Local Yinnar inventors flying high with ground-breaking robotics innovations

On the surface, Outlook Industries might seem like a bunch of country people tinkering on tools from the farm. Look a little closer, and you’ll find they’re creating some of Australia’s most innovative robots for the Australian army!

Luke Townsend sat down near a rustic brown couch in a warehouse on the main street of Yinnar. A country boy at heart, it’s hard to believe that this family man has travelled to off-beaten countries around the world as an Australian army veteran.

Proudly hailing from the countryside town of Yinnar, Luke Townsend and pals at Outlook Industries sure know how to invent. Source: Latrobe City Council

Since then, the last few years, Luke has built Outlook Industries from the ground up. Because Luke and his pals at Outlook Industries, are in fact a diverse bunch of brilliant inventors.

Why not drive past the main street of Yinnar and say hi? Luke’s wife Roxanne Townsend, a formidable woman in her own right, will most likely serve you coffee and have a yarn about this small-town team.

Think Back to the Future but Yinnar, we say. And not everything is all it seems. Over the past few years, the inventors created a brand new on-ground surveillance system for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) called GUS, which stands for Ground Unmanned System.

Look it up because the story hit regional news networks everywhere. What’s happened since then? Luke said, many exciting things.

“Towards the end of last year, there was a bit of a gap between GUS and getting another contract,” Luke said. “You got to pay the guys and girls at the end of the day.”

Good news though! “We had some American investors show interest — spent a week with us — had a look at what we are doing now, hung out in Yinnar and decided to invest,” Luke said.

“They went home [to America] spoke to their investor friends and bought a share in our company, ” Luke gushed. “This has been transformative because now we don’t need to wait for milestone payments to do anything.”

And these investors are big shots too. “My American pal helped me a lot with my anti-poaching work in Africa,” Luke said. Him and his friends — who have been investing and developing in space companies — wanted to be part of our on-ground robotics work here in Yinnar,” Luke said.

Luke commended Council and current Mayor Councillor Darren Howe for the support shown.

“Particularly the Business Development team and particularly the current Mayor has been amazing,” Luke said. “Darren Howe comes and visits anytime we need anything, he supports us.”

And so, another happy story for this group of terrific inventors in Yinnar. On a finishing note, Luke reaffirms country values and teamwork.

“My brothers and I all ended up as problem solvers in our own way. A lot of this has come from growing up isolated on a farm and only having a set number of tools available,” Luke said.

“We’ve had many work experience kids and country kids come through these doors. Particularly coming from a farming background, they will work hard to innovate and solve problems in general!”

Read latest edition of Connections here.

Digital engineering company creating sustainable yet practical jobs in Latrobe City

On the surface, Transcend might seem like a foreign entity from the big city smoke. Look a little deeper, and you’ll find they’re paving the way for sustainable yet practical jobs across Latrobe City and the greater Gippsland region.  

Stu Holmes is part of the Transcend Group. He explains what Transcend is and what it’s about. “The Transcend group consists of several different components, from partnership with large projects such as Snowy Hydro and South East Link,” Stu said.  

“We’re involved with a digital engineering side of things; for the creation of modelling and for the detailing of steel fabrication and prefab which needs to go into those builds. We then manufacture those products and organise for dispatch to various locations within the region, particularly down in Latrobe City and Gippsland.” 

When asked what Transcend means simply to any Latrobe City local down the street, Stu broke it down. “We endeavour to keep jobs local,” Stu said. “Regional jobs are becoming important for many reasons. It’s because your job might be within an hour drive to the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.” 

“There’s high unemployment within those regions because many infrastructure works are happening out in regional Victoria,” Stu explained. “We need to provide work and employment for people within those regions they reside in.” 

On a finishing note, Stu said: “Transcend endeavours to create pathway opportunities for people from other disenfranchised groups to come down to Latrobe City.” 

Transcend is just one of those innovative companies. 

“It’s really all about sustainability; creating a full wrap around service for local businesses and for the community. This includes businesses that need to potentially look at transitioning to a more diverse workplace culture – or people out of traditional energy – or for changing the climate of work.” 

Read latest edition of Connections here.

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Hollie makes her jewellery from the land, by the land. Here’s why.

Photography, handmade jewellery and special items made from the land, by the land, is what our cover girl, by Miss Hollie J (by MHJ), is all about. 

Hollie Johnson is well loved in the community and is a proud Gunaikurnai and Monero Ngarigo woman. Her family are respected by their First Nations artwork, which has been showcased at many art galleries across Gippsland. 

Hollie Johnson, owner of by MHJ, at Moe Art Mural 2024. Source: Latrobe City Council

For Hollie – who has her own style in her own right – has worked to start up her own small business for several years now. And it’s everything that Hollie herself encompasses as a person, as well as her love for land and the songs of ancestors past and present. 

But how did her business ‘by MHJ’ begin? Hollie takes us back to the beginning.  

“I would say for the love of art,” Hollie said. “I wanted to learn and practice different art forms. Photography was my first passion; that’s where it started, at Year 7 camp in Wilson’s Prom. Being from a family of artists, I knew photography would kick start it all,” Hollie mused. 

Hollie sells her items – including her photography of GunaiKurnai land and special landmarks visited – at marketplaces across Gippsland and Melbourne. Many Melbourne markets run through the Koorie Heritage Trust, which is an Aboriginal owned and managed non-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne. 

Although if you ask Hollie, the Boolarra Folk Festival is one of her favourite market days. “I have sweet childhood memories of that festival, singing with the band and coming with family even now being a young woman,” Hollie said.  

“Boolarra Folk Festival 2024 was my first market since before COVID-19 in Latrobe City. It was a very community-orientated event with a lot of support from both local and city people. I set up my market stall and it was a lovely day with good weather.” 

What does Hollie do while setting up her market stalls? Well, she also makes her jewellery on the spot – which includes using ghost gum and native flora and fauna from her homeland! 

“I’m an innovative person and a creative,” Hollie said. “I incorporate native or natural ways of displaying my work. It’s very much connecting with my home on Gunaikurnai land. I end up barefoot most times because it connects me to home and my grandparent’s country.” 

To order her jewellery, message Hollie on Instagram here: @by_mhj 

Read latest edition of Connections here.

In dire need of coffee? Here are the 10 best coffee spots in Latrobe City, as voted by you

Discover Latrobe City’s best coffee spots, where locals and visitors alike enjoy top-notch brews and delightful bites.

From quaint cafes to bustling food stores, each venue listed below offers unique flavours and warm atmospheres!

The Daily Cafe

148 Commercial Road, Morwell

Customers enjoying coffee and bites inside the Daily Cafe & Foodstore. Source: Latrobe City Council

The Daily Cafe & Foodstore is a royal-rich blue bustling coffee and food venue in the heart of Morwell. Situated on Commercial Road, the Daily offers coffees on the go through their take-away window, and a warm and inviting dine-in area.

The cafe opened in 2022 and has quickly become renowned in the region as a neighbourhood go-to.

As you step inside away from the busy street, you’re welcomed with the delightful smell of espresso and freshly baked goods. Big glass cabinets are filled with sweet and savoury foods that pair perfectly with a hot cup of coffee. There’s also a selection of fresh local produce to buy and take home with you.

Whether you’re in the mood for a coffee and a croissant, a hearty breakfast, or a light lunch, they‘ve got you covered. Head to the Daily Cafe & Foodstore and fill up your cup with coffee and good vibes!

One Shot Double Shot

55 Seymour Street, Traralgon

The moody interior of One Shot Double Shot entices any passerby. Source: Latrobe City Council

With its doors open to Traralgon for over a decade, this hole-in-the-wall, funky and industrial-style espresso bar and cafe has earned its stripes as a local favourite.

Using signature locally roasted beans from Zest, One Shot Double Shot prides itself on delivering a unique flavour-filled brew.

Owner Stefan took over the business in 2015 after working there for 12 months. With nearly 20 years of hospitality experience, Stefan said the team is on a mission to progress with the times and go above and beyond for their loyal customers.

“We do all types of coffee. If I’m not familiar with your order or you would like to try something new, it’ll be my mission to make it happen!”

Open Monday to Saturday and available for dine-in or takeaway, pop-in to see the staff for a coffee experience that’ll leave you feeling fresh and fulfilled!

Bohdi Speciality Coffee

12 Breed Street, Traralgon

Bodhi offers a cosy environment for book and coffee lovers alike. Source: Latrobe City Council

Bodhi Specialty Coffee is more than just a coffee shop – it’s a hidden gem for coffee lovers and bookworms alike. Grab a table nestled between ceiling-high shelves brimming with second-hand books and choose a specialty-blend of coffee to slowly sip on in this calming, cosy space.

Platform 3845

Main Street, Glengarry

The friendly staff at Platform 3865 ensure you get a good coffee in the small town of Glengarry. Source: Latrobe City Council

After adventuring along the Gippsland Plain Rail Trail, Platform 3854 in Glengarry is the perfect place to warm up. Serving great coffee, pastries, cakes and more from Wednesday to Sunday, this quaint and friendly cafe knows how to keep bellies and hearts full.

Cafe 3869

32 Main Street, Yinnar

Nestled on the main street, Cafe 3869 is much loved by the strong community of Yinnar. Source: Latrobe City Council

Set in the idyllic town of Yinnar, Cafe 3869 offers great coffee, quality food, excellent prices, fresh sourdough and friendly staff – all in one beautiful location. This cafe is frequently visited by locals and is the perfect caffeine stop for those travelling through!

Cafe Qu Cafe

Shop 101, Mid Valley SC, Morwell

Grab a cuppa from the excellent staff at Cafe Qu Bah, situated just next to the movie theatre! Source: Latrobe City Council

Serving mouth-watering coffee by day and high-quality food by night, Cafe Qu Bah has something for everyone. The vibrant cafe crew love coffee and will make sure you do, too, with their carefully crafted coffees made from speciality blends!

Twenty 20 Tapas

25A Moore Street, Moe

Looking for a bite to eat as well as coffee? Twenty20 Tapas is frequently visited by Moe and surrounding locals! Source: Latrobe City Council

Twenty20 Tapas might be well-known for their delicious meals, but did you know they offer great coffee too? Stop by the coffee window for your daily dose of caffeine and see for yourself. Open from 7am, seven days a week in the centre of Moe.

Store Sixty One

61 Breed Street, Traralgon

Aesthetically-pleasing and trendy, Store Sixty One is a great spot to enjoy some coffee while shopping in Traralgon. Source: Latrobe City Council

Offering silky smooth coffees and tasty treats, Store Sixty One is a trendy, popular cafe located in Traralgon. Whether you’re looking to dine inside or outside on the deck, this cafe is the perfect spot to relax and indulge in a leisurely coffee with family and friends.

The Old Gippstown Tea Rooms

211-225 Lloyd Street, Moe

Wander around the historical venue of Old Gippstown and enjoy a coffee afterwards! Source: Latrobe City Council

With all the historic charm of Old Gippstown, The Old Gippstown Tea Rooms is a warm and inviting country cafe. Operating under Gabby’s management in Moe since October 2023, The Old Gippstown Tea Rooms serves their staple Devonshire teas and in-house hot food with a range of delectable treats.

Fat Cat Coffee Roasters

33A Boolarra Avenue, Newborough

A trending coffee hotspot, Fat Cat Roasters is a big hit for the town of Newborough. Source: Latrobe City Council

Preserving rich flavour profiles in every bag of beans, Fat Cat Coffee Roasters is loved by customers locally and nationwide! If you like the sound of dark chocolate, caramel and almond tasting notes, visit the roastery in Newborough and grab a coffee to-go.

Read latest edition of Connections here.

Aesthetic workspace offers cosy and calming vibes in the heart of Traralgon

If you’re looking for a new workspace, look no further than The Collective Cospace. The Collective is a bright and welcoming office space; it’s like your normal office but better! Keep reading to find out why.

The Collective Cospace

Suite 30/108 Franklin St, Traralgon

Co-founder Jasmine, alongside builder husband Ben and friends, opened up a much-needed working space in Traralgon. Source: Latrobe City Council

The Collective Cospace opened on 16 May 2024 and has been well received by the community. One of the co-founders, Jasmine, had a dream to create a space to work uninterrupted. So, with the help of her builder husband Ben and friends Kristina and Matt, the business was born Jasmine describes The Collective as being an innovative space for a range of people.

“We welcome everyone; people in small business,creatives and professionals that might be travelling to the region. We’ve created a flexible and accessible space.”

Located in the heart of the Traralgon CBD, The Collective offers a prime location and the ideal setting for success and growth.

As for the future of The Collective, Jasmine and the team have big dreams.

“We really want to do build our community and host networking events. We also want to look at supporting other small businesses in town by running seminars and workshops.”

Keep an eye on The Collective Cospace website for more details on this exciting new business: www.thecollectivecospace.au

Read latest edition of Connections here.

Fresh doughnut shop rockin’ happy days bistro vibes!

The staff at Walker’s Doughnuts are certainly treating locals and visitors with delectable treats in Traralgon

Get ready to enhance your taste buds with the most delectable doughnut and hot dog shop in Seymour Street, Traralgon! 

Feel like a superior quality doughnut? Choose from a range of 40 odd, delectable flavours including classic crèmes, original glaze, and the Bronut – which is a local favourite oozing crème bundles and jam.

The friendly staff at Walker’s Doughnuts Traralgon serving customers. Source: Latrobe City Council

Is a hot dog more to your taste? Get around the scrumptious hot dog options to satisfy any craving. Don’t worry if you need halal options – Gary has you covered! All meat is certifiably halal and delicious, to cater for the ever-growing multicultural community in Latrobe City. Thanks Gary!

Who’s Gary? Well, Gary Respondino is a well-loved local and all-round nice guy who’s lived in Latrobe City all his life. Encompassing good ol’ fashioned family and community values, we had a chat to Gary about the new journey at Walkers Doughnuts.

“We had lines out the door for the first two to three weeks and it was a struggle to keep up,” Gary said one buzzing Thursday afternoon. “Which was a good thing, but it kept everyone on their toes. People know we are here now, so it’s a bit more flowing.”

There’s options for everyone. “We offer a six pack of doughnuts for $22 or a 12 pack for $34, which ultimately works out pretty cheap.”
As for the future, Gary said it’s a journey but him and his friendly staff are here for the long run.

“We are starting to experiment with more flavours and ideas now,” Gary said.

“Everyone comes in happy and leaves in a happier place. Nine times out of 10, most people have a grin from ear to ear. Especially when they look at all the flavours, they go into this beautiful meltdown of what they’re going to pick first!”

Read latest edition of Connections here.

Don’t want to drive to the city? Find your favourite labels at this popular Traralgon boutique

Thomas & Jean is a seven-month-old clothing and homewares store that has quickly become a local favourite since opening at the end of 2023.

Stocking brands like Country Road, Witchery, Trenery, and Mimco, the store aims to provide regional shoppers with access to premium fashion, eliminating the need to travel to Melbourne for these beautiful clothes. Read on find out more!

Thomas & Jean

95 Seymour Street, Traralgon

Local customers will find a true shopping experience with beautiful Australian brands at Thomas & Jean. Source: Latrobe City Council

“We’ve been blown away by the community’s support. Our customers truly enjoy the experience of browsing our beautiful clothing range and love supporting local businesses,” Melissa said.

The positive feedback has motivated Melissa and her close-knit team to continually enhance the shopping experience.

Grateful for the support from friends and family, Melissa looks forward to welcoming more customers to Thomas & Jean. Visit Thomas & Jean at 95 Seymour Street, Traralgon, to explore the exquisite collection of quality clothing, accessories and stunning homewares, and experience the personalised shopping experience for yourself.

Read latest edition of Connections here.

Jo couldn’t find any breakfasts that suited her dietary requirements. So she started her own business.

Calm Within Foods is a range of granolas that are a deliciously crunchy blend of real nuts, seeds, and quinoa that make a healthy snack for the whole family.

Calm Within Foods

Simple yet delicious!

Calm Within Foods is a range of granolas that are a deliciously crunchy blend of real nuts, seeds, and quinoa that make a healthy snack for the whole family.

Jo, owner of Calm Within Foods, preparing homemade granola. Source: Latrobe City Council

Every granola is packed with nutrients that make for a cracking brekky, dessert or straight-out-of-the-bag snack.

Jo, owner of Calm Within Foods, said the idea of the brand came after struggling to find a breakfast meal that suited her needs.

“It was really difficult to find a healthy breakfast meal that didn’t contain oats and is gluten free,” Jo said.

A scrumptious range of dairy free, gluten free and vegan granola recipes are available from Calm Within Foods. Jo uses coconut oil and maple or rice malt syrup as the primary liquids in her recipes, as well as nuts and seeds.

“Many of my customers love the cranberry and coconut flavours the most, which is available at The Daily Cafe in Morwell,” Jo said.

Organic granola flavours available also include fig & walnut, original, and grain-free – including low FODMAP varieties.

Experimenting with flavours at local chicken shop helped Chris follow his passion

With a treasure trove of mouth-watering marinades and sauces, The Marinade Man turns ordinary meals into extraordinary feasts.

The Marinade Man

With a treasure trove of mouth-watering marinades and sauces, The Marinade Man turns ordinary meals into extraordinary feasts.

A scrumptious lineup of 26 unique marinade flavours and three speciality rubs elevates customers grilling game to new heights.

Chris Papanikolaou, owner & founder of The Marinade Man. Source: Latrobe City Council

Owner Chris Papanikolaou started experimenting with flavours after two years of development and trail testing.

“What started off as a need to replace the marinade at our local chicken shop turned into a passion that I love doing,” Chris said.

The Marinade Man’s full range of flavours are locally made in Gippsland, something Chris finds important. All the flavours are gluten free, with vegan and vegetarian options available.

Growing up in Latrobe City and helping out with the family business in Manny’s Market, Chris discovered his passion for marinades while on the job.

“Experimenting with flavours and seeing people’s faces light up for the first time they’ve tried the marinades is something I find really rewarding.”

Chris sells to businesses wholesale as well to individual customers around the region.

“I hope to see many families siting across the table enjoying feats together. That’s my biggest aspiration for The Marinade Man.”

Creative blacksmith re purposes scrap metal into works of art

Paddy brings much of his experience to workshops and classes around Latrobe City, most notably the Arc in Yinnar.

Paddy McKenzie has vast experience in Blacksmith and various light and heavy metal work skills.

The experienced blacksmith runs his own business in Morwell.

Paddy McKenzie, owner of Paddy Blacksmith, Boolarra Folk Festival 2023. Source: Latrobe City Council

Paddy brings much of his experience to workshops and classes around Latrobe City, most notably the Arc in Yinnar.

Paddy loves attending local markets and brings his creations along made of local steel. Paddy cleverly re purposes items such as utensils, farm machinery and other bits and pieces into works of art.

“I create items made of local steel and scrap metal and take them around to markets,” Paddy said.

“I always try and get around to local markets as much as I can!”