Henry Rider and Michael Oxley are two of the recipients of the Fraser Coast Australia Day awards. They join the driving force behind the Happy Valley Community Organisation, the creator of a signing choir, an anti-straw campaigner and a historian who were honoured in the Fraser Coast Australia Day Awards.
“It is an honour to be able to present the awards to such a diverse and hard-working group of recipients,” Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said.
“The recipients have volunteered thousands of hours of their time to the Fraser Coast community over many years which is one of the reasons our community is so vibrant, resilient and caring.
“Australia Day is a good opportunity for the community to reflect on the thousands of people who volunteer at the hundreds of organisations, groups and sporting clubs across the region.
“They truly make the Fraser Coast a place live in Australia.”
The 2021 Australia Day Award recipients are:
- Volunteer of the Year Award: Scott Bell;
- Young Volunteer of the Year Award: Henry Rider;
- STEM Award of the Year: Pieta Bates;
- Young Cultural Award of the Year: Xanthe O’Connor;
- Cultural Award of the Year: Heather Jeppesen;
- Community Group or Organisation of the Year: Fraser Coast Mates;
- Community Project or Events of the Year: Bin Isolation Outing;
- Young Stem of the Year: Ella Tracey;
- Sportsperson of the Year: Michael Oxley;
- Young Sportsperson of the year: Owen Taylor;
- Young Citizen of the Year: Illuka Clifton;
- Citizen of the Year Award: Gail Gauld.
Volunteer of the Year Award:
Scott is the secretary of the Happy Valley Community Association and was instrumental in the protection of the Happy Valley township during the fires last year.
Scott Bell established the Happy Valley Community Association in 2019 and has been the driving force of the organisation.
He has been relentless in his negotiations to get Island stakeholders to understand the danger from fire the Valley has been facing.
With a determined committee of supporters, he has lobbied to get approval for serious bushfire hazard reduction and mitigation in and around the Valley.
Under his stewardship, the HVCA has turned a group of disparate residents and landowners into a resilient, passionate, highly prepared, and supportive community.
Scott recognises that everyone has different strengths and abilities and building on those strengths, he has enabled the township to achieve outcomes that would not otherwise have been possible.
When the fires roared towards Happy Valley in December, Scott co-ordinated the engagement of the HVCA with QFES , QPWS, representatives of the Butchella people, ensuring there was effective two way communication from the incident controller, across all levels of government and through to absent property owners concerned for their homes.
He instigated regular briefings in the town and ensured written progress reports were issued to all stakeholders every couple of days.
2021 Young Volunteer of the Year Award –
Despite his challenges, Henry Rider 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 consistent, humble and talented.
Most recently, Henry has made a significant contribution to his community by volunteering as the Wheelchair Basketball Coasters president and team Captain.
Henry represents the team and his community by going to, playing in games representing the Fraser Coast at tournaments and games.
Since starting her career just four years ago, Maryborough High School teacher Peita Bates has developed and delivered a variety of programs covering grades five through to 12 including a ‘Coding as a Language’ curriculum, a specialist Coding Academy, a ‘Robocademy’ extra-curricular program and an outreach program to local primary schools delivering coding and technology activities.
Peita has achieved outstanding levels of success for herself, students, school and community by understanding student needs and community expectations. She has the ability to build rapport with students in a way that works for them.
Her work have been recognised by organisations such as Women In Technology and EduTech, highlighting the outstanding work of regional schools and communities and obtaining sponsorships/partnerships for major events.
Peita’s strategies have successfully drawn in students, kept them engaged and motivated to achieve.
Peita continues to conduct significant research into new technologies to ensure the information being delivered to students is of the highest quality.
In 2020, Xanthe O’Connor achieved her ultimate goal with the creation of the Hearts and Hands Signing Choir.
It’s an all-inclusive, all abilities choir who welcome people from all walks of life and has provided a sense of community amongst the group.
She recently won the Individual Achievement Award for Autism Queensland’s “Creative Future” Awards, this has also seen her efforts recognised in the media.
She is an inspiration to her peers and the broader community for her enthusiasm and ‘got get it’ attitude.
She confidently welcomes everyone to choir every Monday night, marks the role and participates in all choir decisions.
Xanthe’s role with the Choir is entirely of a volunteer capacity.
She recently graduated Hervey Bay Special School as 2020 School Captain.
During her last year of education Xanthe was able to manage a full school schedule, intensive speech therapy and choir rehearsals and performances.
During Covid-19 restrictions she increased her knowledge of online platforms to contribute to the choir using Zoom.
Xanthe is also a committee member of Special Needs Fraser Coast.
And the recipient of Cultural Award of the Year goes to Heather Jeppesen.
For more than 40 years Heather has been a driving force in organising entertainment for our community.
Heather is the ultimate quiet achiever in this field, never in the limelight, just making it happen and raising thousands of dollars for those in need.
Heather is the epitome of a true organiser- she has a vision and proceeds to organise singers, bands, raffles, catering and venues, selects the appropriate charity for the benefits and then gets on with it.
She is a great leader and fantastic role model for our younger generation.
For the past six years Eureka Country Music Group has been her base and during this period thousands of dollars have been raised by her efforts.
During the past two years Heather has organised regular practise sessions for bands and singers on a weekly basis culminating in regular monthly concerts, proceeds of which go to charities such as Coast Guard Sandy Straits, Baptist Church, Tear Australia, Crime Stoppers, QCWA and the Cancer Foundation.
Fraser Coast Mates are a not for profit mental health awareness organisation dedicated to saving the lives of the people on the Fraser Coast.
The organisation is relentless in fundraising through community charity days and finding funding to promote the mental health awareness and support on the Fraser Coast via their digital channels and a The Little Black Book print booklet.
They fund a psychologist who is able to take appointments at short notice and in many cases getting the emergency support an individual needs when suffering from depression or anxiety.
Fraser Coast Mates is an organisation that has been touched by suicide and now work hard to bring awareness and mental health resilience to our region.
Understanding the vulnerability of our community during the devastating 2020, Fraser Coast Mates forged forward in finding local mental health stories to share.
People of all ages on the Fraser Coast stepped forward to share their stories which become a video series shared on social media.
These videos have attracted an enormous amount of engagement with people sharing support and opening up about their own struggles.
Fraser Coast Mates have had their digital campaigns viewed beyond the region to much acclaim.
And the recipient of the Community Project or Evens of the year is Danielle Askew with Bin Isolation Outing.
Danielle Askew harnessed the power of a good joke and turned it into a beam of positivity for more than one million people.
Last year when the state went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Danielle donned a costume, created a Facebook page called ‘Bin Isolation Outing’ and posted a photo of herself taking out her garbage dressed as Elsa from Frozen.
Soon, hundreds of thousands of others from across the world were posting similar photos, using the page as a way to connect while they were socially isolated.
She brought together a global community united by fear of Covid-19 but a need for reducing the social isolation attached.
Since creating the page Danielle has spent thousands of hours moderating the page.
She put Hervey Bay in a global spotlight as the page exploded gaining national and international media attention.
On the page people discussed visiting the region after finding out about it through the page.
2021 Young Stem of the Year –
Hervey Bay State High School student Ella Tracey has shown vision across all STEM fields.
As a regional STEM ambassador for the Education Department, she has led other year 10 students in their vision of developing, and creating a school wind farm.
During the planning and development process Ella refused to give up on the Energex funded project.
Ella has been at the forefront with students, developing solutions to school-based problems as they arose.
In particular how the school could successfully print Wind Farm Turbines using a 3D printer on a small-scale print bed.
Through research of alternate methods, the school found solutions to these problems with Ella’s help.
The development of the school wind farm has been a great success so far with the help of Ella and then team she leads.
They have been able to look at the impact such a program would have on the school and develop it with future curriculum development in mind.
She has been able to assist in working with and around a budget.
The development of such a program will expose future students to environmental and social impacts of having a clean energy available.
She also led a team of year 10 students to the State STEM girls summit, where they were problem solving real world issues with other like-minded students from across Queensland.
Ella represented the school at a state wide bridge building competition in Brisbane.
2021 Sportsperson of the Year –
Michael Oxley is a support worker who is the CEO of the wheelchair basketball committee and the Fraser Coasters coach.
Michael was nominated for his passion for the sport and commitment to his players.
He has helped players reach their full potential in wheelchair basketball.
His players said Michael gives 100% into the team and he has shown that everyone with a disability can achieve something like playing a representative sport.
And the recipient of Young Sportsperson of the year is Owen Taylor.
All sporting nominees are talented in their chosen sport and exhibit hard work and commitment to make themselves improve on the field, track or arena.
However, the making of an outstanding sportsperson is their attitude to the sport and their teammates.
Owen is a student who exemplifies positivity and respectful play at all levels and stages of his sporting endeavours.
At only 12 years of age, his professionalism, commitment, and attitude have set him up for success and is a young man who lets his achievements speak for themselves.
In a year which has been limiting in the sporting arena, Owen has continued to shine, both in the club area and in Queensland School Sport.
For Hervey Bay Clubs he was selected in the Queensland Under 14 Softball Squad and played in the Queensland Titles in Hervey Bay, was invited to attend the Under 14 Development Squad for 2021, and played in the Under 13 Queensland Indoor Hockey Team for Maryborough.
Owen was selected in the 10-12 Years Hockey and Softball Teams for Wide Bay, as well as being selected for Queensland in both sports – a very rare achievement.
Four State Teams in four months is a great achievement.
Owen has also undergone aspirant leadership training at Maryborough State High School, providing a positive foundation for his future leadership journey.
As a member of the School’s Representative Council and School Ambassador, he has already ensured he has a voice and is able to shape policy and processes within the school.
2021 Young Citizen of the Year –
At just 11-years-old Iluka Clifton is a prominent figure in the local community for her commitment to the environment, not for profit community groups and as a entrepreneur.
Her most recent achievement has been the organising, planning, and running of her own community event Groove for Good, in which she raised money for the neighbourhood centre and other local organisations.
Illuka had the idea to try and spread some happiness for those who are struggling, but that would also benefit those community organisations that help our most vulnerable.
She approached local independent businesses to donate prizes for a charity raffle.
Illuka also spoke at a council meeting, presenting all the plastic straws she’d found while litter picking and asking for them to be banned on the Fraser Coast.
Her motion was passed and has seen the council agree to stop the use of plastic straws and other single use plastics at their events and in their buildings.
Illuka is a role model to young people as she selflessly dedicates her time to spread happiness and help those less fortunate.
She chooses to live a sustainable lifestyle and often gives up weekends to go litter picking and plant trees in the community.
Illuka has her own bees and sells their honey locally as well as making products from the beeswax and honeycomb.
Illuka is often found at the community centre, donating items to the bliss box and for the homeless, volunteering at events and lending an ear to others, all while spreading her message of kindness and seeing the good in the world.
She is full of ideas of how small changes can greatly benefit others and her Groove for Good event is just the beginning.
Gail Gauld has given 25 years of exceptional service to the Brooweena community.
In May 1995 Gail was elected Secretary for the Woocoo Historical Society, a position she held for the next 25 years.
For a period she held the Treasurer’s position when there was no-one else to take on the role and is now President of the Society.
Many times the Woocoo Historical Society has struggled to fill positions on its committee but the tenacity and sacrifice of Gail has kept the organisation running.
She has done the work associated with other positions in the Society when the person was unable to fulfil their duties.
She also goes above and beyond what is expected of a Secretary, each year for the last 20 years organising the Museum’s major events of Queensland Day, Over 60s Day, Pioneer Day, taking all bookings for visiting groups and organising the catering for their visits, plus liaising with donors who entrust the Museum with everything from crockery and historical photos to buildings.
She has also been the driving force and main contributor for two books and is publisher of the quarterly Museum newsletter.
Gail was the secretary of the Teebar Management Committee and Teebar Hall Caretaker for nine years.
For five years she was a member of FCRC Heritage Advisory Committee.
A member of St. Marys Brooweena congregation since 1994, in 2015 she was asked to undertake the management of the cemetery attached to St Mary’s.
She organized and updated incomplete burial records and was also responsible for organising the setting up of the church and cemetery for the funerals which take place there.
She continues to work at the church as the centre warden and last year she organised the celebration to mark 100 years of worship at the church.
On 15th November 2020, awarded the prestigious Centenary Medal by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland for contributing exceptionally to the history and heritage of Queensland, the same day she was awarded Life Membership of the Woocoo Historical Society.
All this organising is done without a mobile phone or computer, with Gail writing everything in her neat longhand or beautiful printing, including meeting minutes, invitations, thankyous, funding applications, and drafts for publications.