2022 Australia Day Award winners announced

Published: 25 Jan 2022

Mackay's 2022 Citizen of the Year Frank Cowell has dedicated himself to helping men in our community by spreading messages of shared experience, personal growth and mateship.

He is joined by Young Citizen of the Year William Deeley and Lori Burgess Community Volunteer Award winner Carmel Wheeler as Mackay’s major Australia Day Award winners for 2022.

William Deeley is an all-rounder with achievements in sport, music and public speaking, and someone who at a young age already possesses an exceptional track record of community service.

Carmel Wheeler has also been an active volunteer in the community all her life, most recently being recognised by the Queensland Ambulance Service for 60 years of service volunteering with the Calen Local Ambulance Committee.

Mayor Greg Williamson said this year’s award recipients were deserving of their honour and reflected the diversity and sense of pride that made the Mackay region such a wonderful place.

“The Australia Day Awards are, above all else, about recognition – the recognition of individuals and groups within our community who achieve great things, give selflessly to others and make our region a better place to live,” Mayor Williamson said.

“A total of 113 residents took the time to complete a nomination for this year’s awards, which is one of the biggest responses to date,” he said.

“All the nominees are people who truly deserve it and who often fly under the radar and receive little recognition for their contributions.

“To those who were nominated, thank you for your contribution towards making the Mackay region such a great place to live – we are proud to have you in our community.”  

More than 160 nominations were received for individuals and groups across eight award categories. 

The awards were presented at an awards gala dinner held to honour all winners and nominees at the MECC tonight (January 25).

Citizen of the Year – Frank Cowell 

Since bringing Shed Happens to Mackay from the Gold Coast, where he was originally involved, Frank Cowell has been the driving force in creating a network of support for men in the  region.

Shed Happens is a non-judgemental place where men can be honest and talk about the good, bad, happy or sad rather than bottling it up and hardening hearts to the ones they care about.

Frank calls himself the convener, for lack of a better word, organising the Shed Happens meetings in Mackay – spreading messages of shared experience, personal growth, mateship and hope.

Known by many as a genuine man, Frank is worthy of recognition for the tireless work he does in the community.

In addition to his involvement with Shed Happens, he is an active member of Mackay Northern Beaches Neighbourhood Watch, a local and regional judge for Lions Youth of the Year competition, Deacon with Beaches Baptist Church, and participates on the Suicide Prevention Action Committee.

Frank is also the head of the International Men's Day committee, who not only put on a great event to celebrate our everyday heroes but raise funds to share with other not-for-profit organisations in our community. To date, they have raised $9000 that has been donated to three local charities.

Among other good deeds, the volunteer work and role Frank plays in his local community has a significant flow-on effect for families and our region.

Young Citizen of the Year – William Deeley 

An all-rounder with achievements in sport, music and public speaking, William Deeley already possesses an exceptional track-record of community service.

His personal qualities of devotion and dedication to all he pursues, his fun-loving nature and zest for life, make him an inspiration to young and old alike.

William’s academic and community service achievements are even more remarkable given the extra responsibilities he has taken on in response to long-term chronic illness in his immediate family.

In his final year of schooling at Whitsunday Anglican, William was school captain and the third highest ATAR graduate for 2021.

Prior to receiving his final ATAR score, William had already secured a scholarship to be resident at Cromwell College at the University of Queensland this year and was chosen as the Whitsunday Anglican School nominee for the T J Ryan scholarship of the Education Department of the State Government of Queensland.

He has made considerable achievements in community service, including the coaching of junior soccer teams in 2016-2021, a volunteer for Cricket4Every1 to provide sport for students at Mackay District Special School, Lions Youth of the Year Overall and Public Speaking Winner – Mackay Region (Q2 Zone 10) and Lions Youth of the Year Public Speaking Winner – North Queensland (Q2 District), and as a volunteer for Mackay SONY Children’s Holiday Camp.

Lori Burgess Community Volunteer Award – Carmel Wheeler

Carmel Wheeler has been an active volunteer in the community all her life.

Last year she was recognised by the Queensland Ambulance Service for 60 years of service volunteering with the Calen Local Ambulance Committee.

Carmel has been fundamental to the committee’s fundraising efforts over many decades, helping to organise events such as the Calen Local Ambulance Fair and monster cent sales.

She served as President on the committee from 1978-1982, 1988-1996 and from 2015 until just recently stepping down into a position on the back bench so she can continue to volunteer in a less demanding capacity.

Her inspiration to join and serve on the Calen Local Ambulance Committee came after a dramatic trip to the hospital in 1957 when the ambulance she was travelling in was involved in a traffic accident and rolled.

Ms Wheeler is a person who never stops helping her local community, all while raising five of her own children, 24 grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

Over the years Carmel has also been involved in raising money for other charities, including Red Cross, Spina Bifida, Mackay Endeavour Foundation, Cancer Foundation, RSL, Local Schools, CWA and Catholic Ladies, just to name a few.

Environmental Achievement Award – Rotary Club of Mackay North

After witnessing successful litter clean-ups in other parts of the world, members from the Mackay North Rotary Club decided to act in their own community.

Since 2017, the Rotary Club has adopted the 2.14km stretch of the busy Mackay-Bucasia Road, between Holts and Golf Links roads.

And over the past five years, they have collected more than 2500kg of rubbish and 400 golf balls.

The members undertake this altruistic activity to enable the many benefits to flow to the entire community, including improved roadside aesthetics and amenity and reducing waste entering our waterways.

Their commitment and passion in keeping their local neighbourhood clean and litter-free hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The Northern Beaches Rotary Club has observed this program with interest and are in the process of “adopting” a section of the Eimeo Road to have some community fun also while looking after our local environment and waterways.

Community Group Award – Bakers Creek Tigers AFL Club

Bakers Creek AFL Club is a small rural AFL sporting club located in the suburb of Bakers Creek, at its home ground of Etwell Park.

The Tigers joined the Mackay Australian Football League in 1971, which was the competition’s second season.

They are one of only two clubs in the competition’s history to have won four successive senior grade flags – a feat they achieved between 1989 and 1992.

The club also won two flags in a row in 1971 and 1972.

Since 2018, Bakers Creek has fielded teams in all grades from Superstars U6 through to Senior Men and Women in the local AFL Competition.

Membership continues to grow along with the club’s reputation as the modern AFL club with the motto “One Club”.

For several years, the club has hosted the AFL Club Training Day, which brings together the other eight clubs in the region for a weekend prior to the beginning of the official season to network, collaborate, deliver training for sports trainers, recruit for umpires, coaches accreditation and much more.

The club is the home of many up-and-coming AFL stars and is most proud as being the home of AFLW Gold Coast Suns Player – Lauren Bella.

Since the introduction of their junior club, they have been able to provide a pathway for players who wish to take steps towards professional AFL including William Bella, Maison Staas, Zali Ronald, Jarla Walsh, Indianna Brough and many more.

The club also boast the most successful Senior Women’s team since women joined the competition in 2016 – the Bakers Creek Tigeress have taken out the premiership in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

In 2021, the team was undefeated grand final winners and in 2020 the team was runners-up in the grand final.

Art and Culture Award – Charli Bliss 

Charli Bliss is a 14-year-old Torres Strait Islander, born and bred in Mackay, who is extremely proud of her heritage, culture and community.

With a strength drawing and painting on canvas, she has completed Indigenous artwork for several community-controlled organisations, Sporting Organisations and school/s on a voluntary basis to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are acknowledged and recognised.

Having recently completed Year 10 at Mercy College Mackay, Charli creates painting or digital art in her spare time after school and sporting commitments.

One of her most recent achievements includes contributing towards the newly designed Queensland Hockey Representative Playing uniform endorsed by Hockey Queensland.

Charli is also currently working on a painting for McDonalds Mackay to auction at the next Ronald McDonald House Charity (RHM) to raise funds for the Mackay RHM.

Through her generosity and dedication in giving back to her local community, she is proud to be able to share Indigenous culture to a diverse range of organisations within Mackay.

To gain a better appreciation and understanding of another culture, Charli reflects upon her own culture and what it means to be an individual from the Mackay community.

With this level of self-awareness, it is appropriate that she explores the traditions, history, and challenges of another culture, embraces them and shares them through her artwork so others are also educated and encouraged to embrace the Aboriginal and Torres Strait landscape that exists within the Mackay Community.

Senior Sports Award – Chris Breckell

Chris Breckell has dedicated more than 23 years of his life to the sport of touch football.

He has volunteered at club, district and state levels, donating his time with Magpies Touch Football, Mackay Touch Association and North Queensland Touch. His roles have varied from coach, to referee, treasurer, vice president and tour manager, just to name a few.

Over the last two years, Chris has been central to implementing modifications at a district level so that Mackay Touch Association could operate in compliance with COVID-19 requirements.

Chris is a quiet achiever, but his work has not gone unnoticed by those involved in the touch football community. He sets up and clears the fields three nights a week and, with the help of his family, he also runs the canteen on those nights as well.

He is an integral part of the Mackay Touch Association, whether it be lending a hand at working bees, completing maintenance on buildings, or mowing the fields.

Chris is committed to continuing to improve the opportunities available to Mackay touch football players both at junior and senior levels as well as promoting the benefits of touch football in the community.

Young Sports Award – Karla Grobler

Karla Grobler is an all-star athlete, achieving goals on and off the netball court.

Not only does she play netball at a school, club and representative level, but she also volunteers extensive time coaching an U14s team and umpires almost every week, all while achieving great results in her schoolwork.

Karla is well-respected within her teams and shows great determination in everything she does.

In 2021 she played in Division 1 Seniors and was a Development Player in the Premier League.

Karla was also a member of the winning Northern Netball League’s U17s team which competed against other regional teams. She was selected in the Mendi Rays U16s Southern team as a result and travelled to the State Titles competition in Brisbane in late September.

When she’s not playing netball, Karla is umpiring netball. In 2021, she achieved her National C Badge in umpiring and travelled with Mackay Netball Association to carnivals in her umpiring role.

Last year Karla was also able to finesse her coaching skills after achieving a Foundation Coaching Accreditation at the start of the season.

She took on the role of coach of the Magpies 14A team, where she helped develop her team members' skills. Great individual improvements were shown by all team members.

All this success is delivered by someone only two years older than the girls she coached.