes," Juliette said.

"They get the pick of the bunch of baby clothes from Lifeline and Salvos and lots of people donate baby clothes, but no one donates the crib or work boots so the father can get a job, or the ironing board."

 

Givit founder and chief executive officer Juliette Wright and Road Boss Rally organiser Jamie Lawson.
Givit founder and chief executive officer Juliette Wright and Road Boss Rally organiser Jamie Lawson.

Juliette created Givit to fill that gap. The organisation connects people with real items through the hundreds of charity groups connected to Givit. Juliette and her team are still handing out donations they purchased with last year's funds and the rally participants witnessed their generosity along the way.

In Gladstone, they donated a wheelchair to a 14-year-old girl with severe arthritis.

In Muttaburra, they donated iPads to the kindergarten. Principal Tanya Bambling said she was excited by the gift.

"They are currently using my iPad from home," she said.

"So this is a very valuable source for our young ones to learn on."

Many other drop-offs were made along the way, including a washing machine, sporting equipment and a number of appliances.

For many of the rally crew this is their favourite part, seeing the response from those they are supporting.

Heather Christie knows well the effects of helping as she spends her days supporting charity groups, including the Caloundra RSL. She has been rallying in her 1966 HR Holden since 2009 and loves the adventure.

 

The view of the plains on the road from Winton to Boulia.
The view of the plains on the road from Winton to Boulia.

"It is a fun way of giving yourself a pat on the back and having time out of the 12 months of fundraising and volunteering for the charity," Heather said.

"A little holiday for us and we get to see where our money goes."

A common thread for many of the participants is the camaraderie and being able to help.

John Ledbetter, as the resident mechanic, was also on hand to help. The Toowoomba resident, who has participated in the rally since its inception, did not raise as much money as others but said he attempted to help out in other ways.

"Personally, I think the rally is good and we are doing something for charity," John said.

"I have had 34 people do the trip with me over the years and three of them have continued on with their own cars.

"This has been my way of giving back and I work on other people's cars while on the rally."

Many cars have needed tweaks and John said he spends hundreds of hours doing repetitive work to maintain his 1968 XT V8 Falcon that has come on every trip with him.

The next rally will go from the Story Bridge in Brisbane to Booligal in the NSW Riverina, via the mighty Murray River, starting on July 9 next year.