Meet Some of Cairns Inspirational Business People


Josh Oliver
NQ Finance Solutions (formerly 1800 Approved)

Words by Janie Barton • Photo by Catherine Coombs

What made you decide to rebrand 1800 Approved to NQ Finance Solutions?
We have such good local relationships with everyone. The foundation of the business is all local and a lot of our referrals are local. We wanted it to resonate with our local community and therefore changed the name to reflect our local community.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Always learn from your mistakes, and never be afraid to have a go.

What do you like best about going to work every day?
My team which includes broker Ben Besse, operations manager Mel Kelleher and office manager Abbey Kelleher. We’re like a close family here.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?
First thing we do when we get into work every morning is have a meeting just to see what everyone has on their agenda for the day and see if there’s anything I can help them with. Then we just set up our to-do lists for the day, and we go from there. There are never two days the same.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you at work?
There are always funny things happening here. We have a lot of laughter in our office!

Where do you get your inspiration for work from?
I mainly I get my inspiration from Richard Branson, who says there’s nothing you can’t be without having fun and still succeeding. If you don’t enjoy what you do, why are you doing it?

Are you from Cairns? If not, what brought you here?
No, I’m from Sydney. I moved here for the lifestyle.

What do you do outside of work?
I’m heavily involved in the horse-racing industry. I have two sons (aged 10 and 12) and am heavily involved in their rugby league. I also enjoy motorcycle riding and boating as well.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
The climate and the people, who are so relaxed. I’ve been here since 2007 and would never go back to living in a city like Sydney. It’s so busy and everything you do there is so transactional. For example, if you go to Woolies and you’re in the checkout it’s all transactional. In Cairns if you go to your local Woollies the person behind the counter enjoys a conversation – everyone is very friendly here.

What advice would you pass on to others who are interested in having a career in finance brokering?
Come to me – I will train you! I will train you to do it the right way from the start.

What’s ahead for NQ Finance Solutions?
We’re really excited about our rebranding. We’re still in the same location, still affiliated with 1800 Approved and still provide our clients secure financing for cars, boats, bikes, trucks, equipment, commercial ventures and personal loans through our large access to leading financial institutions.


Leo Ward
Managing Director
Power & Data Support Services

Words by Janie Barton

Tell us about Power & Data Support Services (PDSS).
While the business was established in 2003 it become a company in 2012. PDSS exists primarily in a niche area of critical power supply systems, always looked to training to embrace the constant changes to our industry.

What are the major changes you have seen since you started in the industry?
It was said many years ago, that our electrical industry has a change or upgrade of products, design, engineering and techniques every 32 seconds! We expect a lot of our technical and support staff without adding more red tape to the process. The challenge is to remain sustainable in today’s market, without compromising the engineering solutions.

How did you get into the industry?
In 1974 I became an electrical apprentice working for a small electrical contractor in Brisbane. Completing my apprenticeship with a national company, I was fortunate to spend many years operating in a vast array of endeavours from mining to high-rise office towers, hospitals and power stations, becoming chief estimator, learning more engineering aspects and providing me with confidence to challenge.

What is one of the most challenging projects you have worked on, and why?
Our first major foray as PDSS was the replacement of a main switch board for a hospital while keeping the facility operational. A testament to our talented team.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right or smell good, then it has a very high likelihood of being something you really don’t want to play with!

What do you like best about going to work every day?
Being with my teams. They keep impressing me every day, and that’s administration as well as technical staff.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?
There aren’t too many typical days, and that is the way to keep our edge in this sometimes-challenging industry.

What do you do outside of work?
I enjoy being an area co-ordinator for Master Electricians Australia (recently honoured as Life Member), a Board member of FNQ Football, operating a cattle property and developing an olive grove. And, importantly, catching up with family, especially my 97-year-old dad, my sons, who are in New York and the Gold Coast, and my partner’s family.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
I enjoy the strength and colour of the mountains and the sea and all that they contain.

What advice would you pass on to others who are interested in having a career in the same industry?
The electrical industry is a continually growing and developing career paths with greater opportunities in alternative energy sources. So, there are many areas and places of opportunity.


Jason McAlister
Adam & Eva

Words by Janie Barton • Photo by Catherine Coombs

Adam & Eva has been in Cairns since 1999. What do you think is its secret to success?
I’m not sure that there is a secret. I’m lucky enough to work in an industry that I am passionate about, and I’ve also had great loyalty from staff and clients over the years. If anything, I think consistency is key – we have worked with L’Oréal for 20 years which has created lots of opportunity for myself and my staff.

What do you like best about going to work every day?  I have built great relationships with my clients-  I have loved seeing their hair and lives evolve.

What was the most challenging job you’ve had at work?  Working on location in 42-degree heat!

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you at work?  A lot of funny things have happened at Adam & Eva!  I have worked with a lot of different personalities over the years, so there is always something interesting happening.

Where do you get your work inspiration from? Social media is a huge influence in today’s society. There are so many great hairdressers showcasing hair that they are doing in their salons daily. Also keeping up to date with education.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?  Someone once told me to stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion.

What do you do outside of work?  If I am not socialising, occasionally I ride mountain bikes and go fishing.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?  The lifestyle and being surrounded by my family and friends.

Are you from Cairns? If not, what brought you here?  Yes – I was born in Cairns.  I’ve travelled a lot, but I will always call Cairns home.

What advice would you pass on to others who are interested in having a career in the same industry?  Hairdressing is a great industry when you are passionate about it. It has to become more of a lifestyle then a job if you really want to succeed.

Anything else you’d like to add?  It’s been a great 20 years in business. I’d like to say thank you to all of our wonderful clients and my amazing team members over the years who have all been a part of this great achievement!


Shane McLeod
McLeod’s Painting

Words by Janie Barton • Photo by Catherine Coombs

When did you start McLeod’s Painting and why?
My wife and I started our business November 2017. We had always planned to have our own business and were waiting for the right time. We wanted to take control of our own lives and future. My wife Soma had been working as a nurse for 10 years was also looking for a career change.

How long have you been in the industry?
I picked up my first paint brush when I was 16 years old in Cairns and painted until I was 30. I then changed careers and went into hotel management for 10 years after which I returned to the construction industry. I became project manager of a national painting company, running the Cairns branch.

What do you like best about going to work every day?
Seeing the great culture in my crew. Because I can control the outcome, environment, attitude and culture for my team it makes my job enjoyable.

What was the most challenging job you’ve had?
What’s challenging is the diversity of jobs and the clients that we work with. From residential to corporate clients or builders. Every client is different and having to meet their individual expectations can be quite challenging.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you at work?
I had a woman request us to paint a little vase. (And no, we don’t paint vases!)

Where do you get your work inspiration from?
I love successful outcomes. Seeing a job completed and a happy client is what I find rewarding.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Listen to your wife, she’s always right!

What do you do outside of work?
Spending quality time with my family. I also enjoy working out at the gym, and I love trying new restaurants and a good red.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
It’s such a great lifestyle here, and we have the best winters!

Are you from Cairns? If not, what brought you here?
I’m originally from Mackay. My mother remarried and moved to Cairns when I was 14 and I did my schooling at Trinity Bay High.

What advice would you pass on to others who are interested in having a career as a painter?
Regardless of the career you choose, if you commit to something then commit to being good at it. Be a master craftsman and be proud.

Anything else you’d like to add?
We beautify and protect the most expensive assets you will ever own. I’m committed to developing my crew to better the painting industry and to create pride in who we are and what we do.


Chris Wilson
Big Red Carpet Cleaning

Words by Janie Barton • Photo by Catherine Coombs

What made you decide to purchase Big Red Carpet Cleaning in 2016?
Resigning from my previous role as a manufacturing manager afforded me the opportunity to become my own boss. Transferring my skill set and work ethic to the current business easily enabled me to realise the advantages of owning my own business. In hindsight my wife Sue and I wish we had done in sooner!

What was your most challenging job at Big Red?
Probably the Cairns Convention Centre Basketball Stadium due to the sheer size of the undertaking, including cleaning 3000sq m of carpet in four days and going up down a few sets of stairs. My son Zac recorded over 21,000 steps and 120 stair climbs in one day using his smart watch!

Where do you get your work inspiration from?
My family has always been my inspiration. My father was always working whether at home or at work. A brother and my sister are business owners and have both successfully owned and operated their respective businesses over many years. My wife Sue has always been dedicated to her profession, and I draw inspiration from her ability to serve her clientele with unending dedication. I count myself lucky to have benefited from both sides of our family with parents who have shown us that hard work is a means to an end, and there is great satisfaction from knowing you did your best.

What’s the best business advise that you have received?
This is hard to pinpoint one single piece of advice as I have had several good mentors in my working life. Building relationships with your clients by taking the time to get to know them is important. If I had to prioritise it would have to be a couple of comments from my late brother who told me to take time every day to complete the necessary tasks at the end of each business day and always do it.

What do you do outside of work?
My wife and I spent many years on house renovations in Western Australia and Cairns, and I am on my fourth boat restoration. Boating and fishing are always high on the agenda with family time, and I love to read. I also enjoy a day out on the reef snorkeling with my wife and a night out on the reef with some close friends enjoying the spectacular fishing that our region affords us.

What do you like best about Living in Cairns?
Sue and I lived in Stratford for many years when our family was young but now live closer to town. Whether it’s going to the markets early in the morning or enjoying a meal out I love that we can be home in less than 10 minutes without the hassle of being stuck in traffic. The lack of travel time to reach any destination, the natural beauty, the weather at this time of year and the wild-caught and farmed produce from this region rounds out for me the best things about living in Cairns.

Are you from Cairns? If not, what brought you here?
I am originally from Brisbane and first visited Cairns in 1983 during a road trip with a couple of mates. I completed my apprenticeship as Fitter and Turner and started working in Weipa where I met my wife, who was doing her regional service as a teacher. We left Weipa together and traveled Australia – a trip that stretched out for seven years! We then lived in the Northern Territory before I applied for a job at NQEA in Cairns. Although my wife Sue is originally from New South Wales, she spent the majority of her formative years living in Cairns, prior to returning with me in 1998.

What advice would you give others interested in having a similar career?
Stay ahead of the curve – that is, move forward not backwards. If something seems likely in your mind, then it most likely will happen. Do not get comfortable with any position you maintain in life. Above all, reflect on what has happened in your past and learn from it and strive for something better than what you achieved yesterday, and you will succeed.

What are your future plans for Big Red?
Big Red is starting the new financial year with my son Zac as a full-time employee. He completed his IICRC training in Melbourne as a carpet cleaning and stain removal technician and is in the final stages of obtaining his pest certificate/license. This will add a new arm to the business and allow customers to benefit from a one-stop shop for carpet, soft furnishings, tile and pest control. Rebranding of Big Red is underway as part of our business development planning. Our mission statement is to be the market leader of high-quality carpet, furniture, tile and grout cleaning in FNQ.



Tokunai Hair Spa

Est. 2008
Tokunai Hair


Krystle Tokunai
Master Stylist/ Creative Director
Krystle is the founder of Tokunai Hair Spa. This mum of two believes you should do everything with love or don’t do it all. She has been hairdressing for 19 years, a business owner for 11 years and a mum for 4.

Combining creative flair with outstanding organizational skills, Krystle Tokunai is recognized as much as for her cutting edge hair salon as she is for her contribution to up-market fashion events in the region. Since establishing Tokunai Hair in 2008, this experienced hairdresser and savvy businesswoman has made a strong name for herself in the local industry. Now, together with her team of talented and creative professionals, the Tokunai name is destined to make its mark around the country.

Hayley Chill
Salon Coordinator / Beautician / Makeup Artist
Hayley is Tokunai Hair’s resident beautician, she has a passion for making you feel the most beautiful version of yourself. Specialising in make up for all occasions, lash extensions and brow sculpting. Hayley’s services include lash lift and tints, henna and regular brow rehabs, volume, hybrid and classic lash extensions, spray tanning and bridal, event and fashion makeup.

Lauren Khodr
Senior Stylist / Colour Technician
Lauren is both a colourist and stylist with 6yrs industry experience. Her portfolio oozes creamy blondes, seamless colour, melts and pastel toning. Lauren has a keen passion for all things hair. Lauren is taking on new clients and would like to bring your #hairgoals to life.

Georgia Ahchin
Salon Style Assistant
Makeup Artist
Georgia is Tokunai hairs Salon style Assistant. She is our up and coming stylist with a background in makeup and beauty.

Madison Cann
Salon Style Assistant
Madi is Tokunai’s youngest and most fiery stylist. She has a passion for providing the best service to clients and will go out of her way to make your salon experience first-class.


Emma Takai
Operations manager, Vocational Partnership Group (VPG)

Words by Janie Barton • Photo by Catherine Coombs

How long have you been with VPG,
and why did you join?
I joined VPG in 2004. The opportunity to develop young people’s career aspirations appealed to me. VPG offered a chance for me to utilise my skills to develop the work readiness of Cairns youth. 16 years later, my role may have changed but I still look forward to working with my team every day towards our purpose of improving child and youth transition.

What do you like best about going
to work every day?
My team – we have fun every day. Diversity – every day is different. Results – we get to share in our young people’s success!

What are some of the most challenging
aspects of your job?
Challenging community perception of young people. Cairns’ young people are an enormous asset to our community and with appropriate investment and support will play an essential role in creating a thriving community.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding aspects of my job would be:
My team enjoying and being inspired by their important work;
The young people who engage and work hard towards achieving their aspirations;
Creating opportunities for our youth;
Our leadership team.

Where do you get your work inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from many different people. My main inspiration is my CEO Maryanne Tranter who always sees and believes the best in every person and makes you want to strive for greatness. My team also inspire me every day with their passion for young people and our youth.

What do you do outside of work?
When I am not working, my husband and I are spending time with our three daughters at their extracurricular activities or with family, attending various community events to support local, and I like to cook.

Are you from Cairns? If not,
what brought you here?
I am Victorian born, however I moved to Cairns at the aged of eight with my family so I like to say I am a fully-pledged Qld’ner from Cairns!

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
Everything! I love calling Cairns home. We are so lucky to live in a city that has such amazing landscape and a huge playful backyard. Our accommodation and food is second to none, and when I travel overseas the best part is coming home – the cleanliness, the fresh air, the new buildings.


Tiffany Whatley
Managing Director, Lending Luxury

T/ 0400140029
FB/ lendingluxurycairns
Shop 3/61 McLeod Street CAIRNS

Describe Lending Luxury?
Lending Luxury is a unique concept that offers women of North Queensland the opportunity to wear Australian Designer Labels at a fraction of the cost. Why outlay hundreds of dollars for an outfit when you can hire? I provide a boutique experience for woman with over 400 plus designer label Dresses & gowns & weekly new arrivals.

I have now expanded into accessory hire, offering clutches & fascinators for hire & stunning statement earrings for purchase. Lending Luxury is open weekdays 10am to 5pm & Saturdays by appointment, I also offer after hours appointments. Its all about the experience, Its all about the client, finding that perfect outfit

How long have you owned the business?
My career in Fashion, Marketing & Sales has been so important in giving me the confidence to establish my own business. After searching for the ideal location close to the city centre I secured the lease on McLeod Street & began the shop fit out out in late 2017, opening in January 2018.

What is your favourite part of your business?
Seeing new designs & buying dresses is a dream, I love it. But honestly its my clientele that is most important to me, having the opportunity to find the perfect outfit for my clients, to have them walk out the door feeling confident. I get so much satisfaction when my clients tell me how happy they were with the outfit, the comments they received & how it made them feel, to me that is the best part.

Where do you get your work inspiration from?
My father has a background in sales & marketing and has mostly worked for himself as long as I can remember. There has always been lots of robust discussion at home regarding business & that has probably influenced my direction into my own venture. Dad has been my mentor & is always there to give advice when asked.

How do you keep up with the latest trends?
I spend a lot of time researching online & take advantage of attending many fashion events around Australia. I take inspiration from leading fashion magazines & Social media platforms. With Lending Luxury its not just about trends, Its about timeless classics, flattering silhouettes, striking colours, unique patterns & luxurious fabrics.

Are you from Cairns?
I was born in Brisbane, as a family we moved to Cairns in the early 80’s. I completed my schooling in Cairns & later moved to back to Brisbane to further my career, in 2008 I moved back to Cairns. Cairns is home, I appreciate everything that Cairns has to offer, I wouldn’t live anywhere else, Its paradise.

What is the best business advice you have received?
To fully understand the market before you go into business, Do as much research as you possibly can, Its incredibly important, In your business you need to set realistic & achievable targets. The better funded you are before you start a business the greater chance you have at succeeding because history tells us in Australia that a high percentage of new businesses fail in the first year. Most importantly don’t become complacent, constantly review & re-asses, adapt to changes in the marketplace.


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Eloise Barker-Ré
Marriage Celebrant

0408 451509

Eloise is a Civil Marriage and Wedding Celebrant located in Cairns officiating at Naming Ceremonies, Commitment Ceremonies, and Renewal of Vow Ceremonies.

When life has presented you with a reason to celebrate, Eloise can help you plan the perfect occasion. As an authorised marriage celebrant she has a commitment to providing a professional and enthusiastic service that is personal and sensitive to your event.

Eloise has married many couples in Cairns, the Cairns Northern Beaches, Port Douglas and the Atherton Tablelands performing Renewal of Vows, Commitment and Baby Naming Ceremonies. When asked why she wanted to be a Celebrant, her answer is “being part of such a special day is such an honour and a privilege I want to make sure that everyone’s experience and celebration is the happiest it can possibly be.”

Eloise lives in Clifton Beach with her husband Alex and their Freddie and Charlie. Eloise grew up in the countryside of Victoria then traveled to Europe and lived and worked in England for ten years where she met and married Alex. Soon after they moved to Australia where they lived and worked in Port Douglas. They love Far North Queensland for its natural beauty and unique originality.

Priding herself in taking care that your ceremony is carried out professionally, with attention to detail and with your requirements in mind, Eloise is more than happy to meet with you and have a chat so you can decide if she is the celebrant for your ceremony.

Eloise can even help you choose your venue with suggestions of tropical venues; whether it is a beautiful beach, a quaint wedding chapel, a resort, a tropical rainforest, botanic gardens, a romantic island or a private residence.

Eloise is happy to help you with ideas and suggestions to create the perfect day…. your way.


Chenoa Daniel
Resort Brokers,
Far North Queensland

Words By Janie Mary Barton

Resort Brokers
Ph: 0403 143 151

When and why did you decide to work for Resort Brokers?
After a few years into running the family resort in Cairns, I started my own consultancy and relief management business, specialising in management rights, and when Resort Brokers approached me in 2016 to join their team, it was a natural progression for me.

What stands Resort Brokers apart from others in the same industry?
Resort Brokers Australia has a proven track record of sales success stretching from Brisbane to Broome, Tasmania to the Top End and beyond Australia’s shores. The company is uniquely licensed in all states and territories.

How was 2018 for Resort Brokers and what’s the forecast for 2019?
The Cairns economy is looking strong with the Crystalbrook Collection and Nova City projects underway, the city’s beautification projects and new investment opportunities continue to flow the region. There has never been a more exciting time for savvy investors to buy in Cairns. I had a record year in 2018 completing in excess of $36 million in management rights sales, which I think is a remarkable achievement for a relatively new broker operating in challenging economic times.

What do you like best about going to work every day?
I absolutely love mixing my work with the tropical lifestyle in Far North Queensland, and as a new mum I realise how fortunate I am to have chosen a career that I am passionate about which blends work-from-home flexibility, complex negotiations and the excitement of closing deals.

Where does your passion for the industry come from?
I have been entrenched in the industry for over 10 years and can see how lucrative and sensible a home-based accommodation business can be. As the youngest female working in the industry nationally, I have a different approach compared to others. In my view, both buyers and sellers need to be understood and provided with exceptional service. With technology, people are more connected and more informed than ever, making them much savvier.

What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Remember that failure is a comma, not a period, and always make sure you take advice from someone who’s going in the same direction as I am.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
I absolutely love Far North Queensland and the tropical lifestyle so, with my management rights background, I’m very well placed to help people enter the industry here. When I’m not working, I will be with my family fishing on the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing at one of the beautiful local beaches.


Kirsten Lowis
Resort Brokers,
Far North Queensland

Words By Janie Mary Barton

Resort Brokers
Ph: 0428 499 620

When and why did you decide to work for Resort Brokers?
Tourism is a $25 billion industry in Queensland, and I wanted to be part of it. With a long and successful career in small business sales, I joined Resort Brokers, Australia’s network of more than 40 specialist brokers who have experience, insight and superior analytical skills in the accommodation industry. But it was Chenoa’s energy, enthusiasm and savviness that made it easy to join the team. We come from similar backgrounds and both of us value honesty and integrity, and we both work hard to educate and support the accommodation industry in Far North Queensland.

How was 2018 for Resort Brokers and what’s the forecast for 2019?
As a result of the banking Royal Commission, we will see a degree of credit tightening and a more cautious approach by banks which means that we need to let the market be our guide. This just means that it is more important than ever that buyers and sellers have the advice, help and experience of industry professionals (like us) in orchestrating successful outcomes.

What do you like best about going to work every day?
Living and working in tropical Far North Queensland is pinch-worthy and so rewarding. On any given day, I am driving past a beach, walking into a luxurious resort foyer or meeting with savvy business-minded people who are wanting to buy or sell a business.
Where does your passion for the industry come from?
I have not only started, grown and sold my own businesses, I have had the privilege to represent hundreds of other business sales as a business broker. I have seen just about every story of success of failure and learned many lessons along the way.

What brought you to Cairns?
After selling my Townsville-based broking firm (NQ Business Sales), I moved to Cairns and joined the Resort Brokers team to provide a professional and first-class service to buyers and sellers of management rights, motels, backpackers and caravan parks.

What do you do outside of work?
I travel to see my daughter in Townsville at least once a month. I am an avid reader and writer. Through my company (Zoom in Business) I have published a series of workbooks on how to buy, grow, value and sell a business, and I am currently writing a book for teenagers on understanding the business of business.

What do you like best about living in Cairns?
I love the rich and diverse culture that seamlessly mixes locals and tourists. There are so many mountains, beaches, tidal wetlands, freshwater swimming holes, fishing spots, festivals and events to offer a lifetime of memories – especially as a local.


Tom Maher
Cairns Total Physio

Words by Janie Barton

What makes you unique from other physiotherapists?
Our facility is unmatched with the space and equipment we offer to maximise the recovery for any type of condition our patient’s present with. We are the only clinic in Cairns that provides physio services to sporting teams that compete in State (Northern Pride) and National Leagues (Cairns Taipans).

You have a 100 per cent guarantee on your services. Tell us more about that.
We offer a satisfaction guarantee on all our services. We take great pride in the level of service we provide to customers so if they are not completely happy with the service provided, we will refund them the cost of their consultation and provide a 50 per cent discount on the next appointment. We also offer a guaranteed same-day appointment, so if people are in pain they can achieve relief quickly.

Who benefits from seeing you, and how do they benefit?
Anyone can benefit from our physio services. We work to identify the cause of the patient’s problem and provide both short-term pain relief and strategies to reduce the likelihood of the problem returning in the future.

What do you like best about going to work every day?
Enabling our patients to get the best out of life is very rewarding – seeing them at their initial appointments and how their injury or condition is affecting their quality of life and then assisting them to progress back to a full life with no pain.

Tell us about your team?
We have 13 physiotherapists, two exercise physiologists, two remedial massage therapists and seven administration staff. Our team are skilled in assessing and diagnosing a variety of musculoskeletal and sports injuries and some have additional qualifications in areas of sports and musculoskeletal physio, women’s health and occupational health physio.

When did you open Cairns Total Physio and why?
We opened in March 2005. We knew there was a gap for a clinic that was hands-on in the delivery of treatment as well as focussing on exercise and rehabilitation.

You have four locations in the Cairns and the Tableland region. Why did you decide to expand?
We are all about helping people and recognised limited services in the areas of Edmonton, Redlynch and also Mareeba.

You moved into a purpose-built facility in 2018. Tell us about your premises.
Our new premises at 158 Mulgrave Rd is a purpose build state-of-the-art facility to help us provide our clients with equipment and facilities to aid their recovery from injury, and also accommodates our growth. We have a range of equipment from squat racks and cable machines to a leg press and range of dumbbells, an alter G anti-gravity treadmill (the only one of its kind in Cairns) and a designated space for Pilates and yoga classes.


Mercedes Gonzalez
Mercedes Gonzalez (MG) Travel

Words by Janie Barton • Photos by Catherine Coombs

21 Sheridan Street
Cairns QLD
0488 223 685

What is the idea behind your new concept shop?
I wanted to give travellers a lounge-like feeling similar to that of the Qantas Club. Who doesn’t love going to an airline lounge regardless if they travel business or economy? We also brought our clients private consulting.

Tell us about your team.
We are a team of four who have more than 70 years of combined experience. We are proud that we give our clients peace of mind, contacts, knowledge and good old-fashion customer service. We are a bit old school, and I’m happy with that.

What are your thoughts on booking online?
Don’t start me! Ah yes, everyone thinks they are a travel agent. In fact, all they do is make us look better!

What is your niche market?
My clients are usually business people travelling for work or leisure. I usually know what style of hotel they like, the seat they prefer, the aircraft. In fact, I am more of a PA then a travel agent! It’s not rare for me to book dinners, wake-up calls, limos and even call the wife or husband to say a flight has been delayed!
What do you like the least about your job?
Call centres.

What do like the most?
The fact that we have made such a positive change to the way you see a travel agent.

You are well known in the industry –
why do you think that is?
I managed JAL and apparently upgraded a few people in my time. I’m so glad I did as they now all book with me. I’ve also lived in Cairns for over 30 years, so I guess I’m a local!

What’s the difference between home consultants and your business?
Good question. I started as a home consultant before I went out on my own four years ago. The easiest way to describe it is we get paid from the airline and suppliers; home consultants get paid from agencies such as mine. They contract. Some of my team are mobile and contracted to MG.

Why did you join Helloworld Travel?
This was a tough decision, but I’m glad I invested in Helloworld. We may be small, but there is nothing we now don’t have. Besides the CEO Andrew Burnes is from Cairns!

Biggest myth in travel?
That we are always on holiday.

Tell us about the launch of your app:
It’s very technical for me. My daughter can’t believe I came up with it. The app provides every traveller (client or not) a safe platform to securely book tours worldwide. Search and download Mercedes Travel Sightseeing.

Why book with MG?
My name is on the door, and our reputation is everything.

Recycling for our future generations
North Queensland Recycling Agents

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“Being able to reuse and recycle is the most basic thing that we can do to help Mother Nature.”

Words by Janie Barton
Photos by Catherine Coombs

As a dedicated Cairns recycling centre for 26 years, North Queensland Recycling Agents (NQRA) has recently expanded its services, facility and staff to help locals capitalise on the Queensland Government’s new Container Refund Scheme.

The family owned business has acquired a new shed and employed 10 additional locals to help Cairns residents and businesses support and benefit from the new scheme, which offers a 10-cent refund on each eligible container returned.

“On our first day of operating the buy-back scheme the Cairns’ community cashed in 45,000 items,” said NQRA owner Ian Kermode, who says the program is an important innovation in recycling. “This buy-back scheme is a must. We are such a wasteful society, and we just can’t keep wasting things.

“To recycle aluminium requires only five percent of the energy that is required to turn bauxite into aluminium. We can’t just keep digging holes in the ground.”

NQRA has an all-weather refund facility at 152 Newell St where customers can drive through and staff are on hand to take the containers, count them and then pay the customers cash for the eligible items.

While most aluminium, glass, steel, plastic and liquid paperboard containers between 150ml and 3 litres are eligible, there are some exceptions, such as wine and straight spirit glass bottles and plain milk containers.

“We also lend wool bales and crates to our regular customers and residents of the Northern Beaches, so they have facilities at their homes and businesses to collect their items,” Ian said. “We can also provide stands to assist people to carry the bales.”

The container Refund Centre is open Monday to Friday from 6.30am to 5pm, Saturday 6.30am to 2pm and Sunday from 9am to 2pm.
Along with the container exchange program, NQRA offers a number of different services to local businesses in Cairns and the surrounding suburbs in an effort to greatly reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill that could quite easily be recycled and used again in some way.

The team at the scrap-recycling depot on Federation Street can purchase non-ferrous scrap metal including copper, brass, aluminium, stainless steels, radiators and batteries at a per kilo rate from businesses and the general public and is open Monday to Thursday from 6.30am to 5pm, Friday from 6.30am to 3pm and Saturday from 6.30am to noon (closed on Sunday). On average, 64 tonne of scrap metal and 55 tonne of batteries is sent to Liberty Recycling Queensland each month.

NQRA have a cardboard recycling service and process around 700 tonne of cardboard each month from supermarkets, small businesses, shops and restaurants. They have a selection of cages available for commercial cardboard removal, from 1.1 cubic metre bins to 10 cubic metre cages and are collected upon request or serviced on a regular basis.

They have the ability to collect confidential documents and hard drives for destruction. A 240-litre wheelie bin can be delivered, and locks supplied if required. These bins are collected twice a week in a locked vehicle, brought back to NQRA’s premises where the bins are weighed and then the contents shredded. Confidentiality is maintained at all times and a Certificate of Destruction is issued.

An office recycled paper collection service is also available. A 240-litre wheelie bin can be delivered for non-confidential office paper, cardboard, magazines, manila folders and white paper. These collections are done on a weekly basis.

NQRA also accepts deliveries from the public of cardboard, plastic, glass and recyclable paper to its depot at no charge.

These services are available for businesses from the Northern Beaches, through Cairns to Edmonton.

“Being environmentally-friendly is very important these days,” Ian said. “We aim to be a recycling centre where people can bring in almost anything, and we’ll be able to recycle it one way or another.”

For more information visit NQRA’s Facebook page at

North Queensland Recycling Agents
27 Federation St, Bungalow
Refund depot: 152 Newell St, Bungalow
Ph: 4051 6679