Australia Day awards are presented annually on Australia Day to local citizens and groups who have made outstanding contributions to their community. Local Australia Day working groups select each local award category.

2022

Citizen of the Year – Sara-Jane Howell

Sara-Jane Howell is a passionate and dedicated volunteer who has made a significant contribution to the Wyreema and district community over the past decade.

Sara-Jane has served as secretary of the Wyreema Community Hall for the past eight years.

In this role, Sara-Jane started the Wyreema Hall Halloween Trick or Treating Event, a fun and inclusive annual event that is recognised locally for building community spirit and connections.

As secretary of the Hall, Sara-Jane has also volunteered countless hours organising many other events, including trivia nights, social nights, market days, movie night and family fun days.

Dedicated to helping others in need, Sara-Jane raised $1,000 for homeless people in the Toowoomba Region through her participation in the 2021 Sleepout for Homeless.

She regularly supports the Toowoomba Regional Council with events across the district, including the Wyreema Obst Park opening and Summer Tunes. She is also a part of the Australia Day Committee for the Cambooya District.

An inspirational and tireless volunteer, Sara-Jane is recognised as a compassionate and valued member of the community.

 

Community Group – Wyreema Community Hall

The Wyreema Community Hall provides an inclusive space where people in the district can come together to socialise, learn and be well supported.

With cooking facilities, disabled access, a stage and seating for approximately 180 people, the hall is also a popular venue for weddings, birthdays, functions and community events.

In 2021, the Wyreema Community Hall hosted a Trivia Night to raise funds to repair the hall, as well as bringing the community together.

The successful evening was attended by 100 community members, who enjoyed burgers, sweet and savory platters, and a bar.

The Trivia Night raised $2,000, and attendees left asking when the next Trivia Night was being held.

 

Community Event – Felton Hall

Felton Hall hosted the Hot Pot Bush Dance on 11 September 2021, to reunite the community post Covid-19 and open the hall for a fun family event.

Ridgee Didge Bush Band provided the music for the event, which attracted 90 people from the district.

Age was no barrier on the dance floor, with the smallest children joining their parents on the dance floor for a memorable night.

Event organisers volunteered their time and ingredients to provide a ‘Hot Pot’ dinner that was enjoyed by all attendees.

Money raised from the admission price and raffles was used to pay insurance costs and other expenses to keep the Hall up and running for future community functions.

Clifton Citizens of the Year – Mike and Cynthia Conway

Mike and Cynthia Conway are well-respected and active members of the Clifton community, who have made a significant contribution to various volunteer groups over many years.

Mike and Cynthia moved to Clifton more than 20 years ago and quickly became involved in the Clifton Lions Club, Clifton Jockey Club, Clifton Show Society and Clifton and District Progress Association.

Cynthia runs a children’s marquee at the Clifton Races each year, where she organises face painting and games for the children, while Mike organises the main event.

Both are very generous at working bees and are always available to set up for various community events, including race days and the show weekend.

Always giving of his time, Mike often drives elderly residents to medical appointments and Cynthia is well known in the craft community for her expertise and guidance.

Mike and Cynthia are recognised as kind and generous volunteers, who are integral in fostering community spirit and who can be called on for help during times of need.

 

Clifton Young Citizen of the Year – Braeden Cameron

Braeden Cameron is a community-minded young man who can always be relied on to help at local events or to assist a person in need.

Known for his big smile and positive attitude, Braeden is an active member of the Clifton Lions Club, assisting with various community events, including the Leyburn sprints and parking at the Clifton Races. He also volunteers at barbecues and garage sales.

A talented athlete, Braeden represented the Darling Downs at the Queensland Athletics Championships in cross country, and the 3,000 metre and 1,500 metre events.

A senior mentor at Clifton State High School, Braeden is always available to help other students with their gym work and athletics training and maintains high academic standards across all subjects.

Braeden has played rugby league for eight years and is a current referee for Brothers Football Club in Toowoomba.

 

Clifton Sports Award – Madison Dorries

Madison Dorries is a talented and humble young athlete who achieved phenomenal success across a range of sports in 2021.

Madison represented the Darling Downs in tennis at the state championships at Highfields in July and also represented the Darling Downs at the state soccer championships in Brisbane in October.

A talented all-rounder, Madison finished 15th at the Darling Downs Cross Country championships and was named the Best and Fairest player in her Allstars Touch Team for the 2020/2021 season.

Madison also represented the South West Rugby League Team at the State Championships in Townsville in September and was a member of the Under 13 Pittsworth Danes Rugby league premiership winning team.

A positive role model, Madison served as ‘Sibley’ sports captain in her final year of primary school, where she achieved age champion for athletics, cross country and swimming for many years.

Madison is well known in the community through her participation in sport and we congratulate her on her success and look forward to watching her achieve her future sporting goals.

 

Clifton Community Group – Clifton Meals on Wheels

The Clifton Meals on Wheels organisation maintains close ties to other Clifton community groups and provided valuable support to its clients during Covid-19.

Thirty-nine Clifton Meals on Wheels volunteers stepped up to keep the service functioning during the covid challenges of the past year.

The members provided fresh cooked meals five days per week, with the option of a frozen meal for the clients.

Apart from the regular meal deliveries, the volunteers prepared puzzle and entertainment packs for delivery along with hygiene packs.

Regular visits also kept an eye on clients to ensure they had all necessary supplies.

The meals were cooked by the team at the Clifton Co-Op Hospital, which is a not-for-profit, charitable health services co-operative.

The volunteers and the committee, particularly committee member Dave Burns, provide a valuable service to the clients and Clifton.

Meals on Wheels is an iconic Australian not-for-profit organisation that has been bringing local communities together for more than 65 years.

The Clifton branch of Meals on Wheels was established during the 1980s and has been providing a daily check-in service, a hearty meal and a big smile to clients ever since.

Clients include seniors, community members with a disability and people recovering after hospital stays or a major illness.

Volunteers fill many roles from being drivers, delivering meals into people's homes or assisting in community kitchens.

 

Clifton Community Event – Clifton and District Tennis Association

The Clifton and District Tennis Association is a progressive and dynamic organisation that creates a welcoming and inclusive environment where members share friendship, fitness and fun.

Supported by a strong leadership committee, the Club grew exponentially during 2020, attracting 70 new members from across the greater Clifton area.

Welcoming members of all ages, the Club offers four thriving formats including junior fixtures, senior fixtures, women’s fixtures and women’s social tennis.

Over the years, committee members have worked hard to obtain various grants to improve facilities, with current members enjoying access to four, high-quality synthetic courts with LED lights, a clubhouse with full kitchen and a large wheelchair-accessible viewing deck.

Over the past 18 months, the leadership committee has worked incredibly hard to navigate the challenges of Covid-19, successfully hosting the Clifton Open, Clifton Club Championship and the newly created and successful Clifton Junior Open.

With the courts being used more than ever, the Club is now seeing junior members selected at representative level as a result of these opportunities and high-quality coaching provided by the Club.

The Clifton and District Tennis Association is extremely proud of its achievements and its direction for the future. 

Crows Nest Citizen of the Year – Lorna Higgs

Lorna Higgs is described by those who know her as a ‘role model of human kindness’; committed and generous volunteer who works hard to improve the lives of others.

As president of the Crows Nest branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association, Lorna plays a key role in empowering and inspiring women through friendship, education, connection and advocacy.

A friendly and welcoming president, Lorna was instrumental in launching community cooking classes in Crows Nest to teach people of all ages and backgrounds how to cook using seasonal produce.

Popular classes held to date have taught attendees how to make jam, chutney, pickles, homemade labneh and traditional Christmas treats, including plum pudding, shortbread and custard.

As president of the Crows Nest QCWA, Lorna has also played a key role in overseeing progress towards the establishment of a Sensory Garden that will be used as a community space for healing, relaxation and reflection.

Lorna also regularly checks on frail people in the community and welcomes people to the Region through her volunteer role at the Hampton Information Centre.

A role model in the community, Lorna is the type of person who’ll do the right thing not because she is looking for a reward, but because it’s the right thing to do.

 

Crows Nest Young Citizen of the Year – Prue Gardner

Prue Gardner is a positive young role model in the Crows Nest community who demonstrates commitment, tenacity, dedication, and determination.

During 2021, Prue served as a Youth Leader for the Toowoomba Regional Council and was awarded a Certificate of Community Service from the Order of Australia Association Queensland Branch for secondary schools.

An active volunteer, Prue raised over $1,500 for Shave for a Cure in 2021 and was a teen showgirl for the Crows Nest Show in 2019 and the Toowoomba Show in 2018.

Prue completed high school at St Joseph’s College in Toowoomba at the end of last year, where she served as Mission captain and Interact vice president.

As part of her studies, Prue completed a Certificate III in Business Administration and a Certificate IV in Dance and plans to study teaching at the Australian Catholic University this year.

 

Crows Nest Community Event – Crows Nest Rodeo

Crows Nest Rodeo is a much-loved community event on the Crows Nest social calendar that attracts locals and visitors alike for a fun day of family entertainment.

Organised by the hard-working Crows Nest Rodeo Committee, the event is held at the showgrounds and offers something for everyone, including live music, food stalls, market stalls and $10 camping.

Last year, the event attracted entrants in 14 divisions, including junior to open barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and a bareback ride.

Each year the not-for-profit event raises money for the Life Flight Foundation, with president Nina Parker handing over a $8,000 cheque to the organisation in 2021.

The rodeo attracts visitors to local businesses and the rodeo committee also adds to local trade through a commitment to buy locally.

Congratulations to Nina and her amazing committee for creating a fun and successful community event.

Goombungee Citizen of the Year – Diane Welke

Diane has lived in the Goombungee district for 39 years and has always given her time generously to help where possible.

One of her most outstanding achievements was volunteering as a Religious Instructor for the St Matthew’s Lutheran Church at the Goombungee State School for 32 years.

She also spent several years as the Sunday School teacher at St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, and the congregation always looked forward to seeing the children’s Christmas service.

Diane was awarded Life Membership of the Goombungee – Haden Show Society in 2008, in recognition of her volunteering efforts.

Her name first appeared as a steward in 1990 in the Floriculture Section, taking on the Chief Steward of this section in 2000.

Diane has volunteered at various hall fundraising events over the years and was an active member of the Goombungee P & C during the 1990s.

She also helped run the ironman competitions at the Goombungee Australia Day celebrations, alongside Lorraine Sorensen.

A keen gardener, Diane opened her garden to the community to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the St Matthew’s Lutheran Church and allowed local business and stallholders to come along to sell their items.

 

Goombungee Junior Sports Award – Holly Henderson

Holly Henderson is a humble and talented young swimmer who has achieved considerable success in the pool over the past three years.

Holly won age champion at the Darling Downs swimming trials in 2021, winning a phenomenal 10 out of 10 events.

Holly also won age champion at the Darling Downs Regional Swimming Association Club Championships and broke all records at the Oakey State High School swimming carnival, where she also won age champion.

A quiet achiever, Holly trains five days per week, adding an extra day of training in the pool during the competition season.

A role model to younger swimmers, Holly served as captain of the girls’ Inner Downs trials team in 2021, where she was given the honour of reciting the players’ oath alongside the male captain.

 

Goombungee Community Group – Yarraman Business Group

The Yarraman Business Group was established in 2018 by a group of committed volunteers who were passionate about helping the district grow and prosper.

The group has achieved numerous outcomes that benefit local businesses and members of the Yarraman community and further afield.

In 2021, the group hosted its fourth annual ‘Show and Shine’, a great day of vehicles, live music, food and stalls that attracted tourists to the area.

The group also achieved phenomenal success with the inaugural Yarraman Finish Line Festival in June 2021.

Run in partnership with Bicycling Queensland and the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail Users’ Association, the event attracted 325 riders and their support crews for a celebration in the village on completion of a gruelling 161-kilometre off-road bike ride.

The hard-working group has also promoted ‘Pink Up Yarraman’ over the past two years, to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.

The members are focusing their efforts on working with all levels of government to build an aged care facility in Yarraman.

It is also hoped the facility will boost construction and employment and enable loved ones to stay in Yarraman in their later years.

 

Goombungee Community Event – Another Day in the Park, Peranga Community Association

The Peranga Community Association held ‘Another Day in the Park’ on Saturday, April 17, 2021, after two previous attempts in 2020 were cancelled due to Covid-19 considerations.

The not-for-profit event is designed to promote cohesion and co-operation within the community. It is also an enjoyable celebration of a small, rural community.

The event brought together stallholders from as far afield as Bell, Oakey and Nanango; classic vehicle owners from Toowoomba, Dalby, Millmerran, Cecil Plains and Quinalow, and enthusiastic pie-throwers from the local district.

Face painting, a petting zoo and a jumping castle entertained the children.

There were 19 stalls selling a wide variety of products and 54 classic vehicles on display, as well as small engines and agricultural machinery.

Around 1000 people attended the day, including local and state government representatives and members of the community.

The successful community event was also used to unveil the Peranga Pioneer Memorial in the park and officially open Stage 1 of the Peranga Heritage Preservation Project in the old general store.

Highfields Citizen of the Year – Karlie Ross

Karlie is the personification of the saying: ‘turning lemons into lemonade.’

In January 2021, Karlie’s two-year-old daughter, Ellie, was diagnosed with leukaemia.

Instead of dwelling on Ellie’s diagnosis, Karlie started her personal blog, ‘The Ellie Project’ to highlight the gaps in paediatric cancer treatment in our Region’s facilities.

She has since partnered with the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation to raise funds to close some of these gaps.

Karlie is aiming to make the treatment process easier and more inclusive for those who follow, while navigating the path with her own family.

Before this unfortunate turn of events, Karlie was studying for her Education PhD. Her particular focus is in making a more inclusive and engaged education environment for students.

Karlie’s work is dedicated to encouraging, engaging, advocating and raising awareness for those who aren’t necessarily able to advocate for themselves.

Karlie is full of kindness and compassion and a very worthy recipient of the Highfields Australia Day Citizen of the Year.

 

Highfields Senior Sports Award – Mick Smith

Mick Smith is a passionate sportsman whose volunteering efforts have changed the lives of countless athletes across our Region over many decades.

A dedicated husband, father and grandfather, Mick grew up in Toowoomba and attended Newtown Primary School and Harristown State High School, where he excelled in rugby league, cricket and swimming.

Mick’s love for sport continued to develop when his two daughters excelled on the hockey field, with daughter Karen representing Australia at the Olympic Games.

As a parent, he understood the financial sacrifices parents and athletes made to compete at an elite sporting level.

With this understanding he became the founding president of Sports Darling Downs in 1999 to help sporting individuals, teams and organisations in their pursuit of excellence.

As Sports Darling Downs president, Mick approaches sponsors, develops sponsorship packages and fosters ongoing relationships with sponsors.

Through his efforts, Sports Darling Downs have distributed more than $1 million to local athletes since its inception.

Noteworthy recipients include two-time Olympian Matthew Denny, Olympic gold medallist Nikki Hudson and Paralympian Corey Anderson.

Sports Darling Downs also provides a public speaking course and teaches athletes marketing, social media and speech writing skills.

In 2021, Mick retired from the Toowoomba Hockey Board of Directors after 31 years in the role.

His dedication and vision assisted in acquiring water-based surfaces to create international facilities that have shaped Toowoomba hockey into a world-renowned hockey hotspot.

While on the Toowoomba Hockey Board of Directors, Mick also assisted with the expansions and upgrades of Club Glenvale, which helped Toowoomba Hockey thrive when many local sporting clubs were still struggling with gate takings and volunteers in the canteen.

Mick is a kind and generous man who has put his heart and soul into developing local sport.

 

Highfields Community Group – Highfields Pioneer Village, Museum and Park (Festival of the Big Cow)

The Highfields Pioneer Village, Museum and Park Inc. is a non-profit, community-based organisation run entirely by volunteers.

In 2021, more than 50 volunteers successfully hosted the Festival of the Big Cow to recognise and celebrate the history of the Australian dairy industry.

More than 3000 visitors attended the month-long festival where they experienced life in the dairy industry during Australian pioneering days, including a hands-on chance to milk a cow and churn butter.

A music festival was organised as part of the celebrations and attracted a fantastic cast of performers including Owen Ray, Sue Ray, the Voll Sisters, Brendon Walmsley and Michelle Schneider.

The Big Cow was sculpted by Hugh Anderson in the 1970s and is seven times the size of an Ayrshire cow, on which it is modelled. It was moved from Nambour to Highfields Pioneer Village in 2020.

The event raised more than $30,000 for the Highfields Pioneer Village, Museum and Park Inc., in part to restore and maintain the Big Cow.

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Citizen of the Year – Katrina Grundon

Katrina Grundon is a highly valued volunteer in the Millmerran community, who always puts her hand up to be involved and take on leadership roles with a happy and pleasant disposition.

Over the years, Katrina has served as president of the Millmerran Kindergarten, secretary of the Millmerran Scout group, treasurer, president and learn to swim coach of the Millmerran Swimming Club and Pavilion steward for the Millmerran Show, to name a few.

A keen advocate of Millmerran, Katrina has been involved in the Australian Camp Oven Festival (ACOF) since its inception in 1999 and coordinated the Festival in 2021.

As Event Coordinator, Katrina assumed responsibility for securing sponsorship and grants (worth tens of thousands of dollars), marketing and responding to the never-ending phone and email enquiries.

2021 was obviously a particularly challenging event to coordinate, with border closures and Covid-19 plans and checklist requirements adding to what was already a busy and stressful time for volunteers.

Thankfully, everything came together, with more than 10,000 people attending the iconic festival.

As usual, the festival was a huge boost to the local economy, with local businesses and community organisations reporting increased sales and profits over the two-day event.

 

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Young Citizen of the Year – Mark Cann

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Young Citizen of the Year Mark Cann is regarded as an exceptional leader in his school and scout community.

Mark served as Gore House leader at Millmerran State School in 2021 and received the Millmerran State School Principal’s Award in 2017.

A positive role model for others, Mark achieved his Australian Scout Medallion in 2021 and was the recipient of a Cub Scout’s Grey Wolf Award in 2016.

Outside Scouts, Mark is involved in the tennis club and is a past member of the Millmerran and Pittsworth swimming clubs.

He assisted the local Ambulance Committee with CPR awareness training at the Millmerran Show in 2020 and 2021 and helped cook the barbecue for the Millmerran Landcare Group in 2019.

A role model for young people in the area, Mark also helps elderly people in the community with odd jobs and has been involved with ANZAC Day parades.

 

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Cultural Award – Cecil Plains Homestead – Glennis and Darryl Philbey

Glennis and Darryl Philbey own and run the Cecil Plains Homestead B&B where they have set up a museum, slab hut and a display of old homestead equipment over the past 20 years.

At the homestead, the Philbeys provide accommodation and cater for birthdays, weddings, christenings, camping and musical events.

Passionate historians, the Philbeys also organise the annual ANZAC Day ceremony in Cecil Plains and host various events to preserve and promote local history and raise money for local charities.

In 2021, Glennis hosted an event to officially open the Old Cecil Plains Jail, which was relocated from the back of the Cecil Plains Police Station to the Homestead.

Seven past serving police officers from the Cecil Plains Station returned for the event, along with current policeman, Senior Constable Matt Scorer.

Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio unveiled a commemorative plaque to officially open the jail in its new home and Glennis recounted the journey of the jail from its original location to the Homestead.

The day finished with a beautiful afternoon tea and the chance to stroll through the jail and other historical buildings on the grounds.

 

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Senior Sports Award – Val Jannusch

Val Jannusch has been an integral and active member of the Cecil Plains Tennis Club for more than three decades.

Val has made a significant contribution to the club through her role as a committee member, player, fixture organiser, fundraiser and community organiser for community tennis coaching.

Val was a driving force behind the club changing the playing surface from antbed to an artificial surface. She has also worked tirelessly as a committee member over the years to oversee various improvements to the Club, including the installation of a clubhouse, a fence and new lighting in 2021.

Val assumed responsibility for organising team fixtures in the 1980s, which she has continued to do to the present day. The original 10 teams have been reduced to four active teams today.

Val has been instrumental in organising a coach to come to Cecil Plains to instruct the school children after school hours. Many of these children have gone on to play fixture tennis.

Val organises the barbecue for the Lions Christmas Carnival on behalf of the tennis club. This includes ordering food and rostering on club members to cook and serve on the night.

 

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Junior Sports Award – Isabella Sauverain  

Isabella Sauverain is a talented and passionate horsewoman, who has achieved much success in various disciplines, including equestrian, pony club, campdrafting and team events.

Isabella has enjoyed an exceptionally great winning streak in the short time she has been riding, achieving Queensland State Champion for formal gymkhana in 2021 and 2019.

She competed in Show Horse Council Queensland shows where she enjoyed outstanding success, winning the Champion Child's Shetland.

By winning this event, Isabella qualified to compete at the Grand National in Sydney in April 2022.

These results come from her dedication. She is prepared to train and continually improve her skills.

Isabella loves show jumping and is extremely competitive in any class from 60 centimetres to 1 metre in height.

She has also been successful in qualifying for the 2022 State Pony Club Show jumping competition to be held in Dalby in 2022.

Horses will always be a part of Isabella’s life.

We look forward to watching her continue to flourish and dominate in her chosen disciplines over the coming years.

 

Millmerran/Cecil Plains Community Group – Millmerran Historical Society & Yallambee Auxiliary

The Millmerran Historical Society's ‘Water Baby Exhibition’ opening and the Yallambee Mother’s Day markets were a chance for two community organisations to work together to achieve a truly memorable event.

Held on May 1, 2021 in the Millmerran Museum grounds, the event attracted representatives from the Australian National Maritime Museum, community dignitaries and many special guests, as well as a large crowd of local residents.

The Millmerran Historical Society’s long journey to restore ‘Water Baby’ has culminated in a state-of-the-art exhibition. It will engage every visitor in the colourful history of the vessel and the significant flood heritage of the region over centuries, not to mention an opportunity to hear Water Baby’s mighty whistle blow once again.

The Yallambee Mother’s Day markets added to the event by allowing several other community groups a chance to raise funds and work together, including the Millmerran Lions, the Millmerran Scouts and the Millmerran Arts Council to name a few.

Food stalls, children's entertainment and lots of different market stalls combined to make it a very special day for all who attended.

Entertainment was made possible by a grant through the Toowoomba Regional Council grant program and was supplied by the very popular Black Velvet.

Patrons stayed after the official opening to enjoy the music and the variety of food on offer.

Feedback from the day was that we should hold more similar events as everyone who came enjoyed the day immensely.

Oakey Citizen of the Year – Judy Byers

Judy Byers grew up on a dairy farm and has lived and worked in the Oakey district her whole life. She has been employed at R. Brideson & Son, Oakey ANZ Bank and is currently Senior Payroll Officer at Beef City Abattoirs.

Judy’s connection to the show movement originated in the 1980s when her parents became interested in breeding and exhibiting Holstein Friesian stud cattle.

The family exhibited cattle at local shows, then ventured further afield to the Royal Toowoomba Show and the Brisbane Exhibition.

Judy learnt to parade and judge dairy cattle, competing at Darling Downs level and progressing onto the Exhibition. Show volunteers were scarce at this time so, as a teenager, she was taught to be a steward and was often asked to announce in the dairy section, which she really enjoyed.

In 1985 while working at R. Brideson & Sons, Judy entered the Oakey Show Princess competition and won Oakey Show Charity Princess.

During the ensuing years, Judy has continued this association as a volunteer, holding executive positions with the Oakey Agricultural, Pastoral & Rodeo Society Inc., including treasurer for seven years, senior vice-president for three years. She is currently in her fifth year as president.

Although this position presents many challenges, Judy leads her committee by example, displaying passion and dedication.

She is proud of improvements to infrastructure at the showgrounds under her presidency, including the erection of a new cattle shed, extension of the cattle yards and most recently, the building of a new show pavilion.

Prospects at the Showgrounds are encouraging, and Judy looks forward to what may be achieved in the future. Despite working full time her commitment has been outstanding.

Judy has assisted other community organisations, usually filling the role of treasurer, such as the Oakey Uniting Church Parish, Oakey Girl Guides, Oakey State School P&C and Greenwood Hall Committee.

 

Oakey Young Citizen of the Year – Sydney Bodkin

Sydney Bodkin is a passionate young lady who works hard, leads by example and is a great role model for young people in the Oakey community.

Sydney completed a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care as a school-based trainee at Oakey State High School, which she started while in Year 10.

In March of 2021, during her final year at high school, Sydney started her Diploma, a first for Oakey High. Sydney went on to win the Darling Downs South West Region School Based Trainee/Apprentice of the Year.

Sydney has a passion for educating young people and likes to see a smile on the faces of the young people she works with.

Sydney has represented Oakey High, her employer Charley's Place and her registered training organisation Kath Dickson to an extremely high standard.

Sydney aims to be a director of a childcare centre in the future.

 

Oakey Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander of the Year – Keesha Charles

Keesha Charles is a proud Githubal and Bundjalung woman, who served as Indigenous Leader at Oakey State High School for 2021.

When Keesha applied for the position she stood before her school community, completely out of her comfort zone, emerging from the shadows to follow in the path of other Indigenous leaders.

A natural leader, Keesha has inspired other Indigenous youth to overcome their fears and create their own legacy of expectations and success.

Keesha leads by example and has shown other students that they can achieve what they desire by hard work, commitment and working together.

Keesha has completed a Certificate II in Health Support Services and a Certificate III in Individual Support working in Disability Support in her final year of high school.

She was a top three finalist in three categories in the Queensland Training Awards for the Darling Downs and South West Region.

In recognition of these achievements, Keesha received the Vocational Student of the Year for 2021 at the Oakey State High School awards ceremony.

Keesha loves to dance and is a lead teacher at SK studios. She also volunteers her time with the Smith Family helping young people to learn dance.

She recently graduated with the Beyond Broncos Program, which she joined during her time at Oakey State High.

 

Oakey Cultural Award – Patrick Back & Hamish Sharpe-Liston – ‘Palinola’

Palinola is a young musical group consisting of two Oakey State High School students - Patrick Back and Hamish Sharpe-Liston.

Patrick and Hamish are both talented guitarists, with Patrick being a naturally gifted songwriter.

They spend their spare time writing and crafting music, with the intention to make a career in the arts.

Patrick and Hamish are passionate about their music and are always looking for opportunities to improve and learn.

Last year the boys wrote, recorded and released a song onto Spotify and entered their song, Is it Alright?, in the ABC’s Triple J unearthed competition.

The song received positive feedback on the Triple J website and this has inspired the boys to continue with their efforts.

 

Oakey Senior Sports Award – Graham (Sam) Lorrimer

In his 86 years in Oakey, Graham Lorrimer, known as Sam, has made a significant contribution to various sporting clubs, including the Oakey Cricket Club, Oakey Swimming Club, Oakey Golf Club and the Oakey Bowls Club.

A talented cricket player, Sam was captain of the Oakey Cricket Club premiership-winning team in 1962 and 1963 and continued his involvement in the club for 25 years as a patron, secretary and sponsor.

Sam’s father, Henry Lorrimer, was President of the Oakey and District Bowls Club from 1945-1951, when the bowling greens were first built.

Sam helped his father in his role and was honoured as a Life Member of the club in 2017 in recognition of his significant contribution to the club over many decades, including serving as secretary for 18 years.

As secretary, Sam kept impeccable records and minutes and ensured all documents were kept and filed, with auditors commenting on his well-presented minutes and accurate records.

A competitive and well-respected bowler, Sam won Triples titles in 2007 and 2008 and Fours titles in 2013 and 2014. He always welcomed visitors across the district and encouraged and mentored players at the club.

With his wife Betty, Sam also supported ladies’ bowling and assisted around the club wherever required for many years. He cleaned the club house, mowed and removed rubbish.

Sam also participated in golf, tennis and swimming in his early years and has always been a generous sponsor, promoter and follower of many Oakey sporting clubs.

Sam was also involved with the Oakey Cemetery Trust for many years where he supported and assisted many people in Oakey and the surrounding district

 

Oakey Junior Sports Award – Leteena Medland

Leteena Medland is a talented and passionate sportswoman, who has the skills, passion and determination to pursue her dream of becoming a professional rugby league player.

Leteena started playing rugby league when she was six-years-old and won the Oakey Junior Rugby League Rising Star Award in 2018.

Since then, Leteena has pursued her passion for the sport, becoming a qualified rugby league referee and touch judge. She will serve as a 2022 Ambassador for the Oakey Junior Rugby League Club.

An inspiration to peers on and off the field, Leteena plays in three different competitions and does her best every game, often helping to set up the field for games and training.

Leteena was named Best and Fairest for Redbacks Rugby Union in 2021 and won the Under 14 coaches’ award from USQ Saints Rugby Union.

Described as funny and kind, Leteena always shows great team spirit and has a promising future on and off the sporting field.

 

Oakey Community Group – Oakey Junior Cricket Club

The Oakey Junior Cricket Club hosted its first Pink Stumps Day in March last year, in conjunction with the Pittsworth and Millmerran cricket clubs.

Hosted across several Oakey cricket grounds, the day raised $1,200 for the Glenn McGrath Foundation and promoted community involvement, inclusiveness and participation.

The event also showcased the depth and diversity of the Oakey Cricket Club and promoted positive relationships between the clubs, local schools, Council and Members of Parliament.

The players, parents and community members all embraced the pink spirit, with numerous pink wigs, tutus, socks, Hawaiian shirts, dresses and even shower caps worn by players and guests to show their support for the foundation.

The Member for Condamine, Pat Weir MP and Toowoomba Region Councillor James O’Shea were guest umpires for the morning, alongside principals from Oakey Primary School, St Monica’s and Oakey State High School.

Special guests were all impressed by the players and commented positively on their sportsmanship and skills throughout the game.

Players represented the Oakey Cricket Club and Oakey with pride and showed true Australian spirit.

A barbecue was served with the three clubs joining to raffle over $800 in prizes.

The day would not have been possible without the wonderful support of dedicated volunteers, whose input and initiative contributed greatly to such an enjoyable and successful day.

Pittsworth Citizen of the Year – Brenda Prentice

Brenda Prentice has been a wonderful volunteer in the Pittsworth area since moving to the Bongeen district in her early married years.

Described as the ‘perfect example of a dedicated volunteer’, Brenda is admired by fellow residents for her positive attitude and for the pleasant way she goes about any role she undertakes.

Brenda has been involved in many organisations and held various executive positions over the years, including involvement in the Mt Tyson Church, the Pittsworth Anglican Church, the Craft and Fine Food Spectacular and the Pittsworth Tennis Club.

Brenda was secretary of the St Phillip’s Anglican Church Guild Mt Tyson, treasurer of the St Andrew’s Anglican Church Pittsworth and a warden of the Parish for many years.

Brenda has served as the main coordinator of the St Andrew’s Craft and Fine Food Spectacular for several years.

As part of this role, Brenda works closely with a dedicated committee to source stallholders, set up the hall and keep things running smoothly at the event.

Brenda’s other major contribution to the community is her lengthy involvement – over 30 years – in the Pittsworth Tennis Club, where has undertaken committee roles more than 50 times with unwavering dedication.

In 2008 she held four positions as ladies’ captain, providore, assistant secretary and memberships officer. Brenda has served as patron of the Tennis Club for 11 years and has also filled the role of assistant treasurer, vice president and tournament director. She was awarded life membership in 2002.

Brenda has also encouraged many young players to become involved in the Pittsworth tennis community over the years and is a welcoming and valued member of the club.

 

Pittsworth Young Citizen of the Year – Stephanie Quinn

Stephanie Quinn is an outstanding young role model, who is always working to improve her school and the local community.

Stephanie served as Pittsworth State High School Captain in 2021, where she was recognised in the school community for her diligence and contribution to her school.

As school Captain, Stephanie worked hard to create an inclusive environment and encouraged everyone to embrace available opportunities.

Stephanie received the Pittsworth SHS Values Award as well as a Citizenship Award for her contribution to the school at the 2021 Pittsworth SHS awards evening. She also received an academic excellence award and three subject awards for legal studies, modern history and physical education.

Stephanie has been heavily involved in the running of sports and other activities, including coaching a variety of sports at Pittsworth SHS and in the wider community.

Stephanie is an incredible individual with a bright future and a very worthy recipient of the Pittsworth Young Citizen of the Year.

 

Pittsworth Cultural Award – Kirilly Mahon

Kirilly Mahon always strives to be involved in cultural activities. Her infectious enthusiasm extends to encouraging others to join cultural pursuits.

Kirilly has an impressive list of awards and accolades for her participation and success in various cultural roles. She gives her all, whether putting on a production in front of hundreds or presenting a speech in front of a small audience.

Last year, Kirilly was recognised in an awards ceremony at Parliament House for receiving the highest result in Queensland in her AMEB Speech and Performance Grade 7 exam.

She was shortlisted for the 2021 Bell Shakespeare Scholarship and won the Lions Youth of the Year for the zone.

Friendly and approachable, Kirilly served as an executive on the Pittsworth SHS Student Representative Council.

Her passion and dedication were acknowledged at the Pittsworth SHS Awards evening, when she received the Australian Defence Force Long Tan, Ampol All Rounder and Public Speaking awards.

 

Pittsworth Senior Sports Award – Rowena Briskey

Rowena Briskey is an ordinary Australian who makes a remarkable contribution to her community. Rowena is a highly regarded and positive role model, whose character exemplifies Australian values.

Rowena has been the mainstay of Pittsworth Basketball for two decades.

She coaches, referees, trains, and mentors around 100 junior players every Monday for 30 weeks of the year.

Rowena also serves as the club’s treasurer, dedicated committee member and a mentor to junior referees. She even washes uniforms and cooks for the canteen.

In her spare time, Rowena enthusiastically participates in the senior competition, where she referees and mentors younger players, and is a formidable force on the court.

Rowena’s service extends before club records. The club has no accurate record of her volunteer service, however young adult members remember being trained by Rowena 20 years ago.

Without Rowena the club would struggle to provide community-based sport and recreation for young people in Pittsworth. She volunteers at least 200 hours per year.

Rowena has faced more than her fair share of hardships. The passing of her son, Clinton, was a terrible blow to the Pittsworth community and his family.

In response, Rowena doubled her efforts to support her family and the community. She lost her locks in ‘shave for a cure’ and ran sausage sizzles, money boards and raffles, campaigning tirelessly to raise almost $15,000 for the Cancer Council.

Rowena demonstrates fair play with a ‘have-a-go’ attitude and instils these values in the kids she trains. She values players who play fair, try hard, and have fun. These values have shaped the club over the years and have positively defined the community’s character.

The Australia Day awards exist to celebrate ordinary Australians who do extraordinary things and there is no better example than Rowena. She has dedicated years to building up the young people of our community, through a sport that she loves, with no expectation of personal reward.

 

Pittsworth Junior Sports Award – Jake Kinsey

Jake Kinsey is a talented and committed young athlete who displays passion and perseverance to excel in his chosen sport.

Jake started competing in athletics as a 10-year-old.

He joined an athletics club in Toowoomba and excelled, representing the Darling Downs at the Queensland Athletics Championships in 2018 and 2019.

Jake has also competed at state level for Little Athletics and qualified to compete at the Darling Downs trials in 2021, however this event was cancelled due to Covid-19.

Jake trains four hours per week in his key events: hurdles, 100 meters, 200 meters and long jump.

Always striving to achieve his best, Jake served as sports captain of Kingsthorpe Primary School in 2021 and we look forward to watching him improve and succeed in athletics. He is attending Pittsworth State High School.

 

Pittsworth Community Event – Craft and Fine Food Spectacular

The Pittsworth Craft and Fine Food Spectacular is a wonderful community event that showcases quality handmade gifts, clothing and fine foods.

An initiative of St Andrew’s Anglican Church Pittsworth, the event has been held for 16 years despite drought and Covid-19 lockdowns.

The exhibitors are chosen from as many local crafts and cooks as possible, with past exhibitors going on to start successful businesses from their inclusion in this event.

All products on sale must be home-made with no commercial products permitted.

This event encourages other local organisations to join in the festivities by holding an event themselves, such as the Crafty Quilters, the RSL and the Open Gardens and Nurseries.

Local entertainers and buskers are welcome in the park activities on the Saturday.

The Pittsworth Craft and Fine Food Spectacular is a wonderful weekend for the local township with everyone joining in for some part of the celebrations.

Local shops and accommodation providers also benefit from the event, with increased visitors from across the Darling Downs, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Toowoomba Citizen of the Year – Dr Richard (Bob) Ayres

Dr Richard (Bob) Ayres is a retired cardiologist who has dedicated most of his professional life to caring for the people of the Toowoomba Region.

Dr Ayres grew up on a property near Goondiwindi, went to boarding school in Toowoomba and Brisbane and lived in America and Papua New Guinea, before settling in Toowoomba.

A passionate advocate for regional Australia, Dr Ayres was the first specialist cardiologist to provide cardiology services west of Brisbane, setting up his practice at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1993.

A lack of local cardiology equipment meant both he and his patients had to travel to the Wesley and Greenslopes hospitals to perform coronary angiograms for nine years. This resulted in close and ongoing working relationships with Brisbane cardiologists and cardiac surgeons.

Described as an innovator, educator and mentor, Dr Ayres establishment an annual Toowoomba Cardiology Meeting in 2003 to provide cardiology professional development, often attracting more than 100 GPs from across the Region and South-West Queensland. He coordinated 14 of these events over 17 years.

On his retirement in 2020, Dr Ayres had dedicated almost 30 years’ service to specialist medicine on the Darling Downs and treated more than 15,000 patients.

 

Toowoomba Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Citizen of the Year – Charlie Rowe

Charlie Rowe is an inspirational leader and fantastic Indigenous role model who works hard to support Indigenous fathers and reduce gender-based violence in our community.

As the Outreach Services Manager at Carbal Medical Services, Charlie promotes the important role men play in early childhood development through his ‘Strong Fathers, Strong Families’ program.

Run over six weeks, the program aims to help male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of their children. The program encourages fathers and male carers to be healthy role models and engage fully in their children’s lives.

The program results are staggering. Two hundred and eighty participants have been referred to the program since October 2016. Of those men, around 12 did not engage with the program and three reoffended, but the remainder of the men have successfully stayed out of jail.

Charlie teaches violent offenders the skills they need to prevent them from reoffending and being a positive part of their children's lives.

A humble man, Charlie also volunteers his time to various committees, including Toowoomba Together Inc. and the Toowoomba Together Inc. Health Focus Group.

A father himself, Charlie gives up his time with no expectation of reward or acknowledgement, principally because he cares about his community.

 

Toowoomba Young Citizen of the Year – Corey Anderson

Corey Anderson is an Australian para-athlete who won a gold medal in the men's javelin F38 at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai. He also represented Australia at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics.

Corey first appeared on the radar of Australian selectors at the 2019 Australian Athletics Championships in Sydney where he set a new world record in the men’s javelin F38 with a mammoth 55.14 metre throw.

Having built quite a reputation for himself, the opportunity for Corey to test it came seven months later at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai, UAE. To his opponents’ dismay, he held firm under pressure – even after rolling his ankle in training two days earlier – and won his maiden world title with a world record-breaking throw of 56.28 metres.

Corey is studying a Certificate III in Fitness, with a view to becoming a personal trainer.

 

Toowoomba Sports Award – Allan Schefe

Allan Schefe has been a driving force in the Toowoomba squash community for more than 40 years.

Even though he runs his own business, Allan has invested untold hours for many years to keep squash alive in the Toowoomba Region.

Given the quantity and cost-effectiveness of gyms in the 21st Century, squash courts are unfortunately closing across the country. In the early 1990s, there were five sets of squash courts in Toowoomba breeding two world champions - Rachael and Natalie Grinham.

However, by 2018, the James Street courts were the only squash courts remaining in Toowoomba and were in disrepair. Only one competition existed, and the number of players was dwindling.

Allan negotiated the stewardship of the courts from operator Ron Crossley and formed Toowoomba Squash Inc. – a management committee to keep the sport alive.

Four years later, Allan has overseen the re-building of nine superb courts, with Queensland Masters events held in 2020 and 2021. Two Queensland Junior titles were also held here in 2020 and 2021.

Allan also arranged for a coach to rebuild junior players and encourage new players to the sport.

A quiet achiever, Allan has made an invaluable contribution to the sport of squash and the Toowoomba community.

 

Toowoomba Cultural Award – VasDeferens

VasDeferens is a talented Toowoomba garage band, brimming with youth and potential.

The Toowoomba State High School students formed their band at the end of 2019 and started playing gigs in May last year, with performances at the Battle of the Bands, the Toowoomba Busking Festival and the Met Hotel.

Inspired by Violet Soho, Death Tones and Metallica, the band credits their heavy, but fun rock sound to their wide and varying taste in music.

The hard-working band practises and performs each week. They have performed at the Armitage Centre, the Empire Theatre and the Cancer Relay for Life in 2021.

The band members excel in music and their schoolwork and enjoy hanging out and entertaining the community.

 

Toowoomba Community Group – Eva’s Place

Eva’s Place was established in 2013 after a long period of planning, training and preparation by a dedicated group led by Juliet Ballinger, the Executive Officer and Service Co-ordinator of the Toowoomba office

Eva's Place is a separately incorporated, not-for-profit association and registered charity, dedicated to helping girls and women faced with unintended or challenging pregnancies.

Services provided are free and confidential. They include: pregnancy testing, one-on-one mentoring, counselling, a mothers’ group, abortion grief recovery counselling and educational support.

Eva's Place is financed through corporate and philanthropic grants, plus private and corporate donations that are supported by volunteer labour. Eva's Place is a community project, operated and financed by the local community to ensure ongoing service provision to young women.

During Covid-19, Eva’s Place helped stranded overseas women based in Toowoomba, who were unable to access funds from their home country. These women depended on Eva's Place for help with visas.

Recently, Eva's Place has networked with a state high school to enable girls to complete their year 12 education, as the basis for further study or employment.

Eva's Place now operates in Toowoomba, Dalby, Kingaroy and Roma.

Eva's Place is a safe place, offering practical, emotional and material support.

 

View past Australia Day award winners here.