Local heroes recognised at Australia Day Awards

Published: 23 Jan 2023

Nigel Dalton’s impact on the Mackay community has been immense.

From teaching children road rules, teenagers how to stay safe online or at schoolies, or redirecting disengaged youth from reoffending, Nigel’s work saves lives and makes our community a better place.

For his work as our local Police District Crime Prevention Coordinator and for the considerable volunteer community work he undertakes, Nigel was named the 2023 Mackay Regional Council Citizen of the Year at the Australia Day Awards Gala at the MECC last night.

Also recognised on the night was 2023 Young Citizen of the Year Keira Brown.

Keira is an active member and current coordinator of the Valley District Youth Council who volunteers countless hours to run events, fundraise and support her community.

The 2023 Lori Burgess Community Volunteer of the Year is Mackay Riding for the Disabled coach of 30 years Jody Burrows.

Mayor Greg Williamson said the judging panel was blown away by the number and quality of nominations submitted this year.

“Honestly, there were dozens of nominees who the judges felt were worthy of taking home these awards,” Mayor Williamson said.

“Narrowing the selection down was no small task and is a real testament to just what an incredible community we have in our region – there are just so many amazing people doing tremendous things,” he said.

“However, what Nigel has done in our community over the last two decades is remarkable and the judges had no reservations in naming him our 2023 Citizen of the Year.

“Coming from a background of policing in the Royal Ulster Constabulary during the Northern Island conflict where he had friends and mentors murdered, Nigel could easily have become hardened and bitter.

“Instead, he carries a message of forgiveness, kindness and healing that comes across in all his dealings with the community.

“Through his work with more than 8000 school students each year, plus PCYC, Safety Circus, Shed Happens, Neighbourhood Watch, the Mackay Mosque, Street Chaplains and many more, Nigel has helped to make our community safer and instil real trust and appreciation for our local police service.”

Mayor Williamson said there were 173 nominations across all of the eight categories.

“I would like to personally thank the 87 individuals who submitted nominations – and many of them submitted multiple nominations – because without you we couldn’t have these awards and we couldn’t recognise these tremendous community members,” he said.

“I’d also like to thank the teams at P.Comino and Sons and Tropical Exposure.

“Both of these local businesses have sponsored these awards for more than a decade and their support is greatly appreciated.”

The full list of 2023 Mackay Regional Council Australia Day Award recipients are as follows:

Citizen of the Year: Nigel Dalton
Sergeant Nigel Dalton is the Police District Crime Prevention Coordinator as well as being an active community volunteer.

Sergeant Dalton has been working in the Crime Prevention office since 2006 and he has shown enormous dedication to the role, often working almost as many hours off the clock as he does in the office. He has implemented a strong education plan for students of all ages, as well as working closely with business and community groups, Neighbourhood Watch members, victims of crime and other like-minded organisations and government departments.

Nigel was awarded the Queensland Police Liaison Officer Award in 2017.

His Police District activities are outstanding, particularly Choices and Safety Circus safety talks across various age groups.

“Choices” is a dramatic musical theatre collaboration with students and teaching staff at the Central Queensland University that has underlying messages aimed at Year 12 School leavers – prior to Schoolies commencing.

“Safety Circus” commenced in Mackay in May 2013.  It’s aimed at Grade 3 students and is again a musical theatre presentation with underlying messages.  Safety Circus covers topics such as non-motorised transport safety, anti-bullying and child personal safety. Nigel is also secretariat for the Mackay Community Based Crime Action Committee which organises projects to help disengaged youth from offending. He recently led, created and launched a new assault reduction project “Anger Rage Regret” in the Mackay Police District.

Aside from his work with QPS, Nigel is also a member of Beaches Baptist Church who has run a bread run and pickup for disadvantaged youths to Sunday school. He still has contact with these young people in the community.

Nigel is also an active member of Shed Happens, a men’s group that works on hearts not projects. Nigel is also an avid swimmer and has been vice president of North Mackay Sinkers Masters Swimming Club since 2019.

Young Citizen of the Year: Keira Brown
Keira Brown is the current coordinator of the Valley District Youth Council. Keira has been instrumental in working towards the group’s main goals of giving a voice to Pioneer Valley youth, developing leadership and building a regional youth community.

She always volunteers when the youth council needs people to run events or fundraisers and is a friendly, supportive face to both her peers in the group and the adults that help run it.

Keira has recently become heavily involved in the YOL1000 initiative and in the initial planning stages of the Young Mayors project. Her feedback and opinions with these projects have been extremely valuable.

She often represents the youth of the Valley at events in Mackay and further afield. She is also a member of her school’s Zonta Club and has been a coach and umpire in club netball for teams younger than herself.

She is a great example of an awesome young person who makes her community better by her attitude and actions.

Lori Burgess Community Volunteer Award: Jody Burrows
Mackay Riding for the Disabled is a not-for-profit organisation that is fully self-funded by fundraising and donations. It is run fully by volunteers, and one of the longest serving and most committed volunteers is Jody Burrows.

Jody has been a consistent force within this organisation for nearly 30 years. She is the coach that holds the necessary qualifications required to hold the riding lessons.

At a minimum, Jody ensures lessons run every second Tuesday. In all those years, volunteers report that Jody has only ever cancelled lessons once – and that was due to a cyclone.

Other than that, rain or shine, lessons go ahead. Jody knows how much the riders enjoy their lesson day, so if it’s too wet to ride, students are given a horse experience where they get to groom their horse and learn all about them.

Jody and Mackay Riding for the Disabled have changed people’s lives. There are so many amazing stories of rider progress, from nonverbal autistic children talking when on a horse to riders being able to develop enough strength in their back or core to support life changing surgeries.

Arts and Culture Award: Alison Richardson
Alison Richardson is the artistic director and CEO of Crossroad Arts.  She is passionate about creating opportunities for people with disabilities who are serious about developing their skills in contemporary performance.

She brings to Crossroad Arts more than 15 years of experience in the inclusive arts, theatre and disability sector. She has held various positions, including Creative Programs Coordinator for Accessible Arts, Creative Director for Beyond the Square at Riverside Theatres and Access and Inclusion Coordinator for Vivid Sydney and Sydney New Years’ Eve. She has also worked extensively as a theatre director and tutor for community theatre companies.

Alison has a pivotal role in offering a rich and diverse arts program to Mackay and she has been the driving force of many outstanding local performance events.

Alison also presents a rich array of workshops and regular activities in our community.

Alison Richardson has made an important contribution to the cultural life of our city.  In doing so, she has also transformed and enriched lives. Alison has created a safe place where people of all different backgrounds can come and enjoy access to an artistic community.

Environmental Achievement Award: Dr Judith Wake
Dr Judith Wake’s life’s work has been focused on preserving, protecting and studying the local environment. Prior to retiring, Dr Wake was a member of CQUni's Land and Water Management Centre and in that role undertook vital research on mangroves in the Mackay district. Since retiring she has continued similar work on a voluntary basis.

For quite a few years Dr Wake has been contributing to the Healthy Rivers Partnership and the Reef Catchments groups. For much of that time, she was a member of the Technical Working Group that provides scientific advice on the assessment of river/reef health. For three years she was chair of that group.

She is a long-time member of Native Plants Queensland (formerly SGAP) and vice-chair of the Mackay group. She is an active member of their management committee and regularly contributes to environmental events they support. She also volunteers with their Propagation Group at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.

Dr Wake contributes to and proofs their publications and sometimes gives presentations to their meetings.

She is vice-chair of the Pioneer Catchment Landcare group and an active member of their management committee. She volunteers her time to inspect their field sites (e.g. quoll monitoring sites west of Eungella).

Dr Wake also acts as a mentor and point of contact for the various Landcare groups from Sarina to Townsville. She volunteers her time to visit their field days and attend meetings.

Dr Wake is an environmentalist, an educator, a scientist and a passionate volunteer who works hard to preserve our local environment.

Community Group Award: Pioneer Valley Machinery Preservationists Society
The Pioneer Valley Machinery Preservationist Club are a group that have a strong sense of community. Members are constantly looking after each other.  They assist each other to finish projects or find parts, they share transport to shows and events and they are always watching out for members’ health and well-being. Many members are seniors and the social and physical engagement keeps them active and is vital for their mental health.

The group is also integral in the preservation of local history. They are actively restoring local farming history and preserving this for future generations at their own cost.

They also educate the community at events and older member are always teaching new members new skills. Younger members who have joined are being taught skills in problem solving, restoration, machinery, fitting, research and more.

Senior Sports Award: Brenda Windsor
Brenda Windsor has dedicated countless hours and kilometres to raise money and shine a spotlight on the child protection work that Bravehearts do. She has run their 777 twice now and intends on doing it again in 2023. The 777 involves running seven marathons, in seven states, over seven consecutive days. Each time she has had to raise $10k to be able to participate and in doing so has held numerous raffles. She even ran 77.7km (from Koumala to Mackay) to raise funds. She finished this run at Sarina State High School where she was cheered on by all the staff and students.  She is a fantastic ambassador for health, fitness and safety and she truly leads by example.

Brenda volunteers at Parkrun Mackay and has run over 180 events herself, often with her grandkids. Brenda always participates and volunteers in the Lazy Runners Club’s Twilight Runs which raises money for causes like the Hospital Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Research, Breast Cancer Research and more. She participates in the Mackay Marina Run which raises funds for the Leukaemia Foundation. She supports the Beach to Gardens run, a fundraiser for CQ Rescue, and literally travels all over the country for charity runs. If there is a charity run or volunteer required, basically, she’s there.

Junior Sports Awards: Connor Parish
Connor Parish has been racing BMX since he was six years old.  To the Mirani High School student, BMX is life, and his goal is to be chosen in the 2032 Olympic team.  With a slew of local wins and high placings in regional, state and national competitions, he’s on the right track.

Connor and his brother Aiden recently competed in the Oceania BMX Championships in Brisbane where they qualified to represent Australia at the World Championships.  Connor brought home a second (24”) and fourth (20”) at the competition.

The pair then travelled to Nantes France in July 2022 where they competed alongside 3000 other riders from all over the world and rubbed shoulders with some of their idols. Connor made the semi-finals (24”) and he also qualified for the 20” competition.