Media Release from Fraser Coast Regional Council

A business owner and support worker who helps clients seven days a week and a teenager who progressed from an automatic wheelchair to a manual one to play wheelchair basketball are just two of the amazing people recognised in this year’s Ability Awards.

While the annual Ability Awards ceremony was unable to go ahead on the Fraser Coast this year due to COVID-19, a virtual event has shone the spotlight on those in our community providing inspiration, offering mentorship and achieving results.

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the pandemic had changed so much about our day to day lives but the community had come through stronger than ever.

“It is disappointing to not be able to celebrate together, but with this online format we can still come together and recognise the hard working and inspirational people in our community helping improve the life of people with a disability,” he said.

“This year more than 25 individuals, groups and organisations have been recognised through the Fraser Coast Ability Awards.

“On behalf of Council and the local community, congratulations and thank you for everything you do.”

The virtual event also includes special musical and Tai Chi performances from students at the Maryborough Special School and can be watched at–ASlwo

The winners of each award are as listed below.

Education Provider Award

Maryborough State High School Enrichment Precinct

The Maryborough State High School Enrichment Precinct has gone from strength to strength in the past year and have created a culture where all differences are valued and students are enriched due to ability, not disability.

Twenty five per cent of all school leadership positions have been awarded to students with additional needs not by quota, but by merit.

There has been the placement and development of students with additional needs in elite development academies like rowing, football and hockey to enhance their natural talent.

Students have also achieved in dance, drama and music programs.

The school have celebrated the success and completion of self-generated and monitored goals and this has seen a significant reduction in behavioural issues in classes which leads to an improvement of student achievement.

Due to the proactive nature of the Enrichment and Wellbeing programs, students are less likely to engage in unsafe behaviours, are more likely to engage positively with each other and the greater community, and are able to look positively towards a life of choice, not a life of chance.

Sport and Recreation Award

Henry Rider

Despite his challenges, Henry has set his mind to persevere and overcome such challenges in his wheelchair basketball games. Not only is Henry admirable both on and off the court, but he is consistent, humble and talented.

Henry has achieved so much through his efforts by getting selected to play in the QLD junior squad for Wheelchair basketball and Henry has also won a bronze medal for playing at the spinners comp in January.

Most recently, Henry was selected to represent Queensland juniors 2020 in the wheelchair basketball arena.

Employment Award

OCTEC Disability Employment Services

OCTEC provides employment services and assistance to disability affected participants in the local area. OCTEC on a daily basis specialise in the employment sector with people with disabilities. To achieve this, consultants are constantly meeting with suitable employers insuring the participant is compatible with the employer.

The consultants at OCTEC display that they care for the individuals own personal goals by insuring a tailored job plan that is participant orientated, assistance to gaining employment, up skilling the individual and supplying the tools and equipment needed for this to be done.

Community Champion Award

Jayden Lem

Jayden has worked in the Disability Sector for almost six years and has a true passion for improving the quality of life for others. Jayden is a very committed worker who lives for his work as it isn’t just a job for him.

Jayden makes the environment very fun, loving, warm and comfortable for each individual so they are able to reach their highest potential.

Although Jayden works seven days a week he is still generous enough to find the time to help community members make everyday living much easier.

Community Organisation Award

Mary River Mighty LionHearts

The Mary River Mighty LionHearts is a unique community organisation as all positions within the organisation are held by individuals with disabilities.

The Lions Club is the first of its kind and is contributing to improving the quality of life of people with disability by empowering them.

The Mighty LionHearts has positively impacted the community, not only by giving back to the Fraser Coast, but by being the face of inclusivity in the region.

They are able, through their own actions to show the community how incredibly capable they are, and how they too can contribute to their community in a meaningful way.

Young Community Spirit Award

Henry Rider

Henry is a determined young man who is currently the president and team captain of the Fraser Coasters Wheelchair basketball team.

The 19-year-old progressed from a motorised chair to a manual one to get involved with the sport after a chance meeting with Michael Oxley, who had just returned from the under-25 women’s world wheelchair basketball sparked interest in the sport.

Ted Weber Individual Achievement Award

Jess McDowell

Jess had a workplace accident just over two years ago and had her leg amputated. She returned to work as a personal care worker at Fairhaven Aged Care after four months of extensive rehabilitation.  She overcame physical and mental adversity to return to work. She deals with pain on a regular basis yet never complains.

Jess has also taken to Park Run and has completed the 5k track more than 50 times.

She is an inspiration to those that come into contact with her around the course, making many new friends that share her achievements, and encourage her.

While COVID-19 put stop to her participating and training in a group, she continued to push the Park Run course on her own. She continues to work towards her goal of walking, and overcomes the physical challenges of using a wheelchair, crutches and a prosthetic.

She has also become a successful wheelchair basketball player, winning a Bronze medal at a tournament on the Sunshine Coast in 2020 in the successful Fraser Coasters Wheelchair Basketball team.

Jess regularly shares her rehabilitation sessions on social media outlining her time and distance, walking, on the bike and on her crutches and prosthetic.

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