The Merlos (left) and the Bennettos
The Merlos (left) and the Bennettos

Queensland’s top 25 power couples — part one

They are the movers and shakers of Queensland.

The couples who inspire and support each other at home so they can kick big goals in the workforce.

They juggle busy lives, while also raising families, but remain powerful figures of industry.

In the first of The Courier-Mail/QWeekend's five-part series - meet five of the state's 25 most powerful and influential couples in business, agriculture, media, wellness and sport.

They explain how they inspire each other on the way to the top.

The next parts of the series will roll out every day this week.



Merlo Coffee Founder


KAILO Wellness Medispa Co-owner

Dean and Kath Merlo at their home in Boonah. Picture: Glenn Hunt
Dean and Kath Merlo at their home in Boonah. Picture: Glenn Hunt

Dean and Kath Merlo have made a name for themselves in Brisbane by each building distinct businesses which promote good health.

Dean does the coffee while Kath is focused on her wellness clinic.

The Merlo name, of course, has become virtually synonymous with coffee since Dean opened his first CBD cafe in 1992.

From those humble beginnings, the Merlo empire now includes 19 branded coffee outlets and six espresso bars.

It operates 10 roasting houses, which supply coffee to more than 1500 cafes and restaurants nationally.

With a nearly 300-strong workforce, the company churns through about 20 tonnes of coffee beans every week.

Dean's passion for all things related to coffee stems from a family history in the hospitality game.

His grandfather, who ran a trattoria in the northern Italian town of Tirano, migrated in 1950 to Australia, where he laboured in the cane fields of Mackay.

After moving the family to Brisbane in 1958, his son Gino opened Cafe Milano in the Queen Street Mall two years later.

Dean worked there as a teenager growing up in New Farm, a suburb he still calls home with Kath and their two sons, Tom and Nicky.

But they spend many weekends at their 32ha property in Boonah, where the couple also married in 2007.

Kath and two business partners opened their Kailo Wellness Medispa at The Calile Hotel, Fortitude Valley in October last year.

Her background is in marketing and sponsorship in organisations such as Australian Defence Industries, Corporate Apparel and Ergon Energy.




fund manager


Libby and Luke Trickett have made a name for themselves in and out of the pool. Picture: Jamie Hanson
Libby and Luke Trickett have made a name for themselves in and out of the pool. Picture: Jamie Hanson

Married 12 years, swimming champions Luke and Libby Trickett have found success beyond the pool.

National team swimmer Luke, 36, who briefly worked as a stockbroker with Wilson HTM before becoming a fund manager and founding Blue Stamp Company in 2010, and three-time Olympian Libby OAM, 34, former radio host turned author and mental health advocate, recently welcomed their third child, Bronte Rose.

Trickett, an ambassador with Beyond Blue and Work Safe Queensland, released her memoir, Beneath the Surface, earlier this year, detailing her battle with post-natal depression after the birth of her first child, Poppy, 4, big sister to Edwina (known as Eddie), 1.



Triple M's The Big Breakfast co-host


Brisbane Broncos coaching assistant

Corey and Margaux Parker.
Corey and Margaux Parker.

While radio personality Margaux, 36, rules the airwaves as a co-host on Triple M's The Big Breakfast, her husband Corey, 37, a Fox League analyst and commentator, is planning how to whip the Brisbane Broncos into shape for the 2020 NRL season.

The State of Origin and Australian international representative has been named a coaching assistant for the club he formerly captained.

Margaux, who started her first permanent radio role on Triple M's The Rush Hour in 2018, was recently named as Robin Bailey's replacement.

Together for 16 years, Margaux and Corey live with their four children - Memphis, 9, Wylei, 8, Jagger, 5, and River, 3 - on acreage at Cornubia, in Logan, south-west of Brisbane.



Kalfresh Vegetables founding director


Just Veg co-founder/ learning support teacher

Farmers and businesspeople Vicki and Rob Hinrichsen of Kalfresh Vegetables.
Farmers and businesspeople Vicki and Rob Hinrichsen of Kalfresh Vegetables.

Fresh vegetables are never far from mind for Scenic Rim couple Rob and Vicki Hinrichsen. Third-generation farmer Rob Hinrichsen,50, is the founding director of Kalfresh Vegetables based at Kalbar, in the food-producing region of the Scenic Rim, 70kmsouth-west of Brisbane.

The vegetable production company - from seed to shelf - was established in 1992 (with Rob's dad Barry, 77) to unite and market local growers under one brand and to "keep farmers farming''.

It is owned and run by a group of four farmers with growers across the Fassifern Valley, the Lockyer Valley, Stanthorpe, Liston and Bowen.

It now produces 35,000-40,000 tonnes of fresh vegetables every year and employs 60 full-time and up to 200 casual staff.

In 2016, Hinrichsen was named national Grower of the Year in recognition of improvements in sustainability and soil healthy by peak industry body AUSVEG.

Vicki Hinrichsen, 51, a learning support teacher at All Saints' primary school in Boonah, also began Just Veg in 2015 as another brand of Kalfresh with four other carrot farmer wives.

This is a range of ready-to-eat cut carrot products now sold at 750 Woolworths stores nationally that has so far saved more than 2.5 million kilograms of misshapen carrots from going to waste.

Vicki also began the annual Boonah Freedom Climb (with local woman Tracey Rieck) that raises money for Project Freedom in Cambodia to help women and children caught in human trafficking, exploitation and modern day slavery.

The couple has been married for 27 years and they have sons - Ben, 23, Jon, 22, Matt, 20.



Grazier/ AgForce North president


- Charters Towers Deputy Mayor

Graziers Matt and Sonia Bennetto with children Elsie, 1, Bruno, 4, and Louis, 3. Picture: Michael Chambers
Graziers Matt and Sonia Bennetto with children Elsie, 1, Bruno, 4, and Louis, 3. Picture: Michael Chambers


Talk to north Queensland graziers Matt and Sonia Bennetto and it's hard not to feel lazy.

"It's not like the movies,'' Matt, 34, and also AgForce North president, says of working on cattle stations in Cape York,the Gulf and Charters Towers.

"We're coming up to our 10th wedding anniversary this year. It's bloody difficult.''

The Charters Towers-based couple and their three kids, Bruno, 7, Louis, 6 and Elise, 4, have featured prominently over the years in various AgForce campaigns to connect city with the bush.

Sonia, also 34, is Deputy Mayor of Charters Towers Regional Council.

She also owns a graphic design and marketing business, works as a teacher, founded Herbelly Happy Teas, and does the books for the cattle stations and is on numerous boards and committees.

Matt is also on cattle boards, runs stock, as well as educational and corporate tours at his family's Virginia Park Station, and owns a tiling and demolition business in Townsville.

"I've had to go away for work a lot, on the mines, our cattle properties and now in town,'' he says.

"But it helps having a wife who is the most organised and efficient person I know.

"She gets the kids to school, does all our book work, on top of everything else."

Sonia, born in Mareeba, grew up on a tobacco plantation at Dimbulah. Matt, born in Melbourne, lived on a remote outstation in Cape York before his family settled at Virginia Park and bought properties in the Gulf.

They met at James Cook University in Townsville in 2003 where Matt did economics and business degrees while Sonia did degrees in education, tourism and marketing.