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11 August, 2020

Succession planning at Ballard's Birdy

LONGREACH State High School student, Rochelle Ballard, has been honoured in this year’s Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) Salute to Excellence Awards, earning second place in the Food and Beverage category.

By Hamish Hart

Donella and Gavin Ballard couldn’t be more proud of what Rochelle has achieved.

The program recognises high achievers in Years 11 and 12 through Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS), school-based apprenticeships or traineeships in the tourism, food and beverage, and cookery industries.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, nominations and judging took place online. Students were required to send video submissions demonstrating their hospitality skills and take part in face-to-face webinars with judges.

Director of Food Focus Australia and competition judge, Michelle Christoe, said Rochelle’s skills and credentials made her a standout in the program.

“Rochelle has a keen eye for detail, teamwork and her enthusiasm is contagious,” Ms Christoe said. “Rochelle and her family should be proud of her achievements as they are well deserved.

“She is a true hospitality professional and has a solid career ahead of her. I wish her all the success.”

Rochelle said she was approached by her school to enter the QTIC program due to her work at the Birdcage Hotel, and with help from her career guidance councillor, Liza Cameron, was able to overcome the program’s strenuous requirements.

“At the beginning I found it quite easy expressing my passion about work through writing,” she said. “But when I was selected into the second round, I could definitely feel the pressure and nerves.

“There was one point where I felt I wasn’t experienced enough to complete some of the tasks, however I decided to take on the challenge and persevere. I thought to myself, ‘If I had already come so far, why would I quit now?’

“Without Liza’s help I wouldn’t have had the ability or resources to submit my video. Interviews were daunting as I’ve never had to do something like this, but I thought to myself, ‘I’m not losing anything, I’m gaining experience’.

Winners of the program were recently announced during a livestream.

“When I heard the finalist’s names, I was surprised I had even made it that far,” she said. “But when they announced me as a runner-up, I couldn’t believe it.

“I was so overwhelmed with excitement and it’s a really big honour. It made me realise that I’m capable of anything when faced with challenges thought to be out of my reach.”

The Year 12 student said working at the local watering hole set her apart from other contestants and believes this distinction will open up doors of opportunity in the future.

“I never came from a fine dining background and have always worked at a classic outback pub,” she said. “For me to achieve and submit a high standard with what little resources I had amazed me and my family.

“What I have won will allow me to venture into different levels within the industry. I’m hoping to work my way up to some type of events management role and with a win like this, my fingers are crossed it will become a reality.”

“As with everything in life, just be yourself and that’s exactly what I did.”

Rochelle’s father and Birdcage Hotel publican, Gavin Ballard, expressed pride as his daughter follows in his footsteps.

“I’m very proud of what she’s achieved,” Mr Ballard said.

“She contemplated not doing it, but her teachers were very helpful in assisting her achieve this. It’s good to see students here can achieve these awards.

“I’ve got two trainees for next year and those girls show great potential to be in the mix. Hopefully they can get the same recognition as Rochelle and it can put them in good stead for their future in hospitality.”

The formal awards dinner has been postponed until early 2021.

Veronica Ballard also congratulates Rochelle Ballard on her achievement in this year's QTIC Salute to Excellence Awards.

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