Tully Cane Farmer Graham Maifredi awarded the Order of Australia Medal

Image Credit: Sean Clarke, Media, Marketing & Sustainability, International Rafting Federation.

A secret nomination passed the clearance of four referees, went before the Governor-General, and came up gold for Tully Cane Farmer, Graham Maifredi, who is to receive a 2021 Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services worthy of particular recognition.

It came after Mr Maifredi won a 10-year fight through a quagmire of regulations and differing opinion to successfully bring the World Rafting Series to the Tully River in 2019.

Now in 2021, he aims to continue his fight for his district. It takes a particular person to commit themselves to working hard to better their community and not just for themselves.

These are the types of people who deserve recognition.

Mr Maifredi fondly remembers his humble beginnings as a farmer’s son, “I can still remember chipping weeds as a five-year-old with my grandfather.”

“I went from wanting to be a bin tracker driver to being a Boiler Maker at the (Tully) Sugar Mill; I got an apprenticeship there.”

“I finished eight weeks ahead of my block, so I had an early spring break from my apprenticeship. However, the next day there was a training course happening on the Tully River. So, I took on the training course in November 89.”

“I started as a competitor as a 21-year-old. We got on to a plane, and we went to Hong Kong via Cathay Pacific straight out of Cairns. It was one of the first flights on that route to the Project Raft set up by Russians and Americans to form peace between the two nations. It was like a peace rally. It was a good idea.”

“We were leading all the way until the last round where we missed a turn and lost by 3 seconds. We finished second back in 93.”

It was an unusual entry onto the world stage, which in 2019 brought millions to witness rafting in Tully. However, the most exciting thing Mr Maifredi shared about joining world rafting was that it allowed him to mix with many different cultures. 

One of the rivers on which he competed in the early years went eight times faster than the Tully River during a flood.

The International Rafting Foundation (IRF) was set up in 2000. The World Rafting competition held in 2019 was considered an extreme rafting event (natural set-up). There will soon also be stadium events held.

Discussions for rafting to become part of the Olympics are currently underway. 

With the strong possibility of the Olympics being held in Australia in 2032, it would be exciting for the Tully River to be used to host rafting, as many Olympic events are held outside of the main venue.

The 2019 World Rafting competitions in Tully was broadcasted to 1 billion homes across the globe.

In viewing terms, this was the equivalent of 7 million or more people who witnessed the action in the Tully River across the globe, broadcasted predominantly by the BEIN network in the Asia Pacific, and repeated regularly on sports channels across Europe.

Press releases went out to 35 different countries every day, with some countries having three stations that would share the news, and others up to fifteen.

In Australia, we had a fantastic response. In Japan, there was a strong following for the Japanese women’s team.

There were billions of hits on the various social media platforms of all the different teams and the IRF.

Despite the traction created by all the views and the worldwide enthusiasm about one day being able to visit Tully to enjoy a rafting experience, COVID came long the following year and shut down the momentum and all the events and related commercial enterprises not just in Tully but across the globe.

Some businesses started their activities again six months after COVID hit, and now, one year later, several countries have recommenced their competitive events.

It would be wonderful if our Prime Minister would engage in discussions with World leaders to resume competitions. A potential starting point would be to open a specific Trans-Tasman bubble for competitors.

Mr Maifredi has a few ideas to support locals and local enterprise to get people back out on the river. 

He thinks it would be great to host another ‘Rumble on the River’ competition where participants find clues as part of the mystery event. 

Another idea could be using the safest section of the river to host day events for schools or corporate groups.

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