Timothy Gale is Mount Isa Special School’s Miner Mick. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)
Miner Mick may have to duck to get through doorways, and wear an ice vest during summer just to stay conscious in the heat, but the plus-sized mascot has become a staple at Mount Isa State Special School.
He is regarded as something of a rockstar hero at the small campus — with tiny groupies in uniforms mobbing him at every opportunity.
On Friday afternoons he hands out certificates to those children excelling, and at school assemblies he sits, hands folded, so the students can mimic their hero on his best behaviour.
Inside the suit, though, is a bigger surprise — ex-student Tim Gale, who graduated from the school in 2006.
Being Miner Mick: Tim
Tim Gale graduated from the Mount Isa State Special School in 2006, and has been a regular visitor back to the campus ever since.
Miner Mick gives a certificate to Mount Isa Special School student Darcey. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)
He explained that he has an intellectual disability and is mildly autistic, leading him to be enrolled in the school from 1997.
Tim said being Miner Mick was the highlight of his week.
“I’m Miner Mick. I help the kids out with their awards and the assemblies so they become a good learner, be respectful, and just behave themselves,” he said.
“It’s pretty hot in this costume … it gets really sticky and sweaty and when you finally get out of it it’s such a relief afterwards, I can breathe again.
“The special school is like my whole world to me, and the special school is the greatest school ever.”
As for his rockstar reception from the students, Tim said it was nice after a few tough years.
Miner Mick is now an integral part of Mount Isa Special School. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)
“The last 13 years of my adult life has been pretty hard and I’ve had a lot of problems on and off,” he said.
“A lot of hard moments and jealous moments of family members and siblings having other things that I want.
“I’ve realised that life is not about that, it’s about just accepting who I am … if I have a disability or not, I’m proud to be me.”
Benefits of Miner Mick: Brett Jeffries
Miner Mick is more than just a friendly face around campus — he exists to deliver the school’s Positive Behaviour for Learning program.
Head of curriculum Brett Jeffries said Miner Mick’s main role was to model the three values of being safe, being respectful, and being a learner to the students.
He said while the costume and trips around the school were fun, the mascot’s presence delivered positive outcomes.
Miner Mick with Head of curriculum Brett Jeffries. (ABC North West Queensland: Kelly Butterworth)
“When we’re talking to students who may not be displaying them [the values], we will say ‘How would Miner Mick react in this situation?’,” Mr Jeffries said.
“There has been a decrease in [negative] behaviour due to Miner Mick and there has been a changing of attitudes with Miner Mick.
“There’s a lot of other schools around that have been saying ‘Where do we get Miner Mick? Because he looks absolutely great’.”
Mr Jeffries said the decision to ask Tim to wear the costume was an easy one.
“Our first thought when we started the program was ‘Who can we have to be Miner Mick?’,” he said.
“And then we thought … Tim, because he’s been through the Mount Isa Special School and he represents all the values that we are looking for.”