2018 Citizen of the Year is Robert Denman, 80, who has had a lifetime association with the Mackay Show since helping with its sugar cane display as a teenager.
He’s held committee positions since the 1980s and has been president for the past five years, overseeing major redevelopment of the showgrounds.
His achievements with the show association and other volunteer roles, ranging from rural industries to Rotary and Lifeline, have been recognised with the top award.
Young Citizen of the Year is Clare Pullen, 17, the driving force behind the Run as 1 for Cystic Fibrosis event, which has raised more than $50,000 over the past two years.
She was inspired to organise the inaugural event two years ago, when in Year 11, as her cousin Karli, who lives in Proserpine, has cystic fibrosis.
Lori Burgess Community Volunteer Award winner is Bec Nicol, founder of All Abilities Mackay, an important advocacy group providing support for people with a disability and their families.
Mayor Greg Williamson said all three major award winners were tireless volunteers in our community.
“They and all winners and nominees for our Australia Day Awards are inspirations to all who know them and well deserving of the accolades they’ve received,’’ he said.
Awards were presented in eight categories at an awards dinner, which was held to honour all winners and nominees, at the MECC tonight.
Citizen of the Year – Robert Denman
The name Robert Denman is synonymous with the annual Mackay Show.
He’s been a regular on the Mackay Show Association Committee since the 1980s and has been president for the past five years after being vice-president for 20 years.
As president, the 80-year-old, has been overseeing major redevelopment, which has transformed the showgrounds into a modern outdoor multi-purpose precinct.
Mr Denman remembers helping with the sugar cane display at Mackay Show as a 15-year-old. As a 17-year-old, he changed to the cattle section, working as a “yard boy” before being promoted to “yard boss”.
He has been a member of the Mackay Show beef cattle sub-committee since 1982 and was president of that sub-committee between 1985 and 1998.
Becoming a Show Association committee member in 1986, he was vice-president between 1992 and 2012 before stepping up to the president role.
The showgrounds have been transformed in recent years and that redevelopment is ongoing, with a new equestrian centre and new grandstand under construction.
Mr Denman was a director with Farleigh sugar mill from 1981 to 1988, when it merged with other district mills to form Mackay Sugar Co-operative.
He has been a committee member of the Mackay Rural Production Society (MRPS) since 1982 and was an inaugural member of its predecessor Tropical Grasslands Association (TPG) in 1972.
He has been an active contributor to cane and cattle industry meetings and field days.
Mr Denman also joined the Rotary Club of Mackay in 1986 – describing his involvement with the organisation as the best thing he’s ever done – and has been involved with Lifeline since 2011.
Young Citizen of the Year – Clare Pullen
2018 Young Citizen of the Year, Clare Pullen, juggled her high school studies with helping raise more than $50,000 for cystic fibrosis research over the past two years.
It is a cause close to Clare’s heart, and the hearts of her family, as her cousin Karli, who lives in Proserpine, has cystic fibrosis.
Inspired by a desire to help her cousin and other sufferers, Clare organised the inaugural Run as 1 for Cystic Fibrosis charity event in 2016 as a Year 11 student.
She was the driving force behind the event, a run and walk, and it was a huge success, raising about $24,000 for cystic fibrosis research.
In 2017, while completing her Year 12 studies to gain entry to a medicine degree in James Cook University (JCU), she organised the second Run as 1 for Cystic Fibrosis, raising $33,000.
Her volunteer work is remarkable given she was also juggling school studies with sporting pursuits.
Clare has represented Mackay, playing basketball in the State Championships, but refereeing is her main passion.
She’s represented Mackay at state and national level in basketball refereeing. She regularly attends carnivals in Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne.
In 2017, Clare won the Zonta Young Woman in Public Affairs award, which was judged across all schools in the Mackay region.
She was a school representative on the school board at St Patrick’s College last year..
Clare was also one of a few students from Mackay invited to the Young Scholars Program at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
Lori Burgess Community Volunteer Award – Rebecca ‘Bec’ Nicol
Mackay mum Bec Nicol is a passionate advocate for all abilities access.
She is the founder of All Abilities Mackay, an important advocacy group which provides support for families in our community with disabled family members.
In 2010, Mrs Nicol and husband Peter Nicol welcomed their son Reef into the world. He was born with trisomy 21 Down syndrome.
Recognising a need in the Mackay community, Mrs Nicol created a local group Down Syndrome Mackay, under the auspices of PCYC Mackay.
This group also helped seed ideas like the Aspidowns Basketball Group and bringing the Special Olympics movement to Mackay.
2011 brought new challenges for the Nicol family, with Reef diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Mrs Nicol spent eight months in Brisbane, with Reef undergoing treatment and her husband flying down when he could.
During her days and nights on the oncology ward, she was thinking of more ideas to help the Mackay community.
The Mackay Down Syndrome group had been such a success other families with a family member with a disability, such as autism, cerebral palsy and Rett syndrome, wanted to join.
The idea of All Abilities Mackay was born and the group was created to link families and provide a support network in the Mackay community.
Mrs Nicol was also instrumental in setting up Care Kitchen, which assists people gain commercial kitchen skills with a view to finding full-time work, and charity Mackay Village People, which helps National Disability Insurance Scheme participants.
Environmental Achievement Award – Grant Paterson
Environmental Achievement Award winner Grant Paterson loves plants and orchids
He is a principal environmental scientist and consultant, nursery operator and plant breeder, with a personal collection of hundreds of species of orchids.
Acknowledged by industry professionals and academics alike, his extensive environmental and horticultural knowledge is highly sought after.
His contributions to scientific studies have been recognised by several higher education institutions.
Mr Paterson has provided specialist advice on growing requirements of particular species to landscape architects, designers and curators working on botanic gardens in Australia, as well as Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
He is an accomplished horticulturalist, with extensive experience in propagating, growing and promoting native flora, orchids, bromeliads, tillandsias, palms and cycads, epiphytic ferns and other interesting plants.
Mr Paterson operates his own research nursery, where he works on developing new cultivars of plants and investigates the horticultural potential of some of the region’s diverse flora.
He is a vital member of the Mackay Branch of Native Plants Queensland, which is a relatively new name for the Society for Growing Australian Plants Queensland Region (SGAP).
A member since 1993, he’s been a committee member since 1994 and is current president.
He’s also a founding member of the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens management committee and horticultural reference group.
Arts and Culture Award – Philip Kemp
This year’s Art and Culture Award winner is an elder of Mackay’s traditional custodian Philip Kemp.
He is an outstanding role model, cultural leader, collaborator, Indigenous community representative and mentor. Above all, Mr Kemp, who conducted the Welcome to Country at tonight’s Australia Day Awards, is an outstanding leader.
He has been among the most visible and nurturing proponents of community development within the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait and broader Mackay communities.
Mr Kemp volunteers his time to participate in local issues. He also shares his culture and educates the community in his unwavering commitment to the promotion of reconciliation.
He is a dedicated member of many community organisations and state and local government advisory and working groups.
Community Group Award – Sarina Community Noticeboard Page
The Sarina Community Noticeboard Facebook page is a vital source of information for residents in southern parts of our region.
Founded by Vicki Crichton, the page is run by volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the community is updated on any issues of interest to Sarina residents.
The page was a particularly important source of information during Cyclone Debbie last year, including constant updates on road conditions, power outages and information from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). All year round, the page keeps the community informed, including contact numbers for emergency services and SES.
The page also promotes fundraising events in the Sarina district and members can post – anything from contractors looking for work to information on what’s on for children.
Senior Sports Award – Kate Vella
Senior Sports Award winner Kate Vella is a powerhouse who lives and breathes health and fitness.
In her 30s, she vowed to her terminally-ill beloved friend, the late Michelle Bofinger, that she would fill her spot at the Noosa Triathlon. Despite being new to the sport, she trained for the three demanding disciplines and raced for the two of them.
That became the launch pad for her triathlon Iron distance career (swim 1.9km, cycle 90km and run 21.1km).
Early last year, she claimed a top three finish in her age group, securing a slot to represent Australia at the world championships in Chattanooga, USA in September last year.
She still retains the number one Australian ranking for her age group.
Away from triathlon, she also coaches children fitness classes at the gym, conducts boot camps and is a motivational speaker.
Junior Sports Award – Lauren Bella
Junior Sports Award winner Lauren Bella is a talented AFL and netball player who enjoyed an amazing 2017.
She’s now moved south to begin a business degree at Bond University on the Gold Coast and in the hope of realising her dream of being drafted into the AFLW league for 2019.
Combining her Year 12 studies at St Patrick’s College last year with her sporting endeavours, she starred on AFL grounds and netball courts.
Her achievements in both sports form a long list, but the highlights included making the U18 All Australian team for AFL and the under 19 Queensland netball squad.