Phil Donato addresses COVID-19 concerns

Phil Donato with 2020 Local Woman of the Year for the Orange Electorate, Mrs Rhonda Watt of Cumnock.

Phil Donato with 2020 Local Woman of the Year for the Orange Electorate, Mrs Rhonda Watt of Cumnock.

Local Woman of the Year

A huge congratulations goes out to the 2020 Local Woman of the Year for the Orange electorate, Mrs Rhonda Watt of Cumnock.

A more worthy recipient of this annual award you'll not find. Rhonda has contributed significantly to her community of Cumnock and the surrounding district for decades. Rhonda's passion, energy and community spirit is appreciated by the entire community.

It was great to see the community come along for the presentation and join in the celebratory BBQ lunch afterwards, including Rhonda's daughter Joanna.

A special mention to 2019 Local Woman of the Year, Mrs Betty Somers of Parkes, who attended the presentation to congratulate Rhonda.

Taking Its Toll

Earlier this month I tabled the Lachlan Valley Caravan Club's petition in Parliament, to bring to the attention of the Legislative Assembly some changes by Transurban on the M2 and M7 Motorways that affect our region and beyond.

Motorists towing either a caravan, boat or trailer greater than 12.5m in length and 2.8m high which will attract a toll increase from $7.68 to $23.03 on the M2 and from $8.24 to $24.72 on the M7. This increase is excessive and just not affordable for many people.

It's also a double-whammy from the Government which, prior to the NSW election, ran an advertising campaign that led regionally-based seniors to believe they would all receive an annual $250 travel card. We now find out this card is limited to only certain pensioners, and at the same time, the Government are allowing a substantial and unreasonable boost to tolls.


Understandably, many members of the community are concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic. Note that for most people the virus will not be severe, however it's important to reduce the spread in order to protect our most vulnerable citizens, and also to not overload the public health system.

The most recent update at the time I'm writing this column is that non-essential gatherings have been reduced to 100 people (previously 500) and non-essential travel is not recommended. My advice is to remain calm and follow the instructions as provided by Health NSW, which has been published widely in the media and can be found on their website at and also at

The number for further information is 1800 022 222. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are having difficulties coping during this time please contact your GP, a friend or family member, or a support service such as:

  • Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 011 511
  • NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 551 800.

And please share around a bit of extra kindness when you have to go to the stores! A friendly smile can change someone's day for the better.